Vaginal dryness is a common and often underreported problem that can cause significant discomfort, especially during sex. The main symptom of vaginal dryness is a persistent feeling of dryness, tightness, or burning in the vaginal area. This can lead to discomfort during sex and itching, redness, and inflammation. While vaginal dryness can be caused by several factors, the most common cause is a lack of estrogen.
Estrogen is a hormone that helps to keep the vagina lubricated and healthy. When levels of estrogen drop, as they do during menopause, perimenopause, and after childbirth, it can lead to vaginal dryness. Other causes of vaginal dryness can include certain medications, douching, and health conditions such as diabetes or Sjögren’s syndrome.
Vaginal dryness is not only a physical problem but can also lead to emotional and relationship difficulties. It can reduce your desire for sex, make sex painful or even impossible, and cause clitoral atrophy. If you’re experiencing vaginal dryness, it’s important to talk to your doctor, who can help you find the cause and the best treatment option for you.
Below, we provide all the information you need about vaginal dryness.
Signs and symptoms of vaginal dryness:
- A sensation of dryness in the vagina
- Insufficient or no lubrication despite arousal
- A feeling of tightness in the vagina
- Tingling sensation in the vaginal area
- Itching or burning in the vaginal area
- Pain during intercourse
- Light bleeding after intercourse
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Difficulty becoming aroused
Vaginal dryness is not a medical diagnosis but a symptom of other medical conditions. It can also be a side effect of certain medications, such as antihistamines, birth control pills, and antidepressants. The specific symptoms of vaginal dryness can vary from person to person and can also range from mild to severe. If you experience the aforementioned signs and symptoms of vaginal dryness, you can take active measures to improve lubrication and visit a healthcare provider.
What causes vaginal dryness?
Vaginal dryness is a common and often frustrating problem. The direct cause of vaginal dryness is usually hormonal changes that lead to insufficient estrogen levels. Estrogen is a sex hormone directly linked to the health of the vulva. The gradual loss of estrogen because of menopause and other factors can lead to vaginal dryness, loss of libido, and anorgasmia. However, the specific root cause of vaginal dryness and hormone changes can be physical or psychological.
Physiological causes of vaginal dryness:
- Hormonal Changes: Decreases in estrogen levels can occur during menopause, after childbirth, and during breastfeeding. These changes can cause the vaginal tissues to thin and become less lubricated.
- Certain Medications: Anti-estrogen medications, such as those used to treat breast cancer, can cause vaginal dryness. Other medications that can have this side effect include birth control pills, antidepressants, and antihistamines.
- Sjögren's Syndrome: This is an autoimmune disorder that affects the body's ability to produce moisture, leading to the loss of lubrication and vaginal dryness.
- Improper Hygiene: Douching regularly or using scented soaps and sprays in the genital area can irritate the tissues and lead to dryness. The vagina is a self-cleaning mechanism, so you shouldn’t use external products or soaps.
- Radiation Therapy: This can damage the vaginal tissues and cause dryness.
Psychological causes of vaginal dryness:
- Stress: Chronic stress can interfere with the body's natural production of estrogen, which, in turn, can lead to the loss of lubrication, sexual dysfunction, and vaginal dryness.
- Relationship Problems: Vaginal dryness can be a partner problem. If you're unhappy with your partner or have relationship problems, you may be less interested in sex. This can lead to vaginal dryness. Sometimes, vaginal dryness can also occur because of subconscious feelings you haven’t yet addressed in your relationship. If there are unresolved issues, communicating them with your partner is essential.
- Depression: Mental health issues, such as stress, anxiety, and depression, can lead to hormonal imbalances and the loss of estrogen, which can affect your ability to self-lubricate and have sex.
What can I do to reduce vaginal dryness?
- Use a Vaginal Moisturizer: One of the best things you can do to combat vaginal dryness is to use a vaginal moisturizer regularly. These products work by replenishing the natural moisture in your vagina, keeping it lubricated and healthy. There are a variety of vaginal moisturizers on the market, so talk to your doctor or pharmacist to find the right one.
- Apply a Low-Dose Estrogen Cream: For some women, a low-dose estrogen cream can be an effective way to combat vaginal dryness. Estrogen helps to keep the vaginal lining healthy and moist, so a cream with a small amount of this hormone can be helpful for women who are experiencing vaginal dryness. Talk to your doctor about whether a low-dose estrogen cream is right for you.
- Stay Hydrated: Staying hydrated is important for overall health and can help reduce vaginal dryness. When your body is properly hydrated, your vaginal tissues are more likely to be well-lubricated. So make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day and avoid diuretics like caffeine and alcohol.
- Avoid Douching and Harsh Soaps: Douching and using harsh soaps on your vagina can strip away the healthy bacteria that keep your vagina clean and moist. This can lead to dryness, irritation, and even infection. So it’s best to avoid these products and just use plain water to clean your vaginal area.
- Don’t Wear Tight Clothes: Wearing tight clothes can constrict your vaginal area and make it difficult for air to circulate. This can lead to vaginal dryness, so it’s best to avoid tight pants, leggings, and other constricting clothing. Instead, opt for loose-fitting skirts, dresses, and pants that allow your vagina to breathe.
Following these tips can help reduce vaginal dryness and make sex more enjoyable. You can also use clitoral suction sex toys, such as Namii, to take control of your sexual experience and work your way to an orgasm. If penetrative sex is too uncomfortable, clitoral suckers can stimulate your clitoris without active penetration, ensuring a more gentle experience.
If vaginal dryness persists, you should consider talking to a therapist or healthcare provider to identify and address the underlying physiological and psychological causes of dryness.