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Vaginal dryness which can also be referred to as atrophic vaginitis or vaginal atrophy is a vaginal irritation which is as a result of shrinking and thinning of tissues in the vagina and reduced lubrication of the vaginal walls. Naturally, the vaginal walls are always lubricated with the help of a thin layer of cleared fluid and a hormone called estrogen which keeps this fluid and maintains the vagina lining healthy, thick and elastic. A little reduction in the level of this hormone (estrogen) can also minimize the quantity of the moisture available. This happens at any age with different causes.
Vaginal dryness is more like a minor irritation, but the absence of vaginal moisture could have a significant impact on your sexual life. Vaginal dryness can happen to any woman of any age, but most rampant in women of older age. It makes you go through pain and discomfort when having sex, which may affect your sexual relationship. Vaginal dryness can also lead to bacterial or yeast infection. Please note that vaginal dryness is a common symptom of menopause.
Symptoms of vaginal dryness
Some of the symptoms which may lead to vaginal dryness may include:
- When you notice soreness, itching or burning sensation of the vagina.
- When you always experience painful sexual intercourse.
- When you also notice bleeding after sexual intercourse.
- When you see a mild vaginal discharge.
Diagnosis of vaginal dryness
There is this famous saying that “health is wealth.” When you are healthy, you are also wealthy. As a woman, you shouldn’t take your health for granted most especially that particular place that makes you a woman (the vagina). Whenever you notice any abnormality such as itching, burning sensation or any discomfort on your vagina or vaginal region, you call the attention of a doctor or a gynecologist. They will have to you about your past health condition and also want to know how long you have had the symptoms and what usually worsen the situation or what makes it better, this will guide them on the measures to take before treating you.
Your doctor (gynecologist) will have to carry out a series of examination on your body, like examining your pelvic, examining your vagina to check for any thinning or redness. This examination will be an aid to finding out some possible causes of the pain, itching, and discomfort you are passing through including both the vaginal and urinary test infection. The doctor may also decide to carry out a pap test on you by removing some cells from the walls of your vagina or your cervix.
Some other accompanying symptoms of vaginal dryness
- You may experience night sweats and inability to sleep at night (insomnia) during your premenopausal period.
- There is also a reduction in estrogen level during premenopause which reduces the quantity of natural vaginal secretion.
- A decrease in estrogen level could even outcome to tightening of the vaginal opening, likewise vaginal narrowing.
Also, women in their premenopausal period could also experience some of this symptoms:
- Hot flashes
- Sweating at night
- Mood swing
- Vaginal acne
- Loss of memory
- Urinary symptoms, etc.
How is vaginal dryness related to menopause?
Vaginal dryness is related to menopause because of the reduction in the level of estrogen that comes afterward. Studies have shown that about twenty percent of women in their premenopause and postmenopause stage ask for vaginal dryness treatment. Also, reduction in the level of estrogen makes the lining of the urinary tract thin, thereby causing more urination and chances of getting urinary tract infections is increased. These symptoms are known as the genitourinary syndrome of menopause.
Women with genitourinary syndrome of menopause also notice itching, bleeding after sex or burning sensation on the vagina. Note that every woman that passes through menopause stage would experience symptoms differently, having different intensity of severity.
Causes of vaginal dryness
Vaginal dryness happens mostly because of the decrease in the level of estrogen. Estrogen level starts to drop as a woman approaches menopause. The ovaries are responsible for the production of estrogen that controls the growth of female body characteristics, like the shape of the body and the breast.
It also plays a vital role in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. As we all know, estrogen makes sure the tissue lining the vagina is thick, moisture, and in good health condition. But as this level reduces, most women notice thin lining of the vagina, dryness of the vagina, the vagina becomes less elastic, and a light pink to blue color is observed.
The level of estrogen can also reduce due to some other reasons than been menopause, such as:
- childbirth and breastfeeding
- cancer treatments, as well as chemotherapy and radiation
- Surgical removal of the ovaries known as “surgical menopause.”
- Use of anti-estrogen drugs like Lupron or Zoladex for treatment of breast cancer or endometriosis
- Some specific disorders of the immune system.
Other causes of vaginal dryness may include:
- Sjogren’s syndrome: this is an autoimmune disorder which attacks the cells in the body that manufactures moisture.
- Douching (washing away the inside of the vagina with water or other fluid mixtures)
- Taking some antidepressant
- When you don’t have enough foreplay for sex
Prevention of vaginal dryness
- Stop douching and the use of spermicidal foams, creams, and gel.
- Always indulge yourself in frequent sexual activity. It helps to enhance circulation of blood in the vagina, which helps overcome dryness.
Treatments of vaginal dryness
Administering topical estrogen therapy is the most common treatment for vaginal dryness. Estrogen therapy replaces some hormone the body no longer produces. This helps reduce vaginal dryness symptoms. Most women also treat their vaginal dryness by using any of these: Ring (estring), tablet (vagifem), or cream (Estrace, premarine).
Some home remedies for vaginal dryness
- Try to reduce the speed of lovemaking, spend more time in foreplay. It helps enhance vaginal secretion.
- Try applying herbs in the form of salves and oils on the vagina region.
- Apply vaginal lubricants if you always experience pain during sex. Do this before having sex.