Vaginal dryness is a common problem for women during and after menopause, although inadequate vaginal lubrication can occur at any age. Vaginal dryness is a hallmark sign of vaginal atrophy (atrophic vaginitis) — thinning and inflammation of the vaginal walls due to a decline in estrogen. Along with vaginal dryness, you might also have itching and stinging around the vaginal opening and in the lower third of the vagina.
Vaginal dryness can make intercourse uncomfortable. Most vaginal lubrication consists of clear fluid that seeps through the walls of the blood vessels encircling the vagina. When you're sexually aroused, more blood flows to your pelvic organs, creating more lubricating vaginal fluid. But the hormonal changes of menopause, childbirth and breast-feeding may disrupt this process.
Vaginal dryness may be accompanied by signs and symptoms such as:
When to see a doctor
A thin layer of clear fluid coats your vaginal walls. Most of this lubrication seeps through the walls of the blood vessels encircling the vagina. Hormonal changes during your menstrual cycle and as you age affect the amount and consistency of this moisture. A variety of conditions contribute to vaginal dryness. They include:
Decreased estrogen levels
Estrogen levels can fall for a number of reasons:
Preparing for your appointment
If your usual doctor is a family doctor or general practitioner, he or she may refer you to a specialist (gynecologist) to evaluate your condition.
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Diagnosis of vaginal dryness may involve:
Treatments and drugs
Vaginal estrogen therapy
Vaginal estrogen therapy comes in several forms:
If vaginal dryness is associated with other symptoms of menopause, such as moderate or severe hot flashes, your doctor may suggest estrogen pills, patches, gel or a higher dose estrogen ring along with a progestin. Talk to your doctor to decide if hormone treatment is an option and, if so, which type is best for you.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Use a lubricant or moisturizer
Pay attention to sexual needs
Avoid certain products
Last Updated: 2010-07-01
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