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As a woman gets older, it’s quite natural for her estrogen levels to drop.
Normally, the hormone estrogen keeps the lining of the vagina lubricated, thick and elastic.
But as the levels of estrogen decreases, the amount of vaginal moisture will also be affected, and women may experience vaginal dryness (that is, a lack of vaginal lubrication).
It can happen at any age from a number of different causes and although it affects a lot of women, most of them do not speak about this — not even to their doctors.
A dry vagina brings with it a number of other problems, such as:
Feel sore or itchy in and around your vagina
Feel pain or discomfort during sex
Burning sensation when taking a leak
Keep getting infections eg. urinary tract infections (UTIs)
It is not uncommon for these things to make you have a lesser desire to have sexual intercourse.
Most of the time, vaginal dryness occur due to a drop in estrogen levels, which is a common symptom of menopause.
As levels decline, women notice that the lining of their vaginas are thinner, drier, and less elastic. These changes are known as vaginal atrophy.
Other reasons that cause a drop in estrogen levels, besides menopause, include:
Childbirth and breastfeeding
Cancer treatment (radiation or chemotherapy)
Surgical removal of the ovaries
Anti-estrogen medications used to treat uterine fibroids or endometriosis
Women may also suffer from vaginal dryness, in cases of:
Sjogren’s syndrome (a complex autoimmune disorder that makes the tissues lining the vagina become inflamed)
Antihistamines (drugs used for cold or allergy symptoms work to dry up secretions)
Not enough foreplay or skipping it entirely before sex
No matter the cause, lack of vaginal moisture can be extremely uncomfortable and have a huge impact on a woman’s sex life.
Fortunately, there are several different treatments available to relieve the symptoms of vaginal dryness.
The most common treatment for vaginal dryness due to low estrogen levels is topical estrogen therapy. It helps relieve vaginal symptoms, but direct application involves much less absorption of estrogen when compared to estrogen taken in pills.
Some of the examples of topical estrogen therapies include:
Ring (Estring). A flexible ring is inserted into the vagina, where it releases a steady stream of estrogen into the tissues.
Cream (Premarin). An applicator is often used to apply the cream into the vagina.
Tablet (Vagifem). This treatment also involves an applicator to place a tablet into the vagina.
There isn't much research on the long-term use of topical estrogen, but doctors believe it's safe.
Over-the-counter treatments such as water-based lubricants are also available that may help with vaginal dryness.
Vaginal moisturizers can be used every day to every couple of days to help maintain the vagina's natural moisture.
It might be embarrassing and uncomfortable to discuss such personal details, but it’s important for people to seek help so that they can get their symptoms under control.
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Johnson. T.C (2019). Vaginal Dryness: Causes and Moisturizing Treatments. [online] WebMD. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/vaginal-dryness-causes-moisturizing-treatments#2.
Nwadike, V. (2018). Vaginal dryness: Causes, treatments, and natural remedies. [online] Medical News Today. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321615.php.
nhs.uk. (2018). Vaginal dryness. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaginal-dryness/.
Cohut, M. (2018). Vaginal dryness: 'Women, please report symptoms,' urge experts. [online] Medical News Today. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322214.php.
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