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Vaginal dryness: causes & therapy

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 445 views

Vaginal dryness is particularly common in women going through the menopause . Sometimes, however, younger women are also affected. A dry vagina can cause itching and burning as well as pain during sexual intercourse. Both psychological and physical causes can be responsible for the lack of liquid in the vagina. Read everything you need to know about vaginal dryness and how it can be treated!

quick overview

  • Causes of vaginal dryness: hormonal fluctuations (e.g. during menopause or pregnancy), stress, nervousness, diseases (diabetes, high blood pressure, endometriosis , multiple sclerosis, Sjögren’s syndrome, etc.), excessive personal hygiene, alcohol and nicotine
  • Consequences : itching and burning in the vagina , pain during sex , increased susceptibility to inflammation and infections (because only sufficient vaginal discharge can fulfill its protective function against pathogens).
  • What to do with vaginal dryness? Depending on the cause, for example with hormone preparations, stress reduction and relaxation techniques, use of pads instead of tampons, use of lubricants during sex, treatment of underlying diseases.
  • When to the doctor? Whenever you feel your vagina is too dry. There may be a cause that needs treatment.

Vaginal dryness: causes and possible diseases

In the case of vaginal dryness, the natural moisture content in the vagina (vagina) is reduced. The blood flow in the vagina plays a decisive role in ensuring adequate moistening. Therefore, a lack of blood flow is often the indirect trigger of vaginal dryness. It can have various causes.

Vaginal dryness due to hormonal fluctuations

The most common cause of vaginal dryness is the hormone balance in women. This can be disrupted in a number of ways.

When a woman goes through menopause , estrogen levels drop. This has a variety of consequences: Among other things, the blood flow to the vagina and labia decreases, which promotes a dry vagina. The lack of vaginal moisture is noticeable through itching and burning.

In addition, there is a lack of sufficient moisture during sexual intercourse: Sexual stimulation increases the blood flow to the vagina, which results in increased vaginal moisture (lubrication) within seconds. This reduces friction and thus the risk of injury when the penis penetrates . Accordingly, a vagina that is too dry often causes pain during sex.

About one in three women going through menopause is affected by vaginal dryness.

Fluctuations in the female hormone system also potentially occur during pregnancy and breastfeeding . A dry vagina can also occur after operations on the ovaries or the uterus due to hormonal changes.

In addition, taking certain medications and hormonal contraceptives (e.g. containing progestins) can also trigger vaginal dryness.

Mental causes of vaginal dryness

When women suffer from anxiety, stress or nervousness, this can manifest itself in vaginal dryness. The moistening of the vagina during sexual arousal (lubrication) in particular can suffer from psychological problems, because the woman’s state of arousal takes place in her head to a certain extent.

The lubrication of the vagina can also suffer if the woman does not feel sexually addressed. This sometimes has serious causes, such as trauma from sexual abuse or a highly taboo sex education.

Vaginal dryness due to illness

Vaginal dryness can also occur as an accompanying symptom of an underlying disease or as a side effect of medical treatment. Examples:

  • Diabetes: The elevated blood sugar levels in diabetics can damage nerves and blood vessels over time , which can have a significant impact on sexuality. Above all, the lubrication of the vagina can then be slowed down or be weaker overall. Some medicines for diabetes also impair libido.
  • High blood pressure: If not treated properly, it causes lasting damage to the vessels – including those responsible for lubricating the vagina. The fine interaction of the arousal conduction is disturbed, vaginal dryness develops. In addition, some high blood pressure medications can reduce sexual interest or arousal.
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS): In this chronic disease, the nerve structures in particular are plagued by inflammation. In the later stages of the disease in particular, this can lead to sexual dysfunction. Vaginal dryness is one of the symptoms that can then occur.
  • Endometriosis: In this disease, benign growths of the uterine lining also occur outside the uterus, for example in the fallopian tubes. Vaginal dryness is a possible side effect of the disease.
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome: This is an autoimmune disease that primarily affects women going through the menopause. Immune cells attack the salivary and lacrimal glands, among other things. Accordingly, those affected suffer from dry eyes and dry mouth. Vaginal dryness can also be a symptom.
  • Side effect of cancer treatment : For example, breast cancer therapy (e.g. chemotherapy, anti-hormone therapy) can suddenly put women into menopause. Sudden vaginal dryness may then occur.

Lifestyle-related vaginal dryness

  • Alcohol and nicotine : These stimulants also affect the blood vessels, so their consumption can have a negative effect on vaginal lubrication, among other things.
  • Excessive intimate hygiene : Women who wash their intimate areas excessively (especially with regular soap) can experience vaginal dryness as a result.

What to do with vaginal dryness?

Sometimes affected women can do something about vaginal dryness themselves. For example, the following tips may be helpful:

  • Relaxation techniques : In the case of vaginal dryness caused by stress and nervousness, you can try yoga, autogenic training or progressive muscle relaxation , for example.
  • Pads instead of tampons : Women with a dry vagina should use pads instead of tampons during their menstrual period. In addition to blood, tampons can also absorb vaginal secretions and thus increase vaginal dryness.
  • Do not overdo intimate hygiene: Clear water (possibly with skin-neutral, gentle washing lotions) is usually sufficient to clean the external intimate area.
  • Hormone-free preparations : In the case of estrogen deficiency, over-the-counter hormone-free preparations for vaginal dryness can be tried (see below: Hormone-free alternatives for estrogen deficiency).

What helps against vaginal dryness during sex?

A dry vagina is by no means a reason to stop having sex. In fact, regular sexual intercourse helps to improve the blood supply to the vagina, especially when menopause occurs. It often has a certain effect if the two partners take their time during foreplay and specifically respond to fantasies that arouse the woman.

Other tips for vaginal dryness during sex:

  • Lubricating creams: The lack of moisture during intercourse can be compensated for with lubricating creams and gels, which reduce friction. They do not require a prescription and are now also available in supermarkets. It is important that the preparations are water-soluble so that they do not attack any condoms that may be used.
  • Oils: Some also use massage or baby oils for vaginal dryness to increase the lubricity of the vagina – but you should not use them together with condoms (otherwise they can break).

Vaginal dryness: when do you need to see a doctor?

Especially in connection with sexual complaints, many women are still reluctant to consult a doctor (gynaecologist) at an early stage if they have a dry vagina. Basically, however, if you have the feeling that your vagina is too dry, you should go to a gynecologist. Because in most cases, vaginal dryness can be treated well.

In addition, a disturbed vaginal environment, as is the case with vaginal dryness, promotes the implantation of pathogens. Affected women are therefore more susceptible to vaginal thrush or cystitis, for example – another reason to have vaginal dryness clarified and treated by a doctor.

Vaginal dryness: what does the doctor do?

First, the cause of the vaginal dryness must be clarified. The doctor can then suggest a suitable treatment.

investigations

The gynecologist will first talk to you in detail to collect your medical history (anamnesis). Among other things, he asks you how long you have been suffering from a dry vagina and how severe the dryness is. He also inquires about any previous and underlying illnesses (such as diabetes, high blood pressure) and the use of medication and contraceptives. This information can already provide a first indication of the cause of vaginal dryness.

As part of a gynecological examination , the doctor will check whether pathogens are the cause of the vaginal dryness. Among other things, it also measures the pH value of the vaginal flora. This is normally in the acidic range (pH 3.5 – 4.5). A higher pH value can be a first indication that hormones are behind the change. A determination of the hormone concentrations in the blood helps here .

There is a specific threshold above which a vagina is considered dry. This depends very much on the individual feelings of each woman.

treatment

The treatment of vaginal dryness depends on the cause. Some examples:

Psychological or psychotherapeutic advice can be useful in the case of more serious mental problems as a trigger for vaginal dryness . Sometimes sex counseling is also helpful.

High blood pressure , like diabetes , should be treated professionally. Individualized therapy can include medication and regular exercise , for example . If a woman is already taking medication to lower blood pressure or blood sugar and these contribute to vaginal dryness, it can be checked whether the type and dosage of the preparations can be adjusted.

A lack of estrogen as the reason for vaginal dryness can be compensated for with estrogen preparations. They are available for local treatment as ointments or suppositories that are applied topically in the vagina. Under certain circumstances, general hormone therapy (hormone tablets) can also be considered. Here, however, you and your doctor should carefully weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of the treatment.

There are hormone-free alternatives for women who, for medical reasons, are not allowed to use preparations containing hormones or who do not want to use them : gels, creams or suppositories that can be used to treat vaginal dryness without the addition of hormones. For example, they contain hyaluronic acid. This is a natural polysaccharide that can bind water and support the function of the mucous membranes. This is a good alternative against vaginal dryness, especially for women who should not take hormones as a result of breast cancer treatment.

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