The vaginal layer is covered with a thin layer of fluid that provides an alkaline environment which supports the sperms in survival and provides lubrication during sexual intercourse. The female hormone estrogen helps to maintain that fluid and keeps the lining of your vagina healthy, thick, and elastic. Although it can affect women of any age, it mostly affects older women who are near menopause.
You may have vaginal dryness if you:
- feel sore or itchy in and around your vaginal area
- feel pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse
- have an increased frequency of urination
- keep getting urinary tract infections (UTIs)
The above reasons can also affect your desire for sex.
As stated earlier, the primary cause of vaginal dryness is low levels of estrogen during a time called perimenopause. You can suffer from Vaginal dryness if:
- are a mother and breastfeeding
- take contraceptive pills or antidepressants
- have your womb surgically removed (hysterectomy)
- have cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy
- Anti-estrogen drugs like Lupron or Zoladex used for breast cancer, uterine fibroids and endometriosis.
- Childbirth can also reduce levels of estrogen.
- Smoking can contribute to this.
- you don’t experience arousal during sex
- Use perfumed washes and soaps around the vaginal area.
Some diseases can also contribute to vaginal dryness; they are:
- Sjögren’s syndrome: This is a complex autoimmune disorder in which the tissues lining the vagina can become inflamed, which further leads to vaginal dryness.
- Antihistamines: Drugs, such as diphenhydramine, are used for cold and allergy symptoms. The side effects include vaginal dryness and discomfort while urination.
- Antidepressants: Some antidepressants can cause sexual side effects like vaginal dryness, decreased libido, and difficulty achieving orgasm.
There are prescription and non-prescription medicines available for Vaginal dryness. Topical estrogen is prescribed, which are directly applied to the area as it is less risky as compared to pills. Some of these medications are:
- Vaginal ring (Estring): This flexible ring is inserted into the vagina where it slowly releases estrogen into the tissues. The ring should be replaced every 90 days.
- Vaginal cream (Estrace, Premarin): An applicator is used to apply the cream into the vaginal area.
- Vaginal tablet (Vagifem): This treatment involves an applicator as well to place a tablet into the vagina.
There are other non-prescription treatments such as:
- Water-based lubricants can be considered, but they should be devoid of perfumes or artificial colours, they can irritate.
- Vaginal moisturisers will keep your vagina moist for long durations.
- Use scent-free soaps and gels when you shower.