While vaginal dryness is common, it is certainly uncomfortable. Here’s what you need to know about diagnosing and treating your vaginal dryness that may occur during perimenopause.
Vaginal dryness is a problem that can strike women at any age, although it is much more common in older women — especially those going through perimenopause or menopause. While vaginal dryness is common and doesn’t suggest any reason for extreme concern, the condition can be very uncomfortable and even frustrating at times as it may interfere with your sex life, or even how you feel about yourself.
Here’s what you need to know about diagnosing and treating your vaginal dryness.
What causes vaginal dryness?
Reduced estrogen levels are the main cause of vaginal dryness. Estrogen helps keep vaginal tissue healthy by maintaining normal vaginal lubrication, tissue elasticity and acidity.
Estrogen levels may drop for a variety of reasons, including:
- Childbirth and breastfeeding: The change in hormone levels after giving birth and while breastfeeding may cause vaginal dryness.
- Perimenopause and/or Menopause: Decreasing estrogen levels can affect your vagina and urinary tract during menopause. Over time, your vaginal lining can thin, become dry and less elastic. The decrease in estrogen also may thin the lining of your urinary tract.
- Certain ovarian surgeries and treatments (such as an oophorectomy or chemotherapy)
Another problem after childbirth can be vaginal dryness, especially if you are breastfeeding. Vaginal dryness can be caused by changes in hormone levels. Lubricants and local estrogen therapy can be used to help with this problem.
Are there any treatments for vaginal dryness?
There are two main ways to help with or treat vaginal dryness: lubricants and estrogen therapy.
- Topical, short-term solutions: Using vaginal moisturizers and lubricants can help relieve vaginal dryness and painful sexual intercourse. You can buy moisturizers and lubricants over the counter. Check with your provider to find which one may be the right choice for you as there are many options.
- Estrogen therapy: Estrogen therapy is a long-term solution to vaginal dryness. There are a few therapy options for women, including:
- Local estrogen therapy: Low-dose vaginal estrogen therapy (such as vaginal creams, vaginal rings, and vaginal tablets), release a small dose of estrogen directly into the vaginal tissue. The estrogen helps restore the natural thickness and elasticity to the vaginal lining, and also relieves dryness and irritation.
- Systemic estrogen therapy: With this type of estrogen therapy (pills, skin patches, or gels or sprays applied to the skin), estrogen is released into the bloodstream and travels to the organs and tissues where it is needed.
- Laser estrogen therapy: At Southdale ObGyn, we offer a fast, simple and safe laser treatment that takes less than 5 minutes called MonaLisa Touch®. This laser treatment can help restore your gynecologic health especially when estrogen levels decline after menopause. The machine delivers gentle laser energy to the vaginal wall tissue that stimulates a healing response in the vaginal canal. A typical course of treatment is three procedures over 18 weeks.
Remember: You’re Not Alone.
Vaginal dryness affects more than 50% of menopausal and postmenopausal women, and 17% of women ages 18-50. If vaginal dryness is hindering your relationship with yourself or your significant other, talk to one of our provider about safe and effective options that will best fit your needs.