What Causes Vaginal Dryness?
During a woman's childbearing years, hormones help keep vaginal tissue healthy by maintaining normal vaginal lubrication, tissue elasticity, and acidity. Vaginal lubrication protects the tissues against damage and infection. Sexual arousal also increases vaginal lubrication. Those vaginal lubricants also provide a welcoming environment for transportation of sperm and help promote procreation.
While other factors can affect vaginal lubrication, changes most often occur because of menopause. Post-menopause (average age 47-55), hormone levels drop, decreasing the natural production of lubrication. Women who have vaginal dryness report pain during penetration along with vaginal itching and pressure. This can affect pleasure and desire for sexual relations. Fortunately, there are some simple solutions that can help increase vaginal lubrication and decrease pain during intercourse.
Treatment of Vaginal Dryness
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is a short-term treatment for the severe symptoms of menopause. This treatment can help relieve vaginal dryness, along with taming hot flashes and mood swings. HRT is only recommended for short-term use as it has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease.
- Over-the-counter lubricants (Astroglide, K-Y) and moisturizers (Replens, Lubrin) can help relieve vaginal dryness and make sexual intercourse more comfortable. They are applied directly to the vaginal opening or to the partner's penis.
- Vaginal Estrogen Therapy, supplied in the form of creams, ring or tablets, can help with vaginal dryness. The cream is inserted into the vagina, usually at bedtime. The ring is placed in the upper part of the vagina and releases a constant dose of estrogen over a period of about 3 months. Tablets are inserted into the vagina and will last about 3 days.
Vaginal dryness during intercourse may also be a result of not being fully aroused during sexual foreplay. Women may need to talk with their partners to find ways to become more fully aroused. Sex that is more frequent may also help to increase the amount of lubrication.
Medline Plus, National Institutes of Health, 2005