Vaginal Dryness

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Symptoms of Vaginal Dryness

  • Vaginal dryness
  • Vaginal itchiness
  • Vaginal burning
  • Painful urination
  • Urgency with urination
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Light bleeding after sexual intercourse
  • Discomfort with sexual intercourse
  • Pressure
Affecting more than 80% of menopausal women, vaginal dryness, also known as vaginal atrophy, affects women of all ages. One of the most distressing symptoms to overcome, vaginal dryness can ruin sexual intercourse and leave behind feelings of guilt and inadequacy with one’s partner. Estrogen is responsible for keeping your vagina moist by mucous membranes. As your estrogen levels decrease, the mucous membranes near your uterus produce less mucous. As a result, the vagina becomes dry, weaker and thin. 

What is Vaginal Dryness?

Vaginal dryness is defined as the lack of adequate moisture in the vaginal area. It can damage the quality of your life and affect your relationship with your significant other. Vaginal dryness is the thinning of the vaginal and urinary tissues as estrogen levels decline.

Factors that can influence vaginal dryness are:

  • Intercourse
  • Diaphragms
  • Antidepressants
  • Antihistamines/decongestants
  • Antibiotics
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Allergens (dyes and fragrances) in toilet paper and laundry detergent
  • Drying soaps
  • Douches
  • Tampons
  • Condoms

Causes of Vaginal Dryness

Estrogen is the key to maintaining optimal vaginal health. The most common cause of vaginal dryness is a decline in estrogen production, which leads to the thinning, drying, weakening and increased sensitivity of the vaginal wall. Less blood circulates to the tissues in the pelvis causing your vagina to thin and sag, as the tissue and fat around the vagina begin to slowly disappear. Acid levels begin to change when one’s estrogen levels drop, causing yeast infections and urinary tract infections.

Physical Causes

  • Infection (bacterial, viral or sexually transmitted)
  • Antihistamines – Responsible for not only drying up your sinuses, but can also dry up your vaginal secretions
  • Medications (cold medications, cancer treatments and antidepressants) – Certain medications dry up your vaginal secretions
  • Autoimmune disease (Sjorgen’s syndrome) – an autoimmune disease that is characterized by abnormal production of extra antibodies in the blood that are directed against various tissues of the body.
  • Excess nicotine and caffeine

Environmental Causes

  • Douching - the process of rinsing or cleaning the vagina by forcing water or another solution into the vaginal cavity to flush away vaginal discharge or other contents. Douching damages the delicate pH balance of your vagina and can cause it to become very irritated
  • Allergic Reactions - It is important to avoid soaps, dyes and heavy detergents with strong fragrances as it can cause vaginal irritation and lead to other vaginal problems.

Emotional Causes

  • Stress – When stress levels increase, androgens (testosterone) decrease and interfere with the normal female sexual response cycle, reducing natural lubrication and affecting the stages of arousal.
  • Rigorous Exercise – Exerting extreme physical activity can be tolling on the body as you may be more susceptible to mood swings and issues with appetite and sleeping patterns. Keep in mind that a rigorous exercise regime is just as bad as no exercise at all. Physical exercise can lower one’s immune systems and make many more at risk to various1 colds and injuries. Use your best judgment – If you feel as though your need to exercise is compulsive, you should seek medical attention.
  • Relationship Issues - Vaginal dryness and lack of arousal can signify unresolved conflicts in a relationship. There are many ways to improve communication in your relationship – browsing articles on the Internet, relationship counseling, reading self-help books or simply making more time together. It has been studied that intimacy brings couples closer together, releases hormones that help the body physically and mentally, and keeps the chemistry of a couple healthy.

Managing Vaginal Dryness

Fortunately, there are a myriad of treatments available to those suffering from vaginal dryness. While some may choose hormone therapy, there are millions of women who are choosing simple self-management techniques, herbal remedies and less invasive methods to treat their vaginal dryness.

Self-Care

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  • Stay Hydrated – Drinking water throughout the day helps your entire body, including your vagina, stay lubricated and moist. It is recommended to consume at least ten 8-oz glasses of water a day.
  • Maintain a Healthy Sex Life – Maintaining an active sex life with your partner is a wonderful way to bring blood to the area and nourish your vaginal cells. Communicate with your significant other if you are experiencing discomfort.
  • Wear Cotton - Wearing cotton underwear throughout the day and night can help prevent vaginal dryness because it breathes better and allows more air for circulation. Also, wearing cotton loungewear or nightgowns during the evening is beneficial to vaginal health.

Dietary Changes

  • Diets rich in soy flour and flaxseeds prevent vaginal dryness and promote vaginal health. Because it’s high in phytoestrogens, flaxseeds can help with many menopausal symptoms. It also contains high omega-3 fatty acids, which aids in vaginal dryness
  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna and sardines helps your body retain necessary estrogen
  • Increase your intake of B-vitamins. B-vitamins not only relieve your body of stress, but also relieve vaginal dryness.
  • Eliminate simple sugars and trigger foods in your diet.
  • Eating yogurt on a regular basis or taking Acidophilus by a pill forms helps maintain a healthy internal bacteria balance.

Daily Lifestyle Changes/Treatments

  • Vaginal Lubricants – During sexual activities, lubricants can make a big difference with vaginal dryness. One can choose from water-based to silicone-based products – the water-based lubricants being less likely to cause allergic reactions and the silicone-based lasting a little longer.
  • Vaginal Moisturizers – Vaginal moisturizers are for long-term results, making the vaginal and surrounding tissues stronger and more pliable. One can choose to apply them every day or every other day to decrease symptoms of vaginal dryness and maintain moisture.
  • Kegel Exercises – Kegels, also known as pelvic floor exercises, are designed to strengthen the muscles of the lower pelvic girdle. Doing these Kegel exercises correctly and on a regular basis helps blood and oxygen circulate to the genitals, improving your awareness of the muscles involved in pleasurable sexual sensations and increasing your libido. Kegels are important to keeping one’s genital area strong and can make a big different in one’s vaginal dryness and genital health.
  • Vitamin E Oil - Vitamin E oil aids in lubricating the vagina, keeps the tissues elastic and heals cracks and soreness.
    Black Cohosh
    One of the most commonly used herbal remedies is Black Cohosh, a perennial plant that is a member of the buttercup family. It provides powerful phytoestrogens that mimic the hormone’s effects and bind to hormone receptors in the uterus and other parts of the body, alleviating hot flashes. Black Cohosh is also known to relieve hot flashes efficiently and is a good alternative to HRT. It is also used effectively for treating PMS, arthritis and lowering blood pressure. Red Clover, Dong Quai, Ginseng, Kava and evening primrose oil can be used as natural therapies, although there are some risks involved. Herbal supplements are not as closely regulated as prescription drugs and the amount of the herbal product, quality and safety may vary between brands.
  • Herbal Remedies – Should be taken on a regular basis to maintain estrogen levels and prevent vaginal discomfort and dryness. Ex: False Unicorn Root, Sage, Blue Cohosh, Calendula, Hops, Motherwort, etc.

    Please note
    : Non-hormonal vaginal lubricants, moisturizers, oils and herbal remedies should be used as first-line approaches. Those women whose symptoms do not respond to these measures may require hormonal therapy.
  • Prescription Estrogen Therapy – Vaginal estrogen therapy is an option in the prescription treatment of vaginal dryness and has a significantly lower risk of side effects, due to the minimized absorption into the bloodstream. Comes in the form of topical creams, oral medications, rings and patches.
  • Non-Prescription Estrogen – Many women opt for safer alternatives, such as non-prescription estrogen creams, suppositories, foams and film, all of which are vaginally inserted and provide added lubrication.