Vaginal dryness is a common occurrence, so you may experience it at some point in your life. Luckily, vaginal dryness treatment options can help relieve the symptoms and restore your vaginal health.
While vaginal dryness is more prevalent during menopause, it can occur at any age for various reasons. Usually, the mucosal cells lining the vaginal walls produce a thin clear liquid that keeps the vagina lubricated and elastic.
When there is a decline in the production of this natural lubricant, vaginal dryness occurs, causing irritation, burning, and discomfort during sex. Read on to learn what causes it, what symptoms to look for, and what vaginal dryness treatment options are available.
- What are the Symptoms of Vaginal Dryness?
- What Causes Vaginal Dryness?
- Vaginal Dryness and Menopause
- Types of Vaginal Dryness Treatment
- Food and Vaginal Dryness
- Vaginal Dryness Prevention
- How Long Does Vaginal Dryness Last?
What are the Symptoms of Vaginal Dryness?
Also referred to as vaginal atrophy, vaginal dryness is a common health issue often linked with low estrogen levels. Estrogen plays an invaluable role in maintaining the thickness, elasticity, and overall health of your vagina. A drop in its levels reduces the available moisture, leading to vaginal dryness.
The dryness may not just be inside the vaginal canal. It can affect and irritate the vulva, which is the external female genital area. The chief symptoms of vaginal dryness include:
- Painful intercourse
- Vaginal itching, soreness, or burning
- Light bleeding after intercourse
- Recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs)
What Causes Vaginal Dryness?
Several factors can lead to vaginal dryness. The primary cause is a drop in estrogen levels. As already mentioned, estrogen helps to keep the vaginal tissues lubricated and healthy. Low estrogen can cause dryness, thinning, and inflammation of the vaginal walls. But what makes the levels go down?
- Perimenopause and menopause
- Anti-estrogen medications
- Chemotherapy and radiation around the pelvic area
- Severe stress and depression
- Cancer therapy
- Birth control pills
Irritants such as lotions, soaps, douches, and perfumes can disrupt the natural chemical balance in the vagina and cause dryness. Certain condoms and tampons can also irritate your vagina. Medications that contain antihistamines are known to dry the body, contributing to reduced vaginal lubrication.
Lastly, an autoimmune disease called Sjogren's Syndrome may lead to dryness in the mouth, eyes, and vagina. It's a disorder that targets the moisture-secreting glands in the body, causing dehydration.
If you experience any vaginal dryness symptoms, it's best to consult your doctor for pelvic examination and diagnosis. They are likely to perform these tests.
- Pelvic exam to find out whether the vaginal walls are red, pale, or thin
- Blood test to determine the hormonal levels and other possible health issues that could cause dryness
- Vaginal discharge test to examine any other dryness causes
Vaginal Dryness and Menopause
Vaginal dryness is among the common symptoms of menopause. It is often a sign of genitourinary menopause syndrome, also known as vaginal atrophy or atrophic vaginitis. In essence, the period of transitioning to menopause can cause various physiological changes in a woman's body that may alter the pelvic floor.
Among them is reduced production of estrogen hormone, which affects the mucosal tone of the vaginal walls leading to a thinner, less elastic, and drier vagina. Low estrogen levels also raise the vaginal pH, making the area less acidic.
Naturally, a healthy vagina should have acidic pH levels. Low pH can create a host of unhealthy bacteria leading to recurring vaginal infections. A moisturizer can help to balance the pH and rejuvenate your intimate tissue.
When women do not regularly engage in intercourse or other vaginal sexual activities during menopause, their vagina may become narrower and shorter. So, when they do, they are likely to experience pain and discomfort.
That is because dry and fragile vaginal tissues are highly susceptible to tearing and bleeding during intercourse. If not treated, the discomfort and pain can be so intense that they avoid sex and any vaginal penetration, which worsens the condition.
Regular vaginal sexual activity during menopause can help maintain the thickness of vaginal tissues while keeping the area moist and lubricated. That way, the intercourse remains pleasurable to both partners. The menopause-related vaginal dryness symptoms may start during perimenopause or after several years of low estrogen levels.
Types of Vaginal Dryness Treatment
About 17% of women experience vaginal dryness before menopause, but only a few seek treatment. Many are shy to share their experience, while others overlook the issue. Do not be afraid to discuss your problem with your doctor, regardless of your age.
Their work is to keep you safe, healthy, and comfortable. Remember, this is an expected change in women, so you are not alone. Vaginal dryness treatments are available over-the-counter and by prescription.
Your doctor may begin by recommending over-the-counter options to help with the dryness. Over-the-counter vaginal dryness treatment options include:
Vaginal moisturizers restore moisture inside your vagina and around the vulva. Their effects often last longer compared to lubricants. You may have to apply every few days to maintain moisture and overall vaginal wellness.
These are highly effective in reducing pain and discomfort during intercourse. They are applied just before the sexual activity. When purchasing a lubricant, ensure it doesn't contain glycerin or warming properties as they often irritate women sensitive to such substances.
Avoid petroleum-based products, especially when using condoms. On contact, petroleum can break down latex condoms.
If the symptoms persist even after using either of the two, your doctor may recommend one of the following vaginal dryness treatments.
Estrogen for Vaginal Dryness
Since the leading cause of vaginal dryness is low estrogen levels, your doctor can recommend topical estrogen therapy to restore thickness, elasticity, and lubrication. This hormone therapy has the advantage of high effectiveness at lower doses.
In other words, it provides fast and direct relief compared to oral estrogen, and only a little reaches your bloodstream. There are three primary forms of vaginal estrogen therapy. Since all seem to work equally well, your doctor will help you determine the best one for you.
Vaginal Estrogen Cream
You insert the cream directly into your vaginal using an applicator, usually at bedtime. Based on the vagina state, your doctor will direct you on how much cream to use and for how long. Nonetheless, most women are told to use it daily for one to three weeks.
Vaginal Estrogen Ring
The doctor inserts a small, soft, supple ring into your vagina's upper part. It consistently releases an estrogen dose and is replaced after around every three months. Many women find this option convenient.
Vaginal Estrogen Tablet
It comes with a disposable applicator to help you easily insert the tablet into your vagina. Your doctor can direct you to use it daily for one or two weeks, then reduce the frequency after.
Systematic Estrogen Therapy
Your doctor might suggest systematic therapy if your dryness is caused by other menopause symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes. You can choose between gel, patches, or pills. When you take estrogen orally, it directly enters your entire system. Ask your doctor about the benefits and risks of systematic estrogen therapy, especially if you have a breast cancer history.
Red Light Therapy for Vaginal Dryness
Red light therapy is a painless and non-invasive treatment for vaginal dryness. It uses an intimate device like Joylux's vFit Gold to heat the vaginal surface to 41 degrees Celsius. Some of the benefits of this treatment method are that it promotes blood flow and natural hydration to relieve vaginal dryness.
The gentle heat generated by the device encourages collagen production and helps tighten the vaginal walls. The vFit device is paired with the Joylux Gold app to make the process easier and more enjoyable.
Some women have turned to Kegels for vaginal tightening, which has inconsistent results. Others go for expensive and painful surgeries, keeping them in bed for weeks. The good thing about red light therapy is that it is not surgical. It is painless and doesn’t come with a recovery time.
Red light therapy does not just tighten your vaginal walls—it can also increase lubrication, which may help relieve vaginal dryness symptoms. Patients report improvement in sexual function, sensation, and overall vaginal health. Unlike other therapies that may require regular doctor visits, you can perform red light therapy from the comfort and privacy of your home.
Food and Vaginal Dryness
We have dwelt much on the external vaginal dryness treatment, but did you know your diet also impacts every aspect of your body? Yes, and that also includes your vagina. When estrogen level reduces during menopause, it reduces collagen production, the protein responsible for skin elasticity and plumpness. This also affects the vaginal tissues, which become drier and thinner.
Embracing healthier choices can improve the health of your vagina and help you escape severe menopause symptoms. It will also enhance the effectiveness of other external vaginal treatment methods. Adding the following foods to your diet could help you reduce vaginal dryness.
Of course, with any diet changes and treatment considered home remedies for vaginal dryness, consult your physician. Vaginal dryness treatment is often more complex than simply changing what you eat. Your doctor can help you create a treatment plan that is personalized to meet your specific health needs. However, here are some general guidelines
Vitamin C Food
Consuming foods rich in vitamin C increases collagen production in your body, making your vagina thick and elastic. Vegetables such as cabbage, kale, broccoli, and other leafy greens are a great source of Vitamin C. Sprinkling some fresh parsley on your cooked vegetables and salads will significantly boost your diet.
Many women experiencing vaginal dryness often use external lubricants to reduce pain during sex. However, when lubrication comes from inside, it makes intercourse more pleasurable.
Foods rich in fatty acids are great natural lubricants that keep your vaginal walls moist, plump, and elastic. Ensure you take foods rich in omega 3 such as oily fish like sardines, salmon, and mackerel. You can also add a spoon of flax seeds to your morning snack and cereal.
The soybean plant has isoflavones. These are phytoestrogens that mimic estrogen's effects in the body. Research shows that they can help to relieve vaginal dryness. Fermented soy products like tempeh, miso, and natto can be more effective than processed products.
Other phytoestrogen sources include chickpeas, lentils, and fennel. You can relieve your vaginal dryness symptoms by rotating these foods throughout the week.
We are all aware consuming too much sugar is not suitable for our overall health. Refined sugar can accelerate your skin aging. In excess, it leads to glycation, a condition that lowers the collagen in our tissues, including in the vagina.
Vaginal Dryness Prevention
You can protect your vagina from dryness by using vaginal estrogen or red light therapy before the condition becomes severe. Regular sexual activity has also been shown to prevent atrophic vaginitis. Women who remain sexually active post menopause report fewer symptoms of vaginal dryness. Other lifestyle changes that could help maintain a healthy vagina include:
- Avoiding perfumed products: These include soaps, powders, deodorants, and douches. It is also worth noting that spermicides and perfumed lubricants can irritate your vagina and cause dryness.
- Giving up smoking: Estrogen levels can decrease due to smoking, putting you at risk of experiencing vaginal atrophy.
- Exercising regularly: Physical activity helps to improve hormonal balance. So, when you exercise regularly, your estrogen levels will remain efficient in keeping your vagina moist.
- Staying well hydrated: Proper hydration increases the overall moisture levels in the body, including your vagina.
How Long Does Vaginal Dryness Last?
Vaginal dryness associated with non-estrogen factors may return to normal shortly after the cause is identified and treated. For instance, if you are breastfeeding and experiencing dryness, you can get relief when done nursing.
Your doctor may also recommend the above physician-supported treatments during the dryness period. Menopause-related symptoms may persist as you age, especially if you don't seek help. It helps if you got it treated as soon as the symptoms begin.
Millions of women experience vaginal dryness and other pelvic floor issues at certain stages. It is not unusual, but you don’t need to suffer through it. There are many vaginal dryness treatments available. Working with your physician, you can develop the right treatment for you.