Vaginal Dryness Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Last updated on June 29th, 2016
There can be many different causes of vaginal dryness, from physical causes, like side effects from medication or hormonal fluctuations, or emotional causes, which can include a lack of libido or anxiety around having sex. Fortunately, vaginal dryness is completely treatable and you can go back to having sex that is enjoyable again.
About 2/3rds of all women over the age of 60 suffer from vaginal dryness, which can lead to lack of libido. This was reported in the Journal of Women’s Health in 2015. More than 800 women were surveyed to see what kinds of problems they had around sex. Vaginal dryness was right up there as one of the biggest problems.
Symptoms of Vaginal Dryness
Most women experience vaginal dryness as a symptom only when attempting to have vaginal sexual intercourse. There is a lack of lubrication from decreased vaginal and cervical secretions so that sex is more painful and less enjoyable. The lubrication just doesn’t show up, even when the woman is aroused.
Causes of Vaginal Dryness
In order to treat vaginal dryness, you need to find out why it is occurring. As mentioned, there are many causes of vaginal dryness, including the following:
- Hormonal Changes. The vagina can become dry during the time of menopause when the ovaries stop putting out as much estrogen as they did before the menopausal changes began. This kind of problem can also occur immediately after giving birth or when you are breastfeeding. Even treatments for cancer, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy can decrease the estrogen concentration and can slow down the amount of vaginal lubrication, leading to pain on intercourse.
- Certain medications used for colds and allergies (those that contain antihistamines and decongestants), can dry bodily fluids, including the fluid secreted by the vagina and cervix.
- Lack of libido. When a woman isn’t aroused, she will not put out as much vaginal lubrication as she would when she is aroused. If a woman’s partner does not perform well in bed or has problems with things like early ejaculation, the woman will not have time to become aroused and will have vaginal dryness during sex.
- Certain types of Irritants. The chemicals you find in feminine hygiene products, dyes, perfumes, or soaps can cause vaginal dryness. It is possible to be allergic to any one of these products, with the result being vaginal dryness. Irritating substances on underwear or bath towels can decrease vaginal lubrication.
- Anxiety Issues. Things like stress and anxiety can decrease libido and can cause a decrease in vaginal secretions. Anxious women have poor blood flow to the vagina and vaginal dryness will be the result.
Prevention and Treatment of Vaginal Dryness
The treatment of vaginal dryness depends on what is causing the problem. For example, if the problem is from a lack of estrogen, this can be replaced either systemically or through the use of vaginal creams or vaginal inserts. This will increase the degree of vaginal secretions. Local estrogen treatment is used when vaginal dryness is the only problem and systemic treatment is used when there are other symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats.
Besides treating vaginal dryness with estrogen, there can be other ways of improving vaginal lubrication, including the following:
- Vaginal lubricants. There are many different types of vaginal lubricants available to the woman with vaginal dryness. They are used around the time of intercourse. Most are water-based, which provides for the best fertility when using lubricants, but some are based on silicone and some are oil-based. It is important to know that oil-based vaginal lubricants can damage condoms so if pregnancy is not desired, then water-based lubricants should be used with condoms.
- Vaginal moisturizers. There are plenty of vaginal moisturizers that can be used over the counter. They are applied once a day at any time of the day and are usually used with an applicator. They keep the vaginal tissue moist by causing water to engorge the vaginal tissues.
It’s important to remember that, while vaginal dryness is frustrating and common, it is completely treatable so that sex does not have to be painful. For questions about vaginal dryness, see your doctor about the options available to you.