Report on Vaginal Dryness by AskDocWeb
During a woman’s childbearing years, hormones help keep vaginal tissues healthy by maintaining normal vaginal lubrication, tissue elasticity and pH level. Vaginal lubrication protects these tissues against damage and infection.
The vaginal lubricants also provide a safe environment for the transportation of sperm and help promote conception.
What is Vaginal Dryness
As you know, sexual arousal produces vaginal lubrication but when the amount of lubrication produced drops, the result can be painful sex, a condition that should not be ignored.
Causes of Vaginal Dryness
The number one cause of vaginal dryness is a decrease in the level of estrogen in the body. Estrogen helps keep vaginal tissues healthy by maintaining normal vaginal lubrication, tissue elasticity and pH level. Together, these create a natural defense against vaginal and urinary tract infections. A drop in your estrogen level can lead to dryness of mucous membranes in the vagina. The potential causes of a drop in estrogen levels include:
- Menopause or perimenopause
- Surgical removal of ovaries
- Immune disorders
- Cigarette smoking
- Cancer therapy; chemotherapy, radiation therapy
- hormone therapy
- allergy medications
- cold medications
- some antidepressants
There are many factors that can affect vaginal lubrication but a lack of lubrication most often occurs because of hormonal changes brought about by menopause.
Douching, the process of cleansing your vagina with a liquid preparation, disrupts the normal chemical balance in your vagina and can cause inflammation (vaginitis). This can also cause your vagina to feel dry or irritated.
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack healthy tissue. In addition to causing symptoms of dry mouth and dry eyes, Sjogren’s syndrome can also cause vaginal dryness.
Products that cause vaginal dryness
Chemicals in your everyday environment can also cause vaginal dryness. The following products have been known to cause vaginal dryness as well as irritate the vagina:
- Bubble baths
- Douches; vinegar, yogurt, and others
- Hand lotions
Many perfumes and other chemicals found in common laundry detergents and other household products can irritate the delicate mucosal tissues of the vagina.
Perimenopause and Menopause
Vaginal dryness commonly accompanies the changes in hormonal balance that occurs during perimenopause and menopause, particularly in women weaning off hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Vaginal dryness ranks as one of the top 10 problems afflicting menopausal women. Almost half of all women between the ages of 40 and 59 suffer from vaginal dryness.
High levels of stress are often correlated with vaginal dryness. This is common among postpartum women. Even women on HRT continue to experience the problem of vaginal dryness and irritation. This symptom can increase following menopause.
Dryness and lack of arousal can also be a signal of unresolved problems in a relationship. If you are depressed or under a lot of stress, you’ll benefit from stress counseling.
The estrogen your body needs to make vaginal lubrication is made from cholesterol, something women on low-fat diets are severely lacking. The low-fat, high-carb diets many women follow literally starves the body of the nutrients it needs to make sex hormones. Give your body the support it needs to make and balance your hormones by eating a hormone-balancing diet.
No matter how well you eat, it is all too easy to miss an some essential nutrients in our diet. To cover any missing gaps, taking a good multivitamin/mineral supplement is recommended.
Vaginal Dryness Treatments – Professional
Before trying to treat yourself you should make sure an infection, foreign body, or tumor (a rare cause of vaginal dryness) is not the cause of your vaginal dryness. Determining the cause is essential in helping you find an appropriate solution and you sometimes need the help of a doctor to do that.
Screening and diagnosis
One way your doctor evaluates and diagnoses vaginal dryness is to conduct a pelvic exam. A sample of cervical cells or vaginal secretions is taken for examination under the microscope and/or sent to a laboratory for testing. If urinary symptoms accompany your vaginal dryness a urine sample may also be needed for testing.
If self-care measures don’t correct the problem and vaginal dryness is due to a lack of adequate estrogen, vaginal estrogen therapy may be helpful.
Vaginal estrogen therapy
If vaginal dryness is associated with other symptoms, such as moderate or severe hot flashes that indicate menopause, your doctor may suggest estrogen pills, cream or a higher dose estrogen ring. Talk to your doctor to decide if estrogen treatment is an option and, if so, which type is best for you. The forms of vaginal estrogen are:
- Vaginal estrogen tablets (Vagifem): You place a vaginal estrogen tablet in your vagina using a disposable applicator. Typically this is done twice a week but your doctor will let you know how often you need to insert a tablet.
- Vaginal estrogen creams (Estrace, Premarin, and others): This cream is inserted directly into your vagina with an applicator, usually at bedtime. Your doctor will let you know how much cream to use and how often to insert it, usually two or three times a week.
- Vaginal estrogen ring (Estring): Either you or your doctor inserts a soft, flexible ring into the upper part of the vagina. While in place, the ring releases a consistent dose of estrogen and lasts about three months.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is a short-term treatment for the severe symptoms of menopause, short-term because it has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease. Along with taming hot flashes and mood swings, HRT can help relieve vaginal dryness.
Vaginal Dryness Treatments – Self Care
If you are uncomfortable because of vaginal dryness there are some self-care measures that can help. Your body can restore normal lubrication if it gets the right support and these simple solutions can help to both increase vaginal lubrication and decrease any pain during intercourse.
The easiest way to increase vaginal lubrication is also the least expensive form of self-care; check your hydration. Boosting your water intake can be surprisingly helpful.
If vaginal dryness makes sexual intercourse uncomfortable, over-the-counter lubricants such as Astroglide or K-Y can help make sexual intercourse more comfortable. Water-based lubricants like these lubricate your vagina for several hours. They can be applied to either your vaginal opening or to your partner’s penis before intercourse.
Moisturizers can help moisturize your vagina and last longer than lubricants do. They can also decrease dryness for up to three days with a single application.
Sometimes vaginal dryness during intercourse can mean that you aren’t sufficiently aroused and a lack of vaginal lubrication can make intercourse painful. This problem needs to be addressed before you start dreading and avoiding sex as a result.
Allowing time to be intimate with your partner will allow your body to become adequately aroused and lubricated. It also helps to talk with your partner about what feels good. Having intercourse on a regular basis also helps promote vaginal lubrication.
Try a personal lubricant
Some women achieve immediate relief from vaginal dryness simply by using a personal lubricant. You may want to give one a try while you wait for improved hydration, nutrition and endocrine support to naturally restore your own vaginal moisture. Vaginal lubricant products such as Vigorelle are now available that are safe for use in this sensitive area of the body.
If your vaginal dryness is unresponsive to simple efforts to alleviate it, or if your symptoms are severe and prolonged, please don’t ignore it. Take care of yourself, seek the advice of your doctor.
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