Normally, the walls of the vagina stay lubricated with a thin layer of clear fluid. The hormone estrogen helps maintain that fluid and keeps the lining of your vagina healthy, thick, and elastic.
A drop in estrogen levels reduces the amount of moisture available. It can happen at any age from a number of different causes.
It may seem like a minor irritation. But the lack of vaginal moisture can have a huge impact on your sex life. Fortunately, several treatments are available to relieve vaginal dryness.
Vaginal dryness is common symptom of menopause and close to one out of every three women deals with it while going through “the change.” It becomes even more common afterward. It also makes the vagina thinner and less elastic. This is called vaginal atrophy.
Estrogen levels can also drop because of:
- Childbirth and breastfeeding
- Radiation or chemotherapy treatment for cancer
- Surgical removal of the ovaries
- Anti-estrogen medications used to treat uterine fibroids or endometriosis
Other causes of vaginal dryness include:
- Sjogren’s syndrome (an autoimmune disorder that attacks cells in the body that produce moisture)
- Allergy and cold medications
- Certain antidepressants
- Not enough foreplay before sex
No matter what the cause, vaginal dryness can be extremely uncomfortable. It can lead to itching, burning, and painful intercourse.
Any burning, itching, or discomfort in the area is worth a call to your doctor or gynecologist. They’ll ask about your past health and find out how long you’ve had symptoms and what seems to make them worse or better.
Your doctor will do a pelvic exam, checking your vagina for any thinning or redness. The exam will help rule out other possible causes for your discomfort, including a vaginal or urinary tract infection. The doctor may also remove cells from your vaginal wall or cervix for a Pap test.