Vaginal Dryness

Vaginal Dryness

  • Female reproductive organs

Definition

Vaginal dryness is a lack of natural lubrication in a woman's vagina.

What is going on in the body?

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 viruses
  • blood vessels and nerves
  • exercise and sweating
  • female hormones
  • irritants, such as feminine hygiene products
  • sexual arousal
  • stress

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

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 condoms
  • damage from childbirth
  • inadequate foreplay before intercourse
  • irritation from feminine hygiene products or tampons
  • medication or drug side effects
  • previous pelvic or abdominal surgery
  • psychological issues, such as past or current sexual abuse

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the condition?

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.

Diagnosed

How is the condition diagnosed?

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.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

Vaginal dryness is not contagious and poses no risk to others.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the condition?

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.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

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.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

Treatment of vaginal dryness may be lifelong.

Monitor

How is the condition monitored?

Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.

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