What is vaginal dryness?
Vaginal dryness is a symptom of many different medical conditions. It can cause pain during sitting, standing, exercising, urinating (peeing) and sexual intercourse.
Vaginal dryness can occur at any age. It is most common in women during or after menopause (the end of menstruation, a woman’s monthly period). Many effective treatments are available.
What are the possible causes of vaginal dryness?
In many cases, women have vaginal dryness when estrogen hormone levels decrease. Treatments for other conditions can also cause this symptom. Vaginal dryness can result from:
- Breastfeeding and childbirth.
- Birth control pills.
- Cancer treatments including chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.
- Medications, including anti-estrogen medications (treating uterine fibroids or endometriosis), certain antidepressants and antihistamines (treating itchy eyes and runny noses).
- Removal of the ovaries.
- Sjogren’s syndrome (an autoimmune disorder that can cause dryness throughout the body).
Care and Treatment
How is vaginal dryness diagnosed?
Doctors diagnose vaginal dryness based on your medical history and a physical exam. To find the cause, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and any medications you take.
A pelvic exam allows doctors to see if the vaginal tissue is thin and dry due to decreased estrogen. In some cases, a doctor may use a blood test to check hormone levels. Blood tests can also show other medical issues that could be causing vaginal dryness.
How is vaginal dryness managed or treated?
If you’re experiencing vaginal dryness, there are a variety of treatment options available. Treatment for this symptom will depend on the cause. Common treatments for vaginal dryness include:
- Avoiding strong or perfumed soaps or lotions near the vagina.
- Using estrogen or non-estrogen oral therapies.
- Using lubricants and vaginal moisturizers that provide short-term moisture.
- Using local estrogen or DHEA inserted directly into the vagina for long-term moisture.
There are also natural oils that you can try to help with vaginal dryness. You might try natural oils, such as grape seed, olive, sweet almond, sunflower or coconut. Another thing to try is a longer period of foreplay before intercourse. Vaginal moisture is tied to arousal. Talk to your partner about ways to increase these sensations outside of intercourse.
When to Call the Doctor
When should I call the doctor?
Women may feel embarrassed to talk to their doctors about a dry vagina. But many treatment options are available for this common symptom. Contact your doctor if vaginal dryness interferes with your daily activities or affects your sex life or relationship with your partner.