Everything You Need to Know About Vaginal Dryness
10 August 2017 by - Dr Demetri C Panayi
Many women will experience some form of vaginal atrophy at some point during their lives. It can occur at any age, though it is most prevalent during or after the menopause.
Though vaginal dryness can be uncomfortable and debilitating, it is, fortunately, treatable via several means.
What are the symptoms of vaginal dryness?
There are a number of symptoms associated with this problem. Some women will experience all of them, while others only some. If symptoms are causing you distress, then it is probably time to consult your GP.
- Irritation, itchiness or burning
- Low sexual libido
- Pain or discomfort during intercourse
- Paleness or thinning of the vaginal walls
- Frequent need to urinate
- Recurring UTIs
What are the causes?
There are several medical reasons as to why a woman may be suffering from this common condition. The most likely cause is the menopause, in which hormone levels will have decreased, causing the vagina to dry out. This condition is also referred to as vaginal atrophy or atrophic vaginitis. Surgical menopause, in which both ovaries are removed, is also a cause of vaginal atrophy.
Breastfeeding or childbirth may also cause a temporary decrease in oestrogen levels, making the vagina feel drier than normal. Other causes include cancer treatments such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy and, less commonly, certain types of contraception.
If persistent, vaginal dryness could also be a sign of an underlying condition, such as diabetes or Sjogren’s syndrome (an autoimmune disorder which attacks the bodily cells producing moisture).
What treatment options exist?
While not all cases of vaginal dryness will require medical attention, it is wise to talk to your GP or gynaecologist, particularly if this condition is affecting your quality of life. Your doctor will discuss with you the various vaginal atrophy treatment options available to help you manage the symptoms and live a fruitful life.
These include vaginal moisturisers which can be purchased over-the-counter and will help ease the discomfort associated with the drying of the vagina. This kind of self-help option is recommended for mild cases and will normally be applied around two or three times per day until symptoms improve. If the vaginal dryness is specifically affecting your sex life, then using a water-based lubricant during intercourse is recommended.
This type of treatment will usually be offered where the dryness is a result of menopause and acts to replace the oestrogen which is lost during the process. There are several ways of taking topical oestrogen, including vaginal pessaries, rings and creams; the method of which can be decided upon during a medical consultation. All are just as effective as each other in reducing the symptoms of vaginal dryness.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
HRT is often prescribed to menopausal women, with the same aim of replacing lost oestrogen in the body. It can also be taken in several ways, such as gels, patches, tablets and implants. HRT typically has a stronger effect on the body than other treatments, so your GP will usually only prescribe this if menopause symptoms, such as hot flushes or night sweats, are more severe. As with many treatments, there are some side effects, which your doctor should discuss with you.
MonaLisa Touch Laser Therapy
The MonaLisa Touch is a ground-breaking new technology which works to rejuvenate lost collagen in the vagina, by restoring its natural moisture. This treatment is minimally invasive and pain-free, with many women reporting a hugely positive outcome.