By Sarah E. | Updated: Jun 18, 2020
Common and uncomfortable, vaginal dryness and itching is one of the most frequent menopausal symptoms that women report. Alongside hot flashes, night sweats, and irregular periods, vaginal dryness is one of the major symptoms of menopause.
If your vaginal dryness is causing pain, itching, discomfort, or lowering the quality of the sex that you have, then you should consult a doctor. A doctor can offer your advice that is specific to what you are experiencing, and prescribe you estrogen replacement that can be applied to the vagina. If you choose not to take hormones, over the counter moisturizers and lubricants are available. General lifestyle changes and eating a healthy diet can also help.
Foods to Boost Vaginal Health
Your diet plays a role in vaginal health. However, not much research has been done that shows the connection between diet and vaginal health and dryness. However, many women have reported that consuming more soy and flaxseed, which are rich in phytoestrogens, have helped combat vaginal dryness and other menopausal symptoms.
Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that act like estrogen in the human body. This can have a wide range of effects, including diminishing menopausal side effects like vaginal dryness. Phytoestrogens work by disrupting the endocrine system, which produces hormones. Because they act like estrogen, phytoestrogens may help relieve menopausal symptoms. However, more research continues to be done to understand the full range of effects phytoestrogens have on hormones and human health.
Easing Vaginal Dryness and Itching
There are a variety of things you can look towards for dealing with this problem. These include:
Many women rely on using lubricant before penetrative sex in old to create natural moisture and reduce friction. Lubricant is not absorbed into the vagina and is usually used just before sex.
Using natural lubricants, such as olive oil and coconut oil, are becoming trendy and are also safe to use. However, these oils can be difficult to clean up, and any oil-based lubricant should not be used with a condom, because they are prone to break condoms.
Usually water-based lubricants are recommended to women because they do not cause condoms to break. Oil-based lubricants are also known to increase the chances of getting a vaginal infection. Both types of lubricants are available over-the-counter at drugs stores.
Although you should not force yourself to have sex or have sex if it is painful, sexual intercourse boosts blood flow to the vagina. This increased blood flow is good for the vagina and can increase how much natural moisture it produces.
Vaginas naturally clean themselves. This means that adding soaps and other bath products to the mix, especially if they are scented, can increase your risk for infections and disturb the vagina’s natural pH level. An itchy and uncomfortable vagina are signs of an infection, such as a yeast infection, so if symptoms persist it is important to see a doctor. Click here for more information about treatments for vaginal dryness and itching.
One of the most common complaints of older women is vaginal dryness. This normally occurs during menopause, and is actually more prevalent after the completion of menopause. It is not only older women who suffer from vaginal dryness, it can affect women of all ages. While this may seem like an minor irritation, for women who are suffering from dry vaginal syndrome, the lack of lubrication can have a devastating effect on their sexual life.
Causes of Dry Vaginal Syndrome
The vaginal walls are normally lined with a thin layer of lubrication. Along with this naturally protective layer of moisture, the female hormone estrogen is also responsible for maintaining the health of the vaginal walls. When estrogen production slows down, or decrease the walls can become less elastic and thinner. Moisture levels will also decline resulting in vaginal atrophy. Along with menopause, other conditions that can cause hormonal levels to drop can include,
- Childbirth and breastfeeding. Both of these can result in hormonal imbalances, as a woman’s body begins to adjust estrogen and progesterone levels.
- Radiation and chemotherapy can also result in dry vaginal syndrome as hormonal levels are disrupted by both the disease and the treatment.
- Surgically removing the ovaries will cause estrogen production to dramatically decline.
- Disorders of the immune system and even excess alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking can all cause vaginal dryness.
Certain medications and a condition known as Sjogren’s syndrome are other, less common causes. Sjogren’s syndrome is when the healthy tissue in your body is attacked by your autoimmune system. One of the symptoms is vaginal dryness. Using feminine hygiene products that contain harsh chemicals and heavy perfumes can also upset the delicate ph balance in your vagina resulting in dryness and even irritation.
Symptoms of Dry Vagina Syndrome
Along with vaginal dryness, women can also experience itching or burning on or around the vaginal opening. Other symptoms can include soreness and light bleeding during intercourse, along with the urge to urinate frequently. Frequent urinary tract infections are also common symptoms associated with dry vagina syndrome.
Treatments for Dry Vagina Syndrome
The most effective treatment for vaginal dryness includes estrogen therapy. The most common form of therapy is the use of a topical estrogen cream or ointment. The estrogen can easily enter into your bloodstream through the vagina, and it is often a lower and more controlled dosage. Other pluses to using a topical estrogen ointment include reducing the risk of developing urinary tract infections and vaginal estrogen cream will not interfere with a woman’s production of testosterone. This male hormone is important for maintaining a healthy sex life.
Other common types of estrogen therapy include either an estrogen tablet which is inserted into the vaginal opening or using a vaginal estrogen ring which releases a low and continual dose of estrogen for three months. There are also treatments that can be done at home to help relieve the discomfort and irritation of dry vagina syndrome.
- Over the counter lotions and lubricants can help to relieve the symptoms of vaginal dryness. They are available in a wide array of different scents and sensations, making it easy to find one that both you and your partner can enjoy. A water based lubricant works best, without causing any irritation.
- It is not uncommon for women to experience vaginal dryness due to lack of sexual desire. This can be easily corrected by spending more time on sexual foreplay. In most instances, it takes a woman longer to fully become sexually aroused than a man. Spending more time making sure you are sexually stimulated can help prevent any problems with vaginal dryness.
- Avoiding feminine hygiene products and bath soaps that are scented or contain irritating chemicals can help prevent vaginal dryness and can also help to prevent certain bacterial infections from developing. Hand lotions, vinegar and yogurt should never be used to treat vaginal dryness, and can even make the condition worse.
While dry vagina syndrome can affect women of all ages, it does not have to mean that your sex life needs to suffer. With proper treatment and avoiding products that contain harmful irritants, it is possible to keep your vaginal area healthy and well lubricated. If the dryness worsens or is accompanied by pain, a health care professional should be consulted.
Last Updated: March 30, 2021 References Approved
This article was medically reviewed by Lacy Windham, MD. Dr. Windham is a board certified Obstetrician & Gynecologist in Tennessee. She attended medical school at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis and completed her residency at the Eastern Virginia Medical School in 2010, where she was awarded the Most Outstanding Resident in Maternal Fetal Medicine, Most Outstanding Resident in Oncology, and Most Outstanding Resident Overall.
There are 17 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 89% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status.
This article has been viewed 246,625 times.
Experts say that vaginal dryness is a common condition that typically causes soreness and itching around your vagina, pain or discomfort during sex, frequent urination, and possible recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs).  X Trustworthy Source National Health Service (UK) Public healthcare system of the UK Go to source Research suggests that vaginal dryness can occur at any age, but you’re more likely to experience it once you go into menopause.  X Trustworthy Source Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School’s Educational Site for the Public Go to source Fortunately, you may be able to relieve your vaginal dryness using home treatments or prescriptions from your doctor. Talk to your doctor to make sure you’re using the right treatment for your needs.
In this Article
- Remedies and Treatments for Vaginal Dryness
- When to See a Doctor
Vaginal dryness is a common problem that many women experience at some point. Most often, women experience vaginal dryness after menopause when levels of estrogen are lower, but it can happen at any age.
This condition is quite uncomfortable and can cause your vagina to feel dry, to feel itchy, or to burn, which can be painful during sexual intercourse. You may also feel the need to urinate more than usual, or you may also have recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs). Vaginal dryness can also cause some discomfort when you urinate.
Besides menopause, there are several other contributors to vaginal dryness, such as:
- Certain medications, like antidepressants or oral contraceptives
The medical name for vaginal dryness for postmenopausal women is vaginal atrophy. Vaginal atrophy can have a negative impact on your sex life since it can cause intercourse to be painful or uncomfortable. You may not feel as satisfied or willing to participate in sex, and your partner may be affected too.
Remedies and Treatments for Vaginal Dryness
Without treatment, vaginal dryness usually worsens over time. You can try these home remedies for vaginal dryness that may help relieve your symptoms and discomfort:
One of the best ways to reduce vaginal dryness is to use a vaginal moisturizer. These are special moisturizers that are designed specifically for this sensitive area of the body. Using a vaginal moisturizer every few days can help keep your vagina moist and relieve vaginal dryness symptoms.
You can apply the moisturizer a few times a week before bed. Apply it around the walls of the vagina to let it absorb. DonвЂ™t try to use a moisturizer or cream that is not specifically for the vagina. Similarly, you should avoid scented soaps, moisturizers, or other toiletries.
Before sexual activity, apply a water-based lubricant in your vagina and on your partner where there will be contact. Using a lubricant can help to relieve any pain or discomfort you might normally experience during sex, since you are giving this area moisture.
Be sure to choose a lubricant that doesnвЂ™t contain petroleum jelly or glycerin. Glycerin can cause your vagina to become even more irritated, and petroleum jelly can cause condoms to weaken or break during sex.
Regular Sexual Activity
Having sexual stimulation on a consistent basis can help improve your overall vaginal health. You can do this either alone or with a partner, or even using a device like a vibrator. Sexual stimulation helps increase blood flow and vaginal secretions and relieves vaginal dryness.
If youвЂ™re having sex with a partner, try engaging in foreplay before intercourse. This can make you feel more aroused so that sex is more enjoyable and comfortable. This can also help to promote blood flow and secretions to the vagina.
New Approach to Sex
While sexual activity is good for your vaginal health, rethink the way that you approach it. As mentioned, foreplay can be very helpful in getting ready for intercourse. Once you begin intercourse, take it slow. This helps to give the BartholinвЂ™s glands time to produce more natural lubrication in your vagina.
You can also try other sexual activities that donвЂ™t involve intercourse but still let you be intimate with your partner. Activities like massaging, mutual masturbation, oral sex, or simply touching can be fulfilling. These activities are typically more comfortable if your vaginal dryness symptoms are especially bothersome.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Pelvic floor exercises can help to strengthen weak vaginal muscles. With lower levels of estrogen, vaginal muscles weaken over time. Exercises like Kegels can help to relax tight muscles and strengthen weaker ones. These exercises also help to increase blood flow to the vagina.
When to See a Doctor
If youвЂ™ve tried these remedies for vaginal dryness and are still experiencing discomfort, you should make an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor can talk to you about other treatment options that can help.
Your doctor may recommend a local estrogen to help with vaginal atrophy. This is estrogen that you insert directly into the vagina. Some forms are:
- Vaginal ring
- Vaginal gel
- Vaginal cream
- Vaginal tablet
Your doctor can talk with you about all of your options and help you pick the right one for you.
Another common remedy for vaginal dryness that your doctor may recommend is osphena (ospemifene). This is a pill that you take once a day to reduce the symptoms of vaginal dryness. It is recommended for women who have moderate to severe symptoms. Osphena isnвЂ™t suitable for those whoвЂ™ve had breast cancer or are at a high risk for breast cancer.
El Camino Health: вЂњTreating Vaginal Dryness.вЂќ
The North American Menopause Society: вЂњVaginal Dryness.вЂќ
Mayo Clinic: вЂњVaginal atrophy.вЂќ
National Health Service: вЂњVaginal dryness.вЂќ
WomenвЂ™s Health Concern: вЂњVaginal dryness.вЂќ
Is your vaginal dryness ruining your physical relationship? Well, if you are suffering from this issue, you know how it can make intercourse a highly painful and hardly enjoyable affair. Besides, it vaginal dryness can lead to a number of other moderate to severe health problems including urinary tract infections. While there are expensive medications to treat vaginal dryness effectively, you can also opt for simple natural remedies to get rid of it. Taking proper preventive measures can also help keep vaginal dryness at bay. So, if spending thousands of bucks for treating vaginal dryness sound too much to you, go through this article and cure it naturally.
What Is Vaginal Dryness?
When your vagina does not produce enough lubrication or when the lining of the vagina (vaginal tissue) starts thinning, you experience dryness in the vagina. It is medically termed as ‘vaginal atrophy’ or ‘Atrophic Vaginitis’, which is typically accompanied by a parched and itchy sensation in the vagina along with pain during intercourse. This mostly happens due to a drop in the estrogen levels in the body, which changes women both physiologically and psychologically.
It is believed that vaginal dryness occurs only in menopausal or postmenopausal women. We generally consider it ’embarrassing’ and not like to talk about it when it happens at younger ages. But experts say that it is one of the most common issues that can affect women at any age.
There are several prescription medicines (both hormonal and non-hormonal) available for this condition, which include creams, inserts, and tablets. But before heading that way, there are also many home remedies that you can try for vaginal dryness.
The vaginal lubricant is produced in the cervical glands and vagina. But it is mostly found in the bloodstream and it is a fluid rich in sodium, calcium, potassium and amino acids.
Also Read – Hello, Dry-Skinned Beauties! Nivea Soft Light Moisturizer Review Is Here Here
Causes Of Vaginal Dryness
Several factors are responsible for affected vaginal lubrication and the hormonal condition of the woman is the most important one among them. Estrogen hormone produced in our body is known to maintain the health of our vagina by keeping its tissue and lining lubricated as well as protecting the organ from infections. Therefore, anything that lowers the production of estrogen in our body can dry up the vagina. Let us take a look at different causes of vaginal dryness.
- Menopause reduces the levels of estrogen in our body significantly, thereby thinning out the vaginal wall and damaging its superficial layer of cells that provides lubrication.
- Oral contraceptive pills or spermicides that control the amount of estrogen in our body can cause vaginal dryness by putting the vulva and the vagina in the menopausal stage.
- Chemotherapy, other radiation therapy, hormonal treatments, etc. can lead to dryness in the vagina.
- Stress and anxiety put together can curb your body’s natural sexual responses which is responsible for the lubrication of the vagina.
- Not providing enough hydration or nutrition to the body for producing sufficient lubrication.
- Certain habits like frequent douching, washing the vaginal area with fragrant soaps, smoking, etc. can affect the lubricating capacity of the vagina.
- Candidiasis, STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), etc. can lead to a dry vagina.
Also Read – Best Natural Home Remedies For Piles To Keep You Healthy And Worry-Free Here
Symptoms Of Vaginal Dryness
Your routine life can get disrupted by vaginal dryness. But knowing its symptoms beforehand will help you deal with the issue more effectively. Some common symptoms of vaginal dryness include burning sensation, itchiness, low or no sexual desire, painful intercourse, painful urination, frequent urination, lost bladder control, abnormal discharge, non-menstrual bleeding, insomnia, and so on.
Natural Remedies For Vaginal Dryness
Now, here are the most effective remedies that can help you treat a dry vagina naturally.
A Good Diet
Eat more food rich in proteins and essential fatty acids (sunflower seeds, fish, sesame seeds). Ingredients packed with isoflavones (celery, flax seeds, soybeans, tofu, etc.) will also help in regulating your estrogen levels successfully.
We need to drink lots of water to fight against our dry skin. The vaginal lining is also nothing but a thin layer of skin. Therefore, you should drink plenty of water daily and stay hydrated in order to ensure that your vaginal lining can produce optimum lubrication.
Also Read – Everything You Need To Know About Bottled Water. It’s Shocking! Here
This is one of the safest remedies for curing vaginal dryness. Take a spoonful of edible virgin coconut oil and apply it all over your vaginal area. Massaging your vagina with coconut oil will not only keep it lubricated but also help in improving its elasticity.
Just like coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil is regarded as another safe remedy for vaginal dryness. Being rich in vitamin E, this oil can be used for massaging vagina for increased lubrication without any worries.
Fenugreek Seeds / Fennel Seeds
Soak a teaspoonful of fenugreek seeds or fennel seeds in water overnight and drink the infusion the following morning. The estrogen-like effects produced by them will help in increasing the vaginal lubrication.
Also Read – 20 Home Remedies To Beat Menstrual Problems Naturally! Here
Preventive Measures To Avoid Vaginal Dryness
If you want to prevent vaginal dryness from occurring further, follow these preventive measures religiously.
Switch To Milder Products
If you are using a harsh soap or body wash to clean your vaginal area, then it is time to stop it. Switch to milder personal care products or vaginal washes to wash your intimate areas as they will clean without drying out the skin and maintain the right pH balance too.
Douching can lead to excessive dryness in the vagina and can be one of the underlying causes of vaginal soreness. Avoid douching completely to see a significant change in your lubrication levels.
Try Water-Based Lubes
Make sure that you use water-based or organic (free from glycerin, petrolatum, etc.) lubes in order to get relief from your dry genital issues.
However, if the dryness in the vagina makes you ‘extremely uncomfortable’, consult a specialist immediately.
Also Read – Different Causes And Effective Home Remedies For Sensitive Teeth Here
Too many women suffer from vaginal dryness silently—but it’s a highly fixable issue.
Even the most healthy, satisfying sex life can be knocked off course by vaginal dryness, whether it’s temporary or long-lasting. Lack of lubrication—and the vaginal itching, burning, irritation, and painful sex that often follow—can happen for a variety of reasons and at various life stages.
It’s a particular problem after menopause, but breastfeeding, chemotherapy, and radiation can each result in cellular damage and low estrogen levels, which in turn sabotage the ability of vaginal tissue to stay lubricated and elastic. And some medications (antihistamines and decongestants, for example) can have a negative impact as well.
Too many women, though, suffer silently, not realizing that this is a highly fixable issue. And doctors often don’t broach the topic or aren’t familiar with treatment options. So let me help with answers to some common questions.
My doctor suggested I try a vaginal lubricant. How do you use these, and which one is best?
Lubricants are used at the time of intercourse to reduce friction. I recommend silicone types: They’re more slippery and last much longer than water-based ones (so you don’t need to use as much) and don’t irritate the area. While water-based lubricants are less expensive, many are gloppy and sticky, and they may contain a propylene glycol preservative, which can be irritating. Apply the lubricant on your partner and on the opening of your vagina before intercourse.
What are vaginal moisturizers, and how are they different?
Lubricants don’t alter vaginal tissues; they just make them more slippery. A long-acting over-the-counter moisturizer, on the other hand, increases the water content of the cells, making vaginal tissues thicker, more elastic, and better able to produce lubrication. They need to be used two to five times a week and should be inserted in the vagina and applied around the vaginal opening. Two with proven clinical results: polycarbophil gel (Replens Long-Lasting Vaginal Moisturizer) and hyaluronic acid vaginal gel (Hyalofemme).
What about vaginal estrogens?
Sometimes a woman’s vaginal walls are so thin and dry that a prescription medication is needed. One option: local vaginal estrogens. Before you think, Oh, no, estrogens! Breast cancer, blood clots, bad stuff. , know that there are no proven safety issues with these products. There are three types: vaginal creams (inserted and spread on outer areas), vaginal tablets (inserted twice weekly), and vaginal rings (which last three months).
Are there treatments for women who want to avoid estrogen?
One option is ospemifene, a daily pill—taken orally, not vaginally!—that activates estrogen receptors in vaginal tissue to alleviate painful intercourse in post-menopausal women. The FDA recently approved a daily vaginal suppository, prasterone, or DHEA, which also works inside vaginal cells to increase lubrication and elasticity. And finally, many doctors now offer FDA-cleared medical CO2 laser treatments in their offices, to stimulate and regenerate vaginal and vulvar cells. These treatments should be performed only by a gynecologist, not by a plastic surgeon or dermatologist.
We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.
Vaginal dryness is a common symptom during and after menopause, but it can happen at any age and for various reasons.
Vaginal dryness usually results from low estrogen levels. Estrogen is the hormone that keeps the lining of the vagina lubricated, thick, and elastic.
Vaginal dryness is a common problem, but many people do not seek help, as they may not realize it is a health issue for which they can get help.
It can lead to pain during intercourse, contributing to a loss of sexual desire. It can also cause discomfort during sports and other physical activity, and increase the risk of vaginal infections.
Several treatments are available to relieve the symptoms of vaginal dryness.
Vaginal dryness usually results from a drop in estrogen levels. Estrogen levels begin to decrease as menopause approaches.
The ovaries produce estrogen, and estrogen controls the development of female body characteristics, such as breasts and body shape. It also plays a key role in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.
Estrogen helps keep the tissues lining the vagina thick, moisturized, and healthy. As levels decline, the lining becomes thinner, drier, and less elastic. These changes are known as vaginal atrophy.
Estrogen levels can drop for various reasons including:
- surgical removal of the ovaries (which can trigger menopause)
- childbirth and breastfeeding
- treatments for cancer, including chemotherapy and radiation
- anti-estrogen drugs for treating breast cancer or endometriosis
Other causes of vaginal dryness can include:
- Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that involves inflammation of the salivary and tear glands.
- Using antihistamines, which help manage cold and allergy symptoms by drying secretions. Side effects can include vaginal dryness and trouble urinating.
- Antidepressants, which sometimes have sexual side effects such as vaginal dryness, decreased libido, and difficulty having an orgasm.
- Stress and anxiety, which can affect libido and vaginal lubrication.
- Reduced blood supply to the vagina.
- Flammer syndrome, in which blood vessels react in an unusual way to stimuli such as cold and stress.
Females who smoke may experience menopause earlier than those who do not, and so vaginal dryness may occur at an earlier age in this group.
People with vaginal atrophy and vaginal dryness may experience :
- vaginal itching
- pain during sex
- discomfort during physical activity
- a higher risk of vaginal infections and urinary tract infections
If the dryness is due to a fall in estrogen levels, they may also have:
- lower levels of natural vaginal secretions
- a tightening of the vaginal opening
- a narrowing of the vagina
Together, these changes are known as dyspareunia. They can lead to pain during penetrative sex.
Vaginal dryness is a health issue that affects many people. A doctor can suggest treatment to help resolve the discomfort it can cause.
People should seek medical advice if they experience the following symptoms or other signs of change in their vaginal health:
- intercourse pain
The doctor will likely:
- ask about vaginal and other symptoms
- ask about menstrual changes
- do a pelvic examination
- in some cases, take a swab for a lab test
No single test can diagnose vaginal atrophy and vaginal dryness. A doctor will usually base the diagnosis on the symptoms.
It might feel embarrassing and uncomfortable to discuss such personal details, but doctors are used to having these types of conversations. Seeking help is the first step toward managing symptoms.
Various treatment options are available for vaginal dryness. Some are available over-the-counter, while others need a prescription.
Topical estrogen cream
One option is topical estrogen therapy, a medication in the form of a cream or ointment that a person can apply directly to the vaginal area to relieve symptoms.
A person using a topical cream will absorb less estrogen compared with taking estrogen as a pill. As a result, the risk of adverse effects is relatively low.
Examples of topical estrogen therapies include:
- Vaginal ring (Estring). The person inserts a flexible ring into the vagina where it continually releases low amounts of estrogen into the tissues. The person should replace the ring every 90 days.
- Vaginal cream (Estrace, Premarin). People can use an applicator to apply the cream into the vagina. Research shows that estrogen cream is an effective and well-tolerated treatment for vaginal atrophy and dryness, compared with a placebo.
- Vaginal tablet (Vagifem). The person will use an applicator to place a tablet into the vagina.
There is limited research into the long-term effects of topical estrogen, but these are more likely to be safe compared with oral hormone replacement therapy.
Females who have a history of breast cancer, who are or may be pregnant, or who are breastfeeding should talk to their doctor about the safety of topical estrogen therapy. The doctor may recommend non-hormonal treatments instead.
Over-the-counter treatments may help with vaginal dryness.
For example, a person can use lubricants at the time of intercourse to increase moisture. Water-based lubricants may be preferable to oil-based lubricants, as oil-based ones can lead to irritation and condom breakage.
A person can also use vaginal moisturizers every 1 to 2 days to help maintain the vagina’s natural moisture. They are available for purchase online.
In this Article
- Other Products
Normally, the walls of the vagina stay lubricated with a thin layer of clear fluid. The hormone estrogenВ helps maintain that fluid and keeps the lining of yourВ vagina healthy, thick, and elastic.
A drop in estrogen levels reduces the amount of moisture available. ItВ can happen at any age from a number of different causes.
It may seem like a minor irritation. But the lack of vaginal moisture can have a huge impact on your sex life. Fortunately, several treatments are available to relieve vaginal dryness.
Vaginal dryness isВ common symptom of menopause — and close to one out of every three women deals with it while going through “the change.” It becomes even more common afterward. It also makes the vagina thinner and less elastic. This is called vaginal atrophy.
Estrogen levels can also drop because of:
- Childbirth and breastfeeding
- Radiation or chemotherapy treatment for cancer
- Surgical removal of the ovaries
- Anti-estrogen medications used to treat uterine fibroids or endometriosis
Other causes of vaginal dryness include:
- SjГ¶gren’s syndrome (an autoimmune disorder that attacks cells in the body that produce moisture)
- Allergy and cold medications
- Certain antidepressants
- Not enough foreplay before sex
No matter what the cause, vaginal dryness can be extremely uncomfortable. It can lead to itching, burning, and painful intercourse.
Any burning, itching, or discomfort in the area is worth a call to your doctor or gynecologist. They’ll ask about your past healthВ and find out how long you’ve had symptoms and what seems to make them worse or better.
Your doctor will do a pelvic exam, checking your vagina for any thinning or redness. The exam will help rule out other possible causes for your discomfort, including a vaginal or urinary tract infection. The doctor may also remove cells from your vaginal wall or cervixВ forВ a Pap test.
The most common treatment for vaginal dryness due to low estrogen levels is topical estrogen therapy. These replaceВ some of the hormone your body is no longer making. That helps relieve vaginal symptoms, but it doesn’t put as much estrogen in your bloodstream as the hormone therapy you take in pills.
Most women use one of three types of vaginal estrogen:
- Ring (Estring):В You or your doctor inserts this soft, flexible ring into your vagina where it releases a steady stream of estrogen directly to the tissues. The ring is replaced every 3 months.
- Tablet (Vagifem):В You use a disposable applicator to putВ a tablet into your vagina once a day for the first two weeks of treatment. Then you do it twice a week until you no longer need it.
- Cream (Estrace, Premarin):В You use an applicator to get the cream into your vagina. You’ll typically apply the cream daily for 1 to 2 weeks, then cut backВ to one to three times a week as directed by your doctor.
Any estrogen product can have side effects, such as vaginal bleeding and breast pain. Topical estrogen may not be recommended when you:
- Have breast cancer, especially if you’re taking an aromatase inhibitor
- Have a history of endometrial cancer
- HaveВ vaginal bleeding but don’t know why
- AreВ pregnant or breastfeeding
There isn’t much research on the long-term use of topical estrogen, but doctors believe it’s safe.
You can buyВ a vaginal moisturizer like glycerin-min oil-polycarbophil (Replens) at your local drugstore or supermarket.
A drug taken orally An oral drug taken once a day,В ospemifemeВ (Osphena), makes vaginal tissue thicker and less fragile, resulting in less pain for women during sex. The FDA warns that Osphena can thicken the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) and raise the risk ofВ strokeВ andВ blood clots.
Take your time before having sex to make sure that you’re fully relaxed and aroused.В ApplyВ a water-based lubricant (Astroglide, K-Y) to help enjoy intercourse more.
Avoid using douches, bubble baths, scented soaps, and lotions around the sensitive vaginal area. These products can worsen dryness.
Kendall, A. Dowsett, M. Folkerd, E. and Smith, I. Annals of Oncology. Published online Jan. 27, 2006.
Nothnagle, M. Scott Taylor, J. American Family Physician, 2004; vol 69: pp 2111-2112.
MedlinePlus: “Estrogen Vaginal.”
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: “Management of menopause-related symptoms.”