Vaginal dryness, also known as vaginal atrophy, is the lack of moisture in your vagina. Normally, your vaginal tissue is naturally lubricated to maintain elasticity and health, much like your eyes. However, vaginal dryness can occur among women of any age, but typically among older women. When it occurs, it can cause a lot of discomfort and pain.
What causes vaginal dryness?
Decreased estrogen levels are the primary cause of vaginal dryness. This drop occurs when you are menopausal or perimenopausal, during breastfeeding (low estrogen levels help milk production), or while undergoing certain cancer treatments (particularly among breast cancer patients). Vaginal dryness also occurs if you smoke, had your ovaries surgically removed, or are taking an anti-estrogen medication.
Other less common factors can cause vaginal dryness, including:
- Allergy or cold medications that contain an antihistamine
- Some antidepressants
- Some immune disorders
- Douching, which disrupts the vagina’s environment and offsets its chemical balance
- Stress and anxiety
- Low libido
- Certain forms of birth control
- End of menstrual cycle
How does vaginal dryness affect your body?
Vaginal dryness can cause irritation, itching, and burning. It can also cause vaginal infections to develop. Sexual intercourse is usually painful and may be accompanied by friction, bleeding, and sometimes tearing of the vaginal skin. As a result, women are less likely to want to engage in sexual activity, which can affect personal relationships and create a cyclical pattern of low libido.
What are the treatments for vaginal dryness?
For temporary or mild dryness, an over-the-counter water-based lubricant can be applied prior to sexual intercourse. There are also vaginal moisturizers that may help for day-to-day use. For more severe cases, particularly for women going through menopause or breast cancer chemotherapy, a laser treatment called the MonaLisa Touch is available. This novel new procedure involves three separate treatments, each one lasting only five minutes. Patients who have turned to MonaLisa Touch have reported life-changing results after suffering from vaginal dryness.
How long does vaginal dryness last?
In cases where vaginal dryness is caused by non-estrogen-related factors, the vagina should return to normal shortly after you’ve stopped using whatever is causing the dryness. Those who are breastfeeding will experience vaginal dryness for as long as you continue nursing. For women experiencing menopause or early menopause caused by breast cancer treatments, vaginal dryness will persist. In those situations, and even for breastfeeding mothers who are suffering from painful sex, the MonaLisa Touch is a hormone-free, pain-free option that can restore their vaginal health back to normal.
If you have questions about your vaginal dryness, consult your doctor to see what’s causing it and what your treatment options are.