Vaginal dryness is a condition that most commonly occurs with women past the menopausal age. However, it can happen to anyone, even if you are at your sexual prime. Vaginal dryness not only makes intercourse painful and uncomfortable. It also deals a huge blow on a woman’s ego and self – esteem, especially if it happens so often that it interferes with achieving a satisfying sex life between you and your partner.
Vaginal dryness in menopausal women is caused by the change in female blood hormone levels that occurs when the menstrual cycle stops.
Signs and symptoms of vaginal dryness are:
- Pain or light bleeding upon intercourse
- Urinary frequency or urgency
In women that are not in the menopausal stage, there are several factors that may cause the occurrence of vaginal dryness. Reduced estrogen levels are the main culprit for decreased vaginal lubrication. Estrogen is a female hormone that is responsible for maintaining lubrication, elasticity, and acidity of the vaginal environment.
Some of the reasons that may cause a fall in blood estrogen levels are:
- Radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and chemotherapy
- Surgical removal of the ovaries
- Cigarette smoking
- Anti – estrogen medications
Aside from low estrogen levels, there are other possible causes of vaginal dryness which includes
- Medications – Allergy and cold medications, as well as anti – depressants cause decreased body moisture because of its parasympathetic effect.
- Sjogren’s syndrome – An auto-immune disorder in which the body’s own defense system attacks the moisture producing glands in the body.
- Douching – rinsing the vagina with a solution consisting of water, vinegar, and antiseptic chemicals disrupts its normal acidic environment and may cause inflammation
Usually, the use of over-the-counter vaginal lubricants and moisturizers help in overcoming vaginal dryness. However, if dryness persists in spite of artificial lubrication, medical management may be necessary. Your doctor may take a sample of your vaginal secretion to check for estrogen deficiency. Once confirmed, the following medications may be prescribed:
- Vaginal estrogen cream – The cream is inserted directly into the vagina with the use of an applicator. This is usually done at bedtime.
- Vaginal estrogen ring – A soft, flexible ring is inserted into the upper part of the vagina, which then releases a constant dose of estrogen. The ring is replaced every 3 months.
- Vaginal estrogen tablet – The tablet is inserted into the vagina using an applicator, as prescribed.
In menopausal women, hot flashes usually accompany vaginal dryness. In this case, estrogen pills, patches, gel, or a higher dose of estrogen ring may be prescribed. Progestin, an synthetic form of the female hormone progesterone, may also be incorporated in the treatment regimen.