Vaginal Dryness: Signs, Causes & Treatment

What is vaginal dryness?

Vaginal dryness or vaginal atrophy is a change of the vagina that develops due to the decrease in levels of the female hormone estrogen. Also referred to as atrophic vaginitis, this condition makes the lining of the vagina get drier and thinner, leading to itching, burning and other unpleasant symptoms. It also leaves the vagina more prone to inflammation as the vaginal tissues become thin and dry. Vaginal atrophy mostly occurs in postmenopausal women since the condition is attributable to estrogen deficiency.

Causes of vaginal dryness

The leading cause of vaginal dryness is decreased levels of estrogen, which the ovaries produce. It keeps the vaginal tissues healthy and lubricated; hence, it causes dryness and thinness of the vaginal lining when it drops. While estrogen deficiency is mainly associated with menopause, vaginal atrophy can also happen to women who take antiestrogenic medications or have other medical or surgical conditions. Here are some other causes of vaginal dryness.

  • Radiation therapy
  • Immunologic disorders and oophorectomy.
  • Chemotherapy
  • Postpartum decline in estrogen levels
  • The effect of prolactin on estrogen production when breastfeeding
  • Antiestrogen medications like Provera, Nolvadex, Danocrine or Synarel
  • Natural estrogen deficiency
  • Smoking cigarettes.
  • Contraceptive pills or antidepressants.
  • Ovaries removal.
  • Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that can cause body dryness

Symptoms of vaginal dryness

Vaginal dryness is a common issue that many women face at some point in their lives. Here are some of the symptoms you will need to look out for if you fear you may have vaginal dryness or vaginal atrophy:

Treatment of vaginal dryness

If you struggle with any of the issues above, it is essential to visit your gynaecologist for a checkup. Several signs of vaginal atrophy can be evident during an examination which will help your doctor confirm your diagnosis. Here are some of the treatments and remedies that can help you deal with vaginal dryness. You can try some of these suggestions before you see a doctor.

Using a vaginal moisturizer

You can use vaginal moisturizers for vaginal dryness. When you apply a vaginal moisturizer inside your vagina, it will help keep it moist. Moisturizers or lubricants can also be used with estrogen replacement therapy or as alternative treatments. If you wish to avoid using estrogen altogether, you should not use moisturizers that contain ginseng since they could have estrogenic properties. Moisturizers will help maintain natural secretions and vaginal comfort.

Change in personal care products and intimate routine

If you struggle with vaginal dryness, this could mean you need to make some changes to your personal care routine. Avoid using scented soaps and washes around your vagina, especially if they are not explicitly designed for the intimate area. Instead, use a gentle intimate wash like CAREFREE® Sensitive Intimate Wash which is specially developed to gently clean the intimate area while respecting its natural pH level.

Don’t use any products inside the vagina; simply clean around the vulva area only. Finally, avoid creams or lotions like petroleum jelly that can cause infections or moisturizers that are not for vaginal use.

Herbs and supplements for vaginal dryness

In addition to water-based lubricants and vaginal moisturizers, you can try some natural lubricants or home remedies. Soybeans contain plant-based substances that have an effect on the body that is similar to estrogen. Try following a diet rich in soy foods like tofu, soy milk, and edamame to improve symptoms of vaginal dryness naturally.

Another non-hormonal method to treat vaginal atrophy is vitamin E. It has been examined in a study for its therapeutic effects on vaginal atrophy in postmenopausal women. When compared to the therapeutic effects of hyaluronic acid on vaginal atrophy, studies found that vitamin E could relieve the symptoms of vaginal atrophy.

However, note that if the symptoms are causing discomfort and irritation, you need to seek medical help and not rely only on natural remedies.

When to see a doctor for vaginal dryness?

It could be a source of embarrassment to talk to your doctors about struggling with a dry vagina. However, it is a common issue with many treatment options available to alleviate its symptoms. Visit your gynaecologist if vaginal dryness is disturbing your daily activities or affecting your sexual health and lifestyle. Treatment options will help you deal with this problem and get rid of the irritation and discomfort that it can cause.

Also read more on when to visit a gynaecologist, here.

References:

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/vaginal-atrophy-atrophic-vaginitis-a-to z
  2. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0515/p3090.html
  3. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaginal-dryness/
  4. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002142.htm
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5114791/
  6. https://www.womens-health-concern.org/help-and-advice/factsheets/vaginal/dryness/