You Don’t Have To Live With Vaginal Dryness

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If you’ve experienced vaginal dryness, you’re not alone. Many women do at some point in their lives. You can likely blame it on the hormone estrogen, which helps keep vaginal tissue healthy. When your estrogen levels drop, the tissue in your vagina shrinks and thins, which causes dryness and inflammation.

What Causes Estrogen Levels To Drop?

Estrogen levels decrease with menopause. But it may occur at other times and can be caused by treatment for other medical conditions. The most common reasons for your estrogen level to drop are:

  • Menopause: before, during, and after
  • Cancer treatment
  • Anti-depressants
  • Cold and allergy medications
  • Surgery to remove your ovaries
  • Childbirth and breastfeeding
  • Sjögren syndrome
  • Smoking cigarettes

What Are the Symptoms?

Estrogen stimulates the cells in your vaginal tissue. A lack of estrogen makes the tissue thin, dry, and less elastic. Your health care provider likely can recognize vaginal dryness during a pelvic exam. Discussing your symptoms also will ensure a proper diagnosis. The most common symptoms of vaginal dryness are:

  • Vaginal irritation
  • Painful intercourse
  • Light bleeding after intercourse
  • Burning when you urinate
  • More frequent urination
  • Repeated urinary tract infections

You may also notice irritation of your external genital area. Sometimes women mistake vaginal dryness for a yeast infection. Yeast infections create a thick, white discharge, and they are less likely to occur in women who are menopausal, she adds. 

Is It Treatable?

Some women find appropriate treatment with over-the-counter solutions:

  • Vaginal moisturizers. They can be used several times a week to replenish lost moisture and soothe dryness and irritation. You’ll find them as suppositories that dissolve within your vagina, or contained within disposable applicators.
  • Vaginal lubricants. They come in liquid or gel form to be used during sexual activity. Apply with fingers to your vaginal opening or on your partner’s penis before intercourse. Avoid warming or flavored lubricants as they can be irritating.
  • Vaginal estrogen. If your symptoms are severe, your health care provider may recommend vaginal estrogen, which is only available as a prescription. Various brands are available as a suppository, vaginal ring, or with a disposable applicator.

Do I Need To See My Doctor?

It’s always a good idea to be examined by your health care provider. If you have significant symptoms, over-the-counter moisturizers may help until you are able to see your provider. Your provider can ensure there is nothing more serious going on, and will look for the following:

  • Postmenopausal bleeding
  • Severe itching
  • Skin changes in the vulva
  • Rash, lump, or bump

Vaginal dryness is common. There’s nothing you can do to prevent it. But your provider can help you get it under control, which can improve your quality of life.

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Answer a few questions and we'll provide you with a list of primary care providers that best fit your needs.

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