Though vaginal dryness can occur at any point in a woman's life, this troubling condition is more likely during menopause due to decreasing levels of estrogen in the body. Hormone changes characteristic of menopause can change the moisture levels in the body, including the vaginal area. Studies report that 40 to 60% of women develop vaginal dryness during the menopausal transition.
Other studies indicate that many women are not informed or are embarrassed to ask about vaginal dryness. However, learning more about this normal symptom of menopause is one of the best ways to seek a solution and increase one's physical and emotional wellbeing. Continue reading to discover more about vaginal dryness.
About Vaginal Dryness
Vaginal dryness, medically termed "atrophic vaginitis", is defined as a lack of adequate moisture in the vaginal area.
The body naturally lubricates the vaginal walls with a thin layer of moisture. This moisture layer is made of a clear fluid excreted through the blood vessel walls around the vagina. When a woman is sexually aroused, these blood vessels receive more blood flow, stimulating the secretion of fluids, thus increasing vaginal lubrication.
However, hormonal changes that occur with menopause and other female life events can disrupt this process, both during sex and in daily life. Symptoms of vaginal dryness can range in severity from mild and slightly annoying to significantly life impeding.
Many women find that the symptoms of vaginal dryness can affect the way they feel about themselves, sex, and life in general. There are a wide range of possibilities, though the following are the most common symptoms involved with vaginal dryness.
Common Symptoms of Vaginal Dryness
• Light bleeding during sex
• Painful intercourse
• General discomfort
• Urinary frequency
• Discomfort when wearing pants
While these symptoms are common, certain factors can aggravate or worsen vaginal dryness in menopause.
For example, women who have recently had hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may find that their symptoms of vaginal dryness are more severe. Stress is also another major trigger of severe vaginal dryness. Click on the following link to learn more about vaginal dryness, or keep reading below to learn more about the causes of vaginal dryness.
Vaginal dryness and itching occur when there is a lack of moisture production in the vagina, causing symptoms such as pain during sex and discomfort on a daily basis. A number of conditions may cause vaginal dryness and itching, such as yeast. Learn about treatment options available, including the use of lubricants and avoiding allergens.
A number of products are available to treat vaginal dryness amongst menopausal women, including lubricating oils and vitamin E suppositories. Alternatively, vaginal dryness can be targeted at the source, using hormonal treatments, such as vaginal creams and inserts. Simple lifestyle changes and using natural supplements may also prove effective in treating the problem.
Causes of Vaginal Dryness
During the menopausal transition, the ovaries begin to produce less estrogen in preparation for the cessation of menstruation (i.e. menopause). This decrease in estrogen is the primary cause of vaginal dryness during menopause, which typically begins in a woman's 40s to 50s.
Reduced estrogen levels often cause the vulva and vaginal tissues to become more thin, and dry, and less elastic, a condition called atrophy.
During this time, vaginal secretions also diminish, with a correlating decrease in lubrication. Drops in estrogen also change the pH level of the vagina, making the once acidic environment more alkaline, which can increase irritation and the likelihood of vaginal infection.
In addition to hormonal causes, other physiological, environmental, and emotional factors can cause or contribute to vaginal dryness.
Autoimmune diseases (e.g. Sjogren's syndrome)
Infections (bacterial, viral; sexually transmitted)
› Cold medications
› Cancer treatments
Smoking, alcohol consumption
Allergic reaction to chemicals in soaps, detergents, etc.
Stress is a major factor that can cause or increase the severity of vaginal dryness.
Other emotional problems, including anxiety and depression can lead to lack of arousal and vaginal dryness.
Unresolved relationship problems can also result in decreased vaginal lubrication during sexual activity, loss of libido, and problems with arousal.
Fortunately, a woman can take many simple steps toward managing vaginal dryness on her own. Click on the following link to read about the causes of vaginal dryness, or continue reading about the different treatment options available for vaginal dyness.
Underwear can exacerbate problems of vaginal dryness. Making sure underwear is an appropriate cut and made from natural fibers can help ease vaginal dryness, whilst not interfering with any other treatment options a woman may follow. More intensive hormone-based creams may also be used in more severe cases.
Learn about vaginal dryness as a menopausal symptom, as well as other life stages a woman may suffer from this condition. Causes and triggers of vaginal dryness are detailed, including smoking and certain medications. A number of treatment options are available, including the use of lubricants, as well as preventative methods.
Treatments of Vaginal Dryness
Fortunately for menopausal women, vaginal dryness is not a condition that needs to be permanent. There are self management techniques to cope with this symptom, and varying degrees of treatment options available. It is recommended to begin with the least invasive method and progress up to more drastic treatments if symptoms are unaffected.
To begin with, there are lifestyle changes that can be implemented into a woman's life, such as dietary adjustments or a different exercise program. Stress reduction techniques such as meditation or yoga can help women to relax if the vaginal dryness is stemming from emotional causes. Communication with one's partner is strongly recommended.
To ease physical symptoms, over-the-counter products such as vitamin E, oil, vaginal moisturizers, or water-based vaginal lubricants may assist in providing sexual comfort.
Recent studies have shown that a diet rich in soy flour and flaxseeds promotes vaginal health and prevents vaginal dryness.
However, as the primary cause of vaginal dryness in menopausal women is the natural decline in estrogen that is typical at this time, the most logical method of restoring vaginal lubrication is to address the fundamental hormonal imbalance. Natural supplements can be an easy, safe and effective treatment option.
For more severe or devastating cases, it may be beneficial to seek the advice of a health care professional. Surgical or pharmaceutical options exist, though these carry a higher risk of side effects. Vaginal estrogen therapy is an option in the treatment of vaginal dryness, which may be an alternative with a lower risk of side effects than HRT, due to a minimized absorption of the medicine into the bloodstream. In any case, consult a doctor is strongly advised with these options due to the possibility of complications.
Click on the following link to learn specific treatments for vaginal dryness. The most effective treatments for vaginal dryness typically combine lifestyle changes and alternative medicines.
For many women, menopause is a difficult and stressful stage of life, often accompanied by uncomfortable side effects. These include: vaginal dryness, which can cause pain during sex and place strain on a woman’s relationship with her partner. Find information on how exercise can help ease symptoms of menopause, including vaginal dryness.
Menopausal vaginal dryness is caused primarily by hormonal imbalances, specifically a decline in estrogen production. This can affect the vaginal tissues and their ability to secrete lubrication. Phytoestrogen supplements are effective in remedying vaginal dryness on a long-term basis, and are conveniently easy to incorporate into your diet.
- "Vaginal Dryness". Mayo Clinic Health Resource. 2007
- "Vulvovaginal Symptoms". The Changing Body: Menopause Handbook. www.menopause.org
- Love, Susan M.D. Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.
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