Learn About Vaginal Dryness

What is the definition of Vaginal Dryness?

Vaginal dryness is present when the tissues of the vagina are not well-lubricated and healthy.

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What are the alternative names for Vaginal Dryness?

Vaginitis - atrophic; Vaginitis due to reduced estrogen; Atrophic vaginitis; Menopause vaginal dryness

What are the causes of Vaginal Dryness?

Atrophic vaginitis is caused by a decrease in estrogen.

Estrogen keeps the tissues of the vagina lubricated and healthy. Normally, the lining of the vagina makes a clear, lubricating fluid. This fluid makes sexual intercourse more comfortable. It also helps decrease vaginal dryness.

If estrogen levels drop off, the tissues of the vagina shrink and become thinner. This causes dryness and inflammation.

Estrogen levels normally drop after menopause. The following may also cause estrogen levels to drop:

  • Medicines or hormones used in the treatment of breast cancer, endometriosis, fibroids, or infertility
  • Surgery to remove the ovaries
  • Radiation treatment to the pelvic area
  • Chemotherapy
  • Severe stress, depression
  • Smoking

Some women develop this problem right after childbirth or while breastfeeding. Estrogen levels are lower at these times.

The vagina can also become further irritated from soaps, laundry detergents, lotions, perfumes, or douches. Certain medicines, smoking, tampons, and condoms may also cause or worsen vaginal dryness.

What are the symptoms of Vaginal Dryness?

Symptoms include:

  • Burning on urination
  • Light bleeding after intercourse
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Slight vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal soreness, itching or burning
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What are the current treatments for Vaginal Dryness?

There are many treatments for vaginal dryness. Before treating your symptoms on your own, a health care provider must find out the cause of the problem.

  • Try using lubricants and vaginal moisturizing creams. They will often moisten the area for several hours, up to a day. These can be bought without prescription.
  • Use of a water-soluble vaginal lubricant during intercourse may help. Products with petroleum jelly, mineral oil, or other oils may damage latex condoms or diaphragms.
  • Avoid scented soaps, lotions, perfumes, or douches.

Prescription estrogen can work well to treat atrophic vaginitis. It is available as a cream, tablet, suppository, or ring. All of these are placed directly into the vagina. These medicines deliver estrogen directly to the vaginal area. Only a little estrogen is absorbed into the bloodstream. The use of topical vaginal estrogen may also reduce your chances of developing a urinary tract infection. That is particularly true if you have a history of recurrent urinary tract infections.

You may take estrogen (hormone therapy) in the form of a skin patch, or in a pill that you take by mouth if you have hot flashes or other symptoms of menopause. The pill or patch may not provide adequate estrogen to treat your vaginal dryness. In such cases, you may need to add a vaginal hormone medicine as well. If so, talk to your provider about this.

You should discuss the risks and benefits of estrogen replacement therapy with your provider.

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What is the outlook (prognosis) for Vaginal Dryness?

Proper treatment will ease symptoms most of the time.

What are the possible complications of Vaginal Dryness?

Vaginal dryness can:

  • Make you more likely to get yeast or bacterial infections of the vagina.
  • Cause sores or cracks in the walls of the vagina.
  • Cause pain with sexual intercourse, which may affect your relationship with your partner or spouse. (Talking openly with your partner may help.)
  • Increase your risk of developing urinary tract infections (UTI).
When should I contact a medical professional for Vaginal Dryness?

Call your provider if you have vaginal dryness or soreness, burning, itching, or painful sexual intercourse that does not go away when you use a water-soluble lubricant.

Female reproductive anatomy
Causes of painful intercourse
Uterus
Normal uterine anatomy (cut section)
Vaginal atrophy
What are the latest Vaginal Dryness Clinical Trials?
An Open-Label, Interventional, Not Controlled Pilot Study to Assess Vestibular Mucosa Thickness by Ultrasound Evaluation and Vestibular Perception Thresholds Changes in Women Affected by Vestibulodynia (VBD) After One Cycle of Pixel CO2-Alma Fractionated Laser
Summary: Vestibulodynia (VBD), term revised by Consensus Terminology and Classification of Persistent Vulvar Pain and Vulvodynia in 2015, is a vulvar pain of at least 3 months' duration, without clear identifiable cause and localized at vestibuli.~Women affected by this disease report localized hypersensitivity and pain of the vulvar vestibule to the touch (eg, during sexual intercourse or tampon use). Thi...
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REVIVE: Replens Versus Intra-Vaginal Estrogen for the Treatment of Vaginal Dryness on Aromatase Inhibitor Therapy
Summary: This study is investigating whether breast cancer patients who experience vaginal dryness while on anti-estrogen treatment could benefit from either vaginal estrogen or from a vaginal moisturizer called Replens.
What are the Latest Advances for Vaginal Dryness?
Polycarbophil vaginal moisturizing gel versus hyaluronic acid gel in women affected by vaginal dryness in late menopausal transition: A prospective randomized trial.
Summary: Polycarbophil vaginal moisturizing gel versus hyaluronic acid gel in women affected by vaginal dryness in late menopausal transition: A prospective randomized trial.
Intravaginal nonablative radiofrequency in the treatment of genitourinary syndrome of menopause symptoms: a single-arm pilot study.
Summary: Intravaginal nonablative radiofrequency in the treatment of genitourinary syndrome of menopause symptoms: a single-arm pilot study.
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Endometriosis and Menopause.
Summary: Endometriosis and Menopause.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: July 13, 2021
Published By: John D. Jacobson, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW. Female genitalia. In: Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW, eds. Seidel's Guide to Physical Examination. 9th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2019:chap 19.

Eckert LO, Lentz GM. Genital tract infections: vulva, vagina, cervix, toxic shock syndrome, endometritis, and salpingitis. In: Gershenson DM, Lentz GM, Valea FA, Lobo RA, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 23.

Lobo RA. Menopause and care of the mature woman: endocrinology, consequences of estrogen deficiency, effects of hormone therapy, and other treatment options. In: Gershenson DM, Lentz GM, Valea FA, Lobo RA, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 14.

Santoro N, Neal-Perry G. Menopause. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 227.