Unhealthy and insufficiently lubricated vagina can significantly compromise the quality of sexual relationships besides aggravating the risk of developing infections and inflammatory disorders of genital tract. Although, vaginal dryness is more common in elderly females but a fair number of cases are also reported in women of younger age group. Vaginal dryness is also very frequently associated with an increased risk of yeast and bacterial infections.
Symptoms Of Vaginal Dryness
Classic symptoms of this disease are:
- Painful sex
- Mild to moderate genital bleeding after sexual intercourse
- Burning or itching of vagina
- Soreness in vagina
- Vaginal discharge
What Causes Vaginal Dryness?
By far, low serum level of estrogen is regarded as the most common pathophysiological factor that presents with vaginal dryness in adult women. Estrogen is a female hormone which is primarily responsible for keeping vaginal tissues lubricated. Significant decline in the estrogen almost always presents with this disease. Estrogen levels may suffer due to following reasons:
- Child birth
- Perimenopause (progression towards menopause)
- Surgical removal of ovaries
- Chemotherapy and radiotherapies
- Use of anti-estrogen medicines
- Autoimmune disorders
Risk Factors Of Vaginal Dryness
Besides low estrogen, other unconventional risk factors include:
- Use of specific soaps, perfumes, lotions, and douches (that alters the chemical balance in the genital tract may also cause dryness
- Certain drugs such as antihistamines and anti-depressants can also present with vaginal dryness as an adverse effect. Antihistamines are class of drug that are used for the management of asthma, allergies and cold. These drugs can lead to vaginal dryness, as most of these drugs exert their action by drying the secretions of the body.
- Moreover, a rare autoimmune disease – Sjogren’s syndrome can also present with dryness of vagina along with dryness of eyes and mouth.
- Anxiety and depression are unhealthy mental states that not only influence psychological health but may also affect sexual health. When a person is stressed or depressed, sexual desires or libido also decreases which may lead to vaginal dryness.
Low libido or other sexual problems can lead to vaginal dryness. Similarly, this disease can worsen the low sexual drive.
How To Diagnose Vaginal Dryness?
A pelvic examination is usually performed to assess the vaginal walls for thinning, redness, and paleness. To rule out menopause, hormonal levels should also be evaluated. For further examination, vaginal discharge and other symptoms are evaluated before establishing a diagnosis and initiating a therapy.
Depending upon the condition, treatment can vary from person to person. Possible treatment options include:
- Creams and lubricants: Using creams or lubricants helps in keeping the vagina moist for several hours or even for the whole day. A water based lubricant can be helpful in dealing with this problem during intercourse.
- Estrogen: Topical estrogen is an effective treatment for relieving symptoms of vaginal dryness. They are available in various forms, including, ring, tablet, suppositories, and creams that are inserted directly inside the vagina.
- Wild yam: Applying creams that contain wild yam are found helpful by some women. However, there is no scientific proof to support it.
- Soybeans: Many women eat soy enriched foods such as soybean, soy milk and tofu to overcome the vaginal dryness symptoms. Soy possess substances called isoflavones that may mimic actions of estrogen inside the body. However, research in this matter is still under progress.
- Black cohosh: This herb is taken in form of dietary supplement to ease the symptoms of menopause. Some females take it for coping with vaginal dryness too. However, research studies have not proven this effect yet.
It is important to first ask doctor, before taking any alternative medicines, supplements, or herbs.
It is highly advised to seek expert medical advice to manage the symptoms of this disease as poorly managed cases only affects the physical health; but can also have a negative impact on physical and sexual relationships, by making intercourse painful and unpleasant.
- Portman, D., Palacios, S., Nappi, R. E., & Mueck, A. O. (2014). Ospemifene, a non-oestrogen selective oestrogen receptor modulator for the treatment of vaginal dryness associated with postmenopausal vulvar and vaginal atrophy: a randomised, placebo-controlled, phase III trial. Maturitas, 78(2), 91-98.
- Walker, S. (2015). Health updates: Women’s health: Women’s business: Vaginal dryness. PS Post Script, (Mar 2015), 10.
- Stute, P. (2013). Is vaginal hyaluronic acid as effective as vaginal estriol for vaginal dryness relief?. Archives of gynecology and obstetrics, 288(6), 1199-1201.