Vaginal dryness is a common symptom during and after menopause, but it can happen at any age and for various reasons.
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 Trusted Source 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 Trusted Source 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 Trusted Source 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 Trusted Source:
- 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: