Do you experience pain or discomfort in the vaginal or pelvic region? Or experience inflammation down there? Or perhaps a bit of itching or stinging? There are many reasons why this happens to your body and one of these is agingYour body undergoes numerous changes with the growing age.[1] These changes can be physical, mental, emotional, and biological. It is normal to experience these changes.

Overview

There is a thin layer of moisture covering the outsides of vagina. This thin layer provides a lubricated base for the sperms to travel in and survive during a sexual intercourse. The vaginal secretions also lubricate the outsides of vagina.

As a woman ages, her body undergoes many hormonal changes. These hormonal changes can cause the layer of moisture to shrink. The thinner the layer, the less will be the cell secreting it. Hormonal changes aren’t the only cause but it is the most common one. This causes vaginal dryness.

It can happen to women of all ages but is generally observed after menopause.[2] This affects almost about a half of postmenopausal women and most of who don’t seek treatment.

Causes

Estrogen levels begin to decrease as the menopause approaches. Reduced levels of estrogen cause vaginal dryness. Estrogen plays an important role in menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Ovaries produce this hormone which in turn controls the female body and its characteristics like breasts and body shape.

There are various reasons for irregular and reduced estrogen levels like:

  • Immune system disorder like Sjogren Syndrome.
  • Excessive stress
  • Depression
  • Childbirth
  • Smoking
  • Rigorous exercising
  • Surgical removal of ovaries

 

Intake of certain medications can also lead to reduced secretion of fluids in the body which can ultimately result in vaginal dryness. Douching and some creams and lotions applied down there can also be the reason for dryness.

Symptoms

Vaginal changes make it easier for infections to occur. How to know if it is actually vaginal dryness or something else?[3] There are various symptoms accompanying vaginal dryness or vaginal atrophy.

Women in perimenopausal period may experience the following:

  • Hot flashes
  • Urinary symptoms
  • Insomnia
  • Night sweats
  • Mood changes
  • Fatigue
  • Acne

Effects

Vaginal dryness can make you anxious and embarrassed. This prevents women from disclosing and discussing the issue with the doctors or physicians. But you need to understand that this condition is the common occurrence that prevails in the lifetime of a woman. 

Vaginal dryness can cause:

  • Burning sensations
  • Urinary tract infections i.e. UTI’s
  • Soreness
  • Light bleeding following an intercourse
  • Painful sex
  • Vaginal itching and stinging

 

When to seek a doctor?

Vaginal dryness rarely indicates a serious problem if the discomfort lasts just a few days. Vaginal dryness can really be rough on a woman’s health if the discomfort lasts longer.  If you encounter serious problems then refer consulting the doctor. If it is left untreated then it can lead to sores or cracking vaginal tissue.

Seek immediate medical attention if the condition is accompanied by vaginal bleeding.

Your doctor may need to examine the vaginal area by looking for lacerations or by feeling the skin grow thinner. Then, you can take vaginal secretions as a sample to test for any harmful bacteria. This test can determine if you are in a perimenopause or menopause.

How can vaginal dryness be treated?

There are several lubricants available in the market that can be applied to the vaginal area to prevent discomfort or dryness.[4] These lubricants can affect the pH levels of vagina, reducing the chances of getting a UTI.

Choose a lubricant which is particularly made for vaginal use. Lubricant should be water-based and shouldn’t contain any perfume, artificial colors or any synthetic ingredients as it can cause irritation.

Pills are likely to be used if you encounter an uncomfortable menopause symptom.

It is important to seek medical evaluation and treatment advice from the physician if the condition persists.

Cautions

Here are a few things that you should note.

  • Try avoiding the use of products that cause irritation.
  • Avoid using condoms that contains nonoyxnol-9 as it contains chemicals which can cause dryness.
  • Remember the age related changes to the vagina or the body can’t be avoided.

 


 References: 

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6345451/

[2] Simon JA, Komi J. Postmenopausal women’s attitudes: vulvovaginal atrophy and its symptoms [abstract LB-10]. Menopause 2007;14(6):1107 [Google Scholar]

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11252940

[4] Pandit L, Ouslander JG. Postmenopausal vaginal atrophy and atrophic vaginitis. Am J Med Sci 1997;314(4):228-231 [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

 

Vaginal Dryness in Old Women