Women encounter a variety of reproductive issues during their lifetime; from serious and less common ones like female infertility to the common and easily manageable ones such as vaginal dryness; these gynecological problems are part and parcel of their existence. Though vaginal dryness is seen more as an age-related reproductive issue, it can be experienced at any age. Most of the time, it is nothing serious but can compromise with the sex life of the patient.
Vaginal dryness is easy to deal with but it is vital to identify the exact cause to manage it effectively. Therefore, it becomes important for women to be aware of why’s and how’s of the problem so that it can be handled before it starts affecting the quality of her life.
Causes of Vaginal Dryness
Nature has equipped the female reproductive system with such a mechanism that the vagina stays lubricated with a layer of fluid, which keeps it healthy and supple. The fluid supply is maintained by the key female hormone called estrogen. When menopause sets in, the estrogen levels start declining naturally and the vaginal moisture gets reduced leading to vaginal dryness and irritation.
Menopause is not the only cause of vaginal dryness. Women may experience the same during/after childbirth and while breastfeeding because the estrogen levels drop during these times too. Similarly, removal of ovaries and use of anti-estrogen drugs for treating conditions such as endometriosis and uterine fibroids may also cause the same.
Women undergoing chemotherapy or radiation for cancer treatment are also susceptible to vaginal dryness. Autoimmune disorders, use of certain medications, douching and allergies are some other causes of the condition. It may also be manifested during sexual intercourse when the woman is not aroused enough due to lack of foreplay.
Symptoms of Vaginal Dryness
Vaginal dryness is characterized by the loss of lubrication in the vaginal region, with symptoms such as itching and burning sensation as well as pain during sexual intercourse. As a woman approaches menopausal age, not only does the vagina become dry but there is also the thinning of the skin around it. As a result, sex becomes uncomfortable and the woman tends to lose her libido. She may also experience pain while urinating and day to day activities such as walking, exercising and even, standing may become excruciating in some extreme cases.
There may also be some physical symptoms of vaginal dryness such as redness and change in the appearance of the vulva and vagina (the skin may appear thin and shriveled up). Emotionally too, vaginal dryness may take its toll as the woman might no longer have interest in sexual activity because she may be uncomfortable with the idea and this may affect her relationships in the long run.
Coping with Vaginal Dryness
Conventionally, estrogen replacement is the key treatment of vaginal dryness as it happens due to fall in the level of the hormone in most cases. Medically, topical estrogen therapy is regarded as the most effective solution to the problem though it is not as effective as oral estrogen for replacing estrogen in the bloodstream. Topical treatment includes the following options:
- Vaginal Ring is a soft flexible ring that releases a steady stream of the hormone into the vagina. It is inserted into the vagina by a doctor and needs replacement after every three months.
- Vaginal Tablet is transferred into the vagina using a disposable applicator and has to be done twice a week.
- Vaginal Cream is estrogen in cream form and is applied in the vagina thrice a week using an applicator.
In addition to estrogen therapy, doctors may also advice vaginal lubricants such as KY jelly to reduce dryness and irritation. Similarly, vaginal moisturizers may also be recommended to relieve the condition. Certain home remedies such as pelvic floor exercises and regular sexual activities may also be effective for the same as these maintain the lubrication by keeping the vaginal muscles fit and active.
While topical estrogen is considered safe and effective, its risks and benefits have to be weighed before using it as a treatment option as it may have side effects like breast tenderness and vaginal bleeding. Women being treated for breast and endometrial cancers should not use the therapy. Pregnant women and lactating mothers should also avoid the same. Products like vaginal douches, scented soap and lotions should not be used in vaginal areas as they can cause or worsen dryness.
Gaudium IVF is among the top IVF clinics in India and is trusted for bringing world class treatment for female infertility and numerous other gynecological problems to the doorstep of women. It also educates and guides its patients on common reproductive issues such as vaginal dryness.
For a free second opinion and expert advice from the leading infertility specialist Dr Manika Khanna, contact today.