Lakeside Women's Hospital

Health Care Designed Exclusively for Women

Vaginal Dryness

Vaginal dryness is a common problem for women during and after menopause, although inadequate vaginal lubrication can occur at any age. Symptoms of vaginal dryness include itching and stinging around the vaginal opening and in the lower third of the vagina. Vaginal dryness also makes intercourse uncomfortable. A thin layer of moisture always coats your vaginal walls. Hormonal changes during your menstrual cycle and as you age affect the amount and consistency of this moisture.

Signs and symptoms of vaginal dryness include:
  • Dryness
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Pain or light bleeding with sex
  • Urinary frequency or urgency
As many as four in 10 women who have reached menopause experience signs and symptoms related to vaginal dryness.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have vaginal burning, itching or soreness or painful sexual intercourse that doesn't improve with self-care measures, such as using a vaginal moisturizer or water-based lubricant. 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.
A variety of conditions can cause vaginal dryness. Determining the cause is key to helping you find an appropriate solution. Potential causes include:

  • Decreased estrogen levels -Reduced estrogen levels are the main cause of vaginal dryness. Estrogen, a female hormone, helps keep vaginal tissue healthy by maintaining normal vaginal lubrication, tissue elasticity and acidity. These factors create a natural defense against vaginal and urinary tract infections. But when your estrogen levels decrease, so does this natural defense, leading to a thinner, less elastic and more fragile vaginal lining.
    Estrogen levels can fall for a number of reasons:
    • Menopause or perimenopause
    • Childbirth
    • Breast-feeding
    • Effects on your ovaries from cancer therapy, including radiation therapy, hormone therapy and chemotherapy
    • Surgical removal of your ovaries
    • Immune disorders
    • Cigarette smoking
  • Medications - Allergy and cold medications, as well as some antidepressants, can decrease the moisture in many parts of your body, including your vagina. Anti-estrogen medications, such as those used to treat breast cancer, also can result in vaginal dryness.
  • Sjogren's syndrome -In this autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks healthy tissue. In addition to causing symptoms of dry eyes and dry mouth, Sjogren's syndrome can also cause vaginal dryness.
  • Douching - The process of cleansing your vagina with a liquid preparation (douching) disrupts the normal chemical balance in your vagina and can cause inflammation (vaginitis). This may cause your vagina to feel dry or irritated.

Lakeside Women's Hospital is partially owned by physicians. These include: Susan Chambers, Whitney Driver, Valerie Engelbrecht, D. Nelson Fong, Margaret Hall, Laura Mackie,
Jennifer Nelson, Dana Stone, Lisa Wasemiller-Smith, and William Miller.

© Lakeside Women’s Hospital Pencil
A Member of the INTEGRIS Network
11200 N. Portland
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73120
Phone: 405-936-1500
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