Vaginal dryness can affect any woman, no matter her age or body type. This uncomfortable condition has a huge impact on one’s sex life and can lead to other complications further down the road. It can sometimes be hard to pinpoint the cause of dryness. Hormonal changes are one possible culprit, but there are many other factors that may work alone or in combination with one another to create a lack of natural vaginal lubrication. To get things back to normal, you must figure out which of these factors is the source of the dryness. Once you’ve done this you’re well on your way to eliminating vaginal dryness for good.
It’s easiest to start by looking at hormonal changes. All women go through menopause at a certain age. During this time, the body goes through many changes including the stopping of menstruation. Another change that results is a drop in estrogen levels. For some women, this leads to a condition known as vaginal atrophy. Vaginal atrophy causes inflammation and thinning of the vaginal walls. Symptoms like irritation and vaginal dryness follow. Since irritation and dryness are also associated with many other vaginal conditions, checking for a few of the less common symptoms can help you make a diagnosis. If you also have urinary issues like increased urgency, burning during urination or incontinence, vaginal atrophy is the most likely cause. A doctor can confirm this.
Menopause isn’t the only thing that can cause vaginal atrophy and resulting vaginal dryness. Certain cancer treatments and surgical removal of the ovaries are other sources. Atrophy symptoms can also show up a few years before menopause in the period known as perimenopause. The good news is vaginal atrophy can be treated. Doctors typically prescribe an estrogen supplement to return estrogen levels to normal and increase natural lubrication to the area. This can be taken orally or applied topically. Topical applications, meaning a cream or gel that is applied to the vagina directly, usually produce more instant relief. The downside is that they can be messy, whereas oral supplements are not. Oral supplements take longer to create results, however. Talk to your doctor about which option is right for you, and considering asking other women who have had similar problems which route they would recommend.
Another cause of vaginal dryness is simple irritation. The vagina is one of the most sensitive places on the female body and can easily be irritated by certain products. One typical but unexpected source of irritation and vaginal dryness is feminine hygiene products. There are many tampons and pads available that are scented, dyed, or even patterned to appeal to women more. This type of marketing seems to work as all of these products are popular. Unfortunately, not all of the dyes and fragrances used in their production are safe for all vaginas. Some women can use the products without issue, but others with more sensitive vaginas may develop itchiness, irritation and dryness. Switching to plain, white cotton products will eliminate these unpleasant side effects.
Your soap and laundry detergent can also result in vaginal dryness. Laundry detergent may seem like it wouldn’t have any effect, but considering how concentrated the formula for most modern detergent is, it makes more sense. These detergents can leave a residue or film on your clothing that while invisible to the eye can rub off onto your skin. People with especially sensitive skin often find that laundry detergents formulated for baby clothes are more tolerable. Washing your undergarments in a detergent like this can help manage vaginal dryness related to that residue. When it comes to the soap that comes into direct contact with the vagina, the gentler the better. Avoid anything with a strong color or scent, exfoliating beads, or chunks of ingredients like flowers or herbs in it. A mild soap that’s clear or white is the best way to stay hygienic without irritation.
The popular practice of douching can cause vaginal dryness as well. Most gynecologists actually recommend not douching. Although it is a great way to remove all bad bacteria from the vagina, it also removes good bacteria and can upset the delicate pH balance keeping the organ healthy. The vagina has a way of cleaning itself out through discharge so unless your doctor recommends it, avoid douching. There are also some natural douches you can make at home, like a yogurt douche to help with yeast infections. Unlike store-bought douches, these contain no harsh chemicals.
Vaginal dryness can be related to sexual habits. Frequent intercourse may make it more difficult for your body to produce lubrication naturally. Don’t worry though, there’s no need to cut back on sex! If your dryness seems to create the most problems during intercourse or other sexual activity this is easily solved by using a gentle personal lubricant. Choose something mild and basic, without flavors or any of those “tingling” effects. Use this whenever you’re sexually active to combat irritating vaginal dryness.
There are a few other things you can do to keep dryness from coming back. Dehydration can exacerbate the problem, so drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day to get soft hair, glowing skin and natural lubrication down there. A healthy diet can’t hurt either. Taking care of your body as whole and only using gentle products on sensitive areas are the best ways to ensure vaginal dryness doesn’t become a problem for you.