Journal / Vaginal Dryness

Here’s What You Need To Know About Vaginal Dryness

Nancy L. Belcher

Medically reviewed by Nancy L. Belcher Ph.D, MPA

Written by Winona Editorial Team

Last updated November 25, 2021

Here’s What You Need To Know About Vaginal Dryness

Here’s what you need to know about vaginal dryness ~ you don’t need to suffer through it! There are vaginal dryness remedies that can prevent and treat vaginal irritation very easily.  Of all places to feel dry, itchy, and irritated, your vagina is a pretty terrible option. Nobody wants to feel dry, itchy, and irritated there…    

It’s embarrassing, and sometimes difficult to ask your doctor about the kinds of issues related to vaginal moisturizer or to ask for a female dryness cure. About 50% of women over the age of 50 experience vaginal dryness, 25%  of women experience this problem during sex and 16% experience vaginal pain during sex.1 The good news is that there are many vaginal dryness treatments that will help to prevent and treat vaginal dryness, and irritation.  

What Causes Vaginal Dryness?

There is many causes of vaginal dryness. The thinning of the lining of the vagina is called ‘vaginal atrophy.’  But why are you experiencing the discomfort of vaginal dryness and vaginal atrophy? The most likely reason is reduced estrogen levels due to perimenopause and menopause, but it can also be due to acne medications, hormonal contraceptives, yeast & urinary tract infections, nutritional imbalances, STDs, and even waxing/shaving irritation that can upset the natural balance.2

Vaginal atrophy can result in symptoms of dryness and irritation and is common as women age; occurring before, during, and after menopause. Vaginal health and lubrication are driven by the levels of the hormone, estrogen. Estrogen not only plays a critical role in vaginal health but also in a woman’s sexual health. Estrogen replacement can return the vaginal lining to its normal youthful thickness and elasticity. Estrogen acts on the glands to help produce more of the natural vaginal lubrication that is present in younger women.

If you are in your late 30s, the most likely cause of vaginal dryness and irritation is the normal drop in estrogen with age. Estrogen has many jobs in the human body, but one of them is to keep the walls of the vagina naturally lubricated. When estrogen levels drop, the lining of the vagina becomes thinner and less elastic. Without hormone replacement therapy (HRT), one-third of women will experience vaginal itch, dryness, irritation, and even pain during sex (dyspareunia).2

The most common and natural treatment for female dryness due to low estrogen levels is topical estrogen creams. These creams act as a natural vaginal moisturizer and replace some of the estrogens your body is no longer making. Creams require lower doses than if a woman is taking oral estrogen pills, so it is a great female dryness cure at lower doses. Estrogen creams are the best lubricant for menopause dryness. Estrogen creams have been shown to relieve vaginal menopause symptoms, reduce urinary tract infections, and even urinary frequency and incontinence, which will undoubtedly improve the quality of life for women.3

Winona offers vaginal estrogen creams for this exact purpose. If your Winona healthcare provider prescribes estrogen cream, you will use an applicator to apply the cream to your vagina. You’ll typically use the cream daily for 1-2 weeks, then decrease to 1-3  times a week as directed by your doctor.

Additionally, there are over-the-counter lubricants, home remedies, dietary supplements, and lifestyle changes that can help alleviate symptoms of vaginal dryness.

Say goodbye to dryness. For Good.

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Say goodbye to dryness. For Good.

Symptoms of Vaginal Dryness

Natural vaginal lubrication is driven by the hormone estrogen. Estrogen not only plays a critical role in the vagina but also in sexual health. If you are in your late 30s, the most likely cause of vaginal dryness and irritation is the drop in the hormone estrogen. Estrogen works to keep the walls of the vagina naturally lubricated by stimulating the glands present in the vagina. When estrogen levels drop with perimenopause, the lining of the vagina becomes thinner and less elastic, and the glands less effective. Preventing vaginal dryness, itch, irritation, and or pain during sex (dyspareunia) with estrogen replacement is a great form of preventative medicine, and can reduce bladder problems, infections, and other urogenital symptoms.2

Symptoms of Vaginal dryness and itching can include;

  • Burning sensation in the vagina and around it

  • Soreness

  • Bleeding during intercourse

  • UTIs

  • Itching and stinging

  • Low sexual desire

The most common, and natural way to prevent vaginal dryness and irritation is to replace the estrogen that has dipped by using topical estrogen creams, a patch, or pills. Creams applied directly to the vagina act as a natural moisturizer and replace some of the estrogens at lower doses than if taking oral estrogen pills. Estrogen vaginal cream works directly on vaginal tissue to keep it healthy, and because the estrogen is applied locally, it can be used at a lower dose than estrogen taken orally or when applied through a patch. 

Urinary incontinence can cause vaginal irritation which estrogen replacement can often improve. By reducing bladder problems, infections, and other urogenital symptoms by taking estrogen, vaginal irritation is reduced as well. Estrogen creams are a great way to remedy feminine dryness and have been shown to relieve the symptoms, reduce urinary tract infections and incontinence, and improve the quality of life for women.3

Prevention of vaginal irritation is as simple as adding estrogen back into the mix either with estrogen creams, patches, or pills. Winona offers vaginal estrogen creams, patches, and pills for this exact purpose. 

Essential Remedies You Can Try At Home

Here's What You Need To Know About Vaginal Dryness That Surprise You Body

Vaginal dryness is rarely serious, and if estrogen creams or prescriptions are not your natural cure for female dryness, there are other ways to help treat it with natural vaginal moisturizers. 

  • Over-the-counter lubricants can be applied to the vaginal area to reduce dryness and discomfort. These lubricants and moisturizing creams can also change the vagina’s pH, reducing the likelihood of getting a UTI. 

  • Some store-bought lubricants can lead to drying out the vagina, even more, so be sure to look for lubes that promote vaginal hydration.  

  • Certain vitamins may help promote natural lubrication like vitamins A, B, and E. These vitamins are found in foods like vegetables, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. 

  • Vaginal DHEA as a topical cream may help produce other hormones including estrogen to decrease dryness but consult your doctor first.

  • Hyaluronic acid is a molecule found naturally in your skin and helps keep it moist. It is available as a topical gel and can help vaginal dryness in postmenopausal women. 

  • Exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep will all help improve vaginal irritation and dryness naturally. 

  • If a yeast infection is the cause of vaginal irritations, OTC treatments, like Monistat, should help relieve symptoms quickly. 

  • Refrain from douching.

  • Vaginal products shouldn’t contain perfumes, herbal extracts, or artificial colors. These can cause irritation and even contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis can occur when trying a new soap, bubble bath, or even underwear. The wrong ingredients can leave you with dried-out, flaky skin, or a rash. Perfumed or colored pads and tampons, condoms and lubricants, shaving products, and even toilet paper lead to dryness.

  • Vaginal discomfort due to eczema or psoriasis should be treated in person with your medical provider. A prescription for an oral pill or topical cream may be appropriate.

  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) don’t always cause vaginal itching or dryness but it may be a first sign that something is not right. If symptoms progress to sores and pain you should visit an ob-gyn for a vaginal culture. 

These are things that you can try to reduce the symptoms without a prescription. One easy way to help yourself is through your diet. Drinking lots of water and eating a healthy diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids and proteins can certainly help relieve symptoms. 

A diet high in fatty acids may aid in producing additional vaginal lubrication. Raw pumpkin, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and fish (especially salmon, mackerel, and tuna) are great choices. If you are taking supplements, look for those with the RDA of Vitamin A and B. 

Some research shows that eating foods high in isoflavones (e.g. soybeans, chickpeas, fava beans, pistachios, peanuts, and apples) can help regulate declining estrogen levels during perimenopause.3 Women of all ages should be taking a daily supplement with multivitamin/ multimineral that are specific to their age group. Dietary needs change as we age.

It is important to have adequate lubrication during sex to prevent trauma to the vagina and also prevent infection. Some products include coconut oil and aloe.

Herbal Treatments and Supplements

Many women use herbal supplements to manage their menopause symptoms. While these herbal supplements are sold widely, Winona does not suggest using them without discussing them thoroughly with your physician. Botanicals and herbs may have side effects, poor oversight, or change how other medications work. The list of alternative therapies include:

  • Ginseng: (Panax ginseng or Panax quinquefolius) Research has shown that ginseng may help with some menopausal symptoms, such as mood symptoms and sleep disturbances, and with one’s overall sense of well-being. 

  • Black Cohosh: (Actaea racemosa, Cimicifuga racemosa) Is an herb that has received quite a bit of attention for its possible effects on hot flashes. However, studies looking at its effectiveness in reducing menopause symptoms have produced mixed results. Black cohosh has been linked to liver problems, and this connection continues to be studied. Winona does not offer or recommend Black Cohosh for these reasons.

  • Red Clover: (Trifolium pratense) In controlled scientific studies there has been no consistent or conclusive evidence that shows that red clover leaf extract reduces menopause symptoms.  Studies have also raised concerns that red clover may have harmful effects. Winona does not offer or recommend Red Clover for these reasons.

  • Dong Quai: (Angelica sinensis) Dong quai has been used in traditional Chinese Medicine to treat gynecologic conditions for more than 1,200 years. Clinical studies conducted on dong quai have determined that this botanical therapy was not found to be useful in reducing symptoms. Dong quai should never be used by women with fibroids or blood-clotting problems, or by women taking drugs that affect clotting as bleeding complications can result. Winona does not offer or recommend Dong quai for these reasons.

  • Kava: (Piper methysticum) Kava may decrease anxiety, but there is no evidence that it decreases vaginal dryness. 

Warning: Kava has been associated with liver disease. The FDA has issued a warning to patients and providers about Kava because of its potential to damage the liver. Winona does not offer or recommend Kava for these reasons.

Evening Primrose Oil: (Oenothera biennis) This botanical is also promoted to relieve hot flashes however, scientific studies found no benefit. Reported side effects include inflammation, problems with blood clotting and the immune system, nausea, and diarrhea. Evening primrose oil should not be used with anticoagulants. Winona does not offer or recommend Evening Primrose Oil for these reasons.

Tips On How You Are Going To Talk With Your Doctor

When visiting the doctor, this can be an embarrassing topic to bring up. There are a couple of things you can do to help. The first is to write down what you want to discuss so that you don’t forget or get flustered. Please remember that while you may feel embarrassed, this is what doctors do. The Winona physicians are specially trained to discuss your most important concerns and will ask for clarification if there are any doubts.

Don’t wait to be asked. Raise relevant concerns as much as you can. Vaginal irritation is an extremely common problem for women approaching menopause and beyond. There are many options to choose from that are easy, healthy, and safe ways to optimize vaginal health and lubrication. Seek help if the vaginal discomfort lasts beyond a few days or if you experience discomfort during sexual intercourse. If left untreated, vaginal dryness can cause sores or crack in the vagina’s tissues.4

Say goodbye to dryness. For Good.

Explore Treatments
Say goodbye to dryness. For Good.

Summary

While menopause is a normal phase of life, there are ways to treat the often-chronic symptoms that result from menopause. Winona encourages women to try various treatment options whether HRT, diet, or lifestyle changes to identify what works best for them. Remember, menopause is a positive beginning, with the opportunity to take preventive action against major health risks associated with the decreasing hormones associated with menopause.

Vaginal irritation is an extremely common problem for women approaching, in, or even beyond menopause. There are many options to choose from that are easy, healthy and safe to optimize vaginal health and lubrication. Seek help if the vaginal discomfort lasts beyond a few days or if you experience discomfort during sexual intercourse. If left untreated, vaginal dryness can cause sores or crack in the vagina’s tissues. If the condition is accompanied by severe vaginal bleeding, seek immediate medical attention.4

Vaginal lubrication is a key aspect of overall vaginal health and sexual satisfaction. The most common cause is estrogen deficiencies, which can be treated with vitamins, supplements, hormone treatments in the form of tablets, patches, and creams. Winona provides all three options.

The good news is that perimenopause and menopause have been studied for over 30 years and it is clear that estrogen therapy is the most effective treatment for vaginal dryness. 

Whether experiencing severe or minor symptoms, natural remedies like HRT may help ease the vaginal dryness and the irritation that it causes.  If women embrace their evolving bodies by providing the nutrients their body needs they can move through this sometimes precarious phase with grace and wellness.

 “This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.”

Reference:

  1. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/a19916630/itchy-vagina/

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3252029/

  3. https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/vaginal-dryness-causes-moisturizing-treatments

  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/vaginal-dryness

  5. https://www.insider.com/vitamins-to-increase-female-lubrication

  6. https://www.womens-health-concern.org/help-and-advice/factsheets/vaginal-dryness/