Vaginal dryness is a lack of natural lubrication in a woman's vagina.
Changes in the vagina occur in response to a woman's hormonal cycle. Estrogen causes the skin lining the vagina to thicken. Blood vessels bring nutrients and oxygen to the vagina. These maintain vaginal flexibility and health.
The amount of mucus and vaginal secretions produced is influenced by many factors, including: bacteria and virusesblood vessels and nervesexercise and sweatingfemale hormonesirritants, such as feminine hygiene productssexual arousalstress
Vaginal dryness may cause the following symptoms: dyspareunia, or painful intercoursefrequent vaginal yeast or bacterial infections, with abnormal vaginal dischargeitching or burning of the vagina
Vaginal dryness is often caused by changes in the level of female hormones. Situations that alter these levels include: breastfeeding oral contraceptives menopause
Other factors that may cause vaginal dryness include: an allergic reaction to latex in condomsdamage from childbirthinadequate foreplay before intercourseirritation from feminine hygiene products or tamponsmedication or drug side effectsprevious pelvic or abdominal surgerypsychological issues, such as past or current sexual abuse
Vaginal dryness can sometimes be prevented by treating the underlying cause. Some ways to prevent vaginal dryness include: Avoiding irritating chemicals or products.Following treatment plans for diabetes and other diseases.Obtaining counseling for psychological problems.Using hormone replacement therapy for menopause.
Diagnosis of the cause of vaginal dryness begins with a medical history and physical exam. The healthcare professional may perform a pelvic exam and Pap smear.
Vaginal dryness is not contagious and poses no risk to others.
Hormone replacement therapy can minimize vaginal dryness. Hormones may be taken orally. Estrogen creams, such as estradiol (i.e., Estrace vaginal, Estring, Femring, Vagifem) may be inserted into the vagina. An estrogen patch (i.e., Alora, Climara, Estraderm, Menostar, Vivelle, Vivelle-Dot) may be applied to the skin. Vaginal moisturizers may be used. Water-soluble lubricants may be inserted before intercourse.
Hormone replacement therapy may increase a woman's risk for breast cancer and uterine cancer. Products used to treat vaginal dryness may rarely cause allergic reactions.
Treatment of vaginal dryness may be lifelong.
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.