Vaginal Dryness

A thin film of moisture covers the walls of the vagina. This coating plays an important role: it makes the vaginal area an alkaline environment where sperm cells can not only survive but also keep swimming for the purpose of sexual reproduction. The body’s natural way of protecting your vagina is by secreting vaginal discharge. 

The fluid moisturizes the vaginal wall and decreases the pain caused by friction from penetration during sex. Vaginal lubrication has had a crucial evolutionary role: it makes intercourse more enjoyable for the woman, which could mean more babies.

As women grow old, they undergo hormonal changes, which are the most common cause of vaginal walls becoming increasingly thin. Thinner vaginal walls indicate that there are fewer cells capable of secretion, which results in vaginal dryness. However, hormonal changes are not the only factors at play. There are other factors that can contribute to or exacerbate vaginal dryness.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the effects of vaginal dryness? 

Vaginal dryness is a source of discomfort in the pelvic and vaginal region. It may also cause the following:

  • Soreness
  • Irritation
  • Burning sensation
  • Stinging or itching sensation
  • Pain caused by friction during sexual intercourse
  • Light bleeding after sexual intercourse
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs) that are persistent if left untreated or may reoccur
  • Loss of libido and interest in intercourse

Vaginal dryness is a common problem and it affects many women. Still, it can cause embarrassment and self-consciousness. In addition to killing a woman’s sexual drive, it may discourage women from sharing their condition with their partners or even with their doctor. 

What are the causes of vaginal dryness? 

Decreasing levels of estrogens is the root cause of vaginal dryness. As women get old, their estrogen level starts to plummet. It is around this time that the perimenopausal period begins.

The menopausal stage is just one of the reasons that cause a decline in estrogen levels. Here are some other factors:

  • When a woman is lactating/breastfeeding a baby
  • Giving birth to a baby
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Having depression/anxiety attacks
  • Feeling overwhelmed and overstressed
  • Suffering from Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder
  • Engaing in strenuous exercises
  • Undergoing certain cancer treatment procedures, such as radiation to the pelvis, chemotherapy, or hormone therapy
  • Oophorectomy (surgical removal of the ovaries)

The levels of secretion of vaginal discharge may become lower under the influence of some medications. Dryness and irritation may also be caused by douching practices and excessive usage of vaginal creams and lotions. All of these may lead to or aggravate vaginal dryness.

When to seek medical help? 

Vaginal dryness may not be an indication of a fatal medical disorder. But, do not hesitate to consult your doctor if the symptoms persist for several days or if you already feel intense pain during sexual intercourse. 

Soreness or rupture of vaginal tissues may occur if the condition is left unmanaged. If continuous vaginal bleeding happens along with vaginal dryness, ask for medical help right away.

During a physical examination, the medical practitioner may focus on your vaginal walls to determine if there are deep cuts on vaginal tissues or if the skin is becoming thinner. They may also get a sample of your vaginal discharge for further laboratory tests. 

The doctor may suggest his older patients undergo a hormonal test to determine if they are already in the perimenopause or menopausal stage.

Want to Know More About Treatment Options for Vaginal Dryness?

Numerous over-the-counter lubricants are commercially available nowadays. These lubricants can be applied to the vaginal area to provide moisture and comfort, and may even decrease the chance of getting a urinary tract Infection as it changes the pH of the vagina.

Women who experience this condition should be extra careful in choosing the appropriate lubricant. It should be intended for vaginal purposes and should be water-based as well. Lubricants should be free from artificial colors, perfumes, or any herbal extracts as it can result in more severe infection or irritation. 

Using lubricants that contain mineral oil and petroleum jelly is not advisable, as these substances can destroy latex condoms and diaphragm contraceptives or caps.

For some cases, a medical practitioner may prescribe estrogen cream, ring, or pill. The dosage form of estrogen depends on what the doctor recommends.

Estrogens in the form of creams and rings act instantly on the vaginal tissues. Pills are usually prescribed to women in the menopausal stage since they are usually experiencing intolerable symptoms such as hot flashes.

The vaginal skin is sensitive. It can also be irritated easily under the influence of these topical products. If such irritation persists, it is better to seek medical help from your doctor than to self-medicate. 

Discontinue prolonged use of douches if you wish to avoid vaginal dryness. Prevent using condoms with nonoxynol-9 or N-9 as it contains a chemical composition that causes the loss of vaginal moisture. However, it is beneficial to know that reproductive changes related to age and hormones are inevitable.

Vaginal dryness causes a painful sensation and discomfort in the vaginal and pelvic areas. It is important to learn more about the factors that may contribute to this condition so as to address the problem properly through adequate treatment.

It is comforting to know that vaginal dryness does not indicate a life-threatening medical condition, and numerous oral and topical treatments are readily available to help manage it. There are also precautionary actions to prevent the condition in the first place.

In conclusion, although vaginal dryness is not a serious health issue, do not hesitate to seek medical help right away and openly discuss your symptoms with your doctor.