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vaginal dryness

By: RSC Editorial Team

May 2, 2023

What Causes Vaginal Dryness and What Should You Do?

The walls and lining of a healthy vagina have a thin coating of natural moisture and lubrication to keep the vaginal tissues flexible, elastic, and thick. When a woman’s estrogen levels drop, it can result in an uncomfortable condition known as vaginal dryness. Although this problem is more prevalent in women going through menopause, it can affect all age levels.

While it may not seem that serious, it can have significant and negative impacts on quality of life, including pain during sex, physical inflammation, burning sensations, and chronic urinary tract infections. Below, Rapid STD Testing explains vital information about this health condition, including causes, treatments, prevention, and more.  

Understanding Vaginal Dryness

Vaginal tissue is strong and elastic, but it’s also quite delicate. The hormone estrogen maintains the natural biome of the vagina by producing clear fluid that lines the vaginal walls, supports optimal health, and facilitates sexual intercourse.

When there’s a drop in those hormone levels (or other health conditions), the amount of fluid decreases, causing vaginal dryness. The vaginal tissues begin to lose moisture, shrink, and become thinner and weaker.

Can vaginal dryness cause pain? The answer is yes. It can result in chronic discomfort, pain, and burning sensations, even during everyday activities like sitting, exercising, and urinating.

Symptoms and Biological Implications of Vaginal Dryness  

A reduction in natural vaginal lubrication can lead to symptoms that range from mildly uncomfortable to severely painful, including:

  • Burning, dry, and itching sensations
  • Regular and chronic urinary tract infections
  • Disinterest in sexual activity
  • Increase in urinary frequency
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Vaginal bleeding post-intercourse
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Soreness and irritation of the vulva

While the primary consequences of untreated vaginal dryness are physical discomfort and pain, women experiencing this problem have cause for concern, particularly if they neglect proper treatment. For example, painful intercourse, burning, soreness, or bleeding may lead to a lower libido.

Suffering from female dryness during intercourse can result in a disinterest in sex, which then has a ripple effect both emotionally and psychologically. You may feel resentment towards your partner or have difficulting communicating and have a lack of self-confidence.

Besides the pain and potential emotional consequences of chronic vaginal dryness, it can also lead to other health conditions. The initial symptoms may only be a mild burning sensation in the vagina or soreness after sex. However, over time they can worsen and adversely affect your genital and sexual health.

A common outcome of untreated dryness is chronic urinary tract infections and incontinence. This condition significantly affects your quality of life, comfort, sexual health, and happiness.

Even if you only have minor signs, don’t ignore them. Make an appointment with an OB/GYN to start on a treatment plan and address your health and wellness.  

Top Causes of Vaginal Dryness

What are the causes of dryness in a woman? Many health conditions, treatments, and risk factors can contribute to this problem.

Low Estrogen

As women age, their estrogen declines naturally. Once a woman no longer menstruates and begins to enter menopause, the levels decrease even further and slow the production of natural lubrication in the vagina. When this happens during menopause, it’s known as vaginal atrophy or genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM).

Women who have GSM often have additional menopausal symptoms, like hot flashes, changes in the vagina’s acidic balance, and problems with urinary tract infections. In addition, abnormal decreases in the hormone estrogen can occur during perimenopause, after childbirth, and while breastfeeding.

Douching and Skin Irritants

While the health and beauty industry will tell you differently, there’s no need to douche or clean the interior of your vagina. In fact, vaginas are self-cleaning – that’s why you often see discharge on your underwear. Products like douches, lotions, perfumes, body sprays, and soaps typically contain synthetic chemicals and fragrances that may irritate your vagina and prevent natural lubrication from protecting its walls and tissues.

Risk Factors

These risk factors can increase the chance of experiencing dryness in the vagina:

  • Smoking
  • Breast cancer treatment
  • Radiation or chemotherapy in the pelvic area
  • Cancer therapy
  • Surgical ovary removal
  • Extreme stress and depression
  • Anti-estrogen hormone medications
  • Sjögren syndrome (autoimmune disorder)
  • Certain medications (antihistamines, antidepressants)
  • Treatments for fibroids, endometriosis, and infertility
  • Taking birth control pills or hormonal therapies
  • Diabetes

Female Dryness During Intercourse

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why am I dry down there all of a sudden?” A lack of sufficient moisture and lubrication during sex is uncomfortable, painful, and may even cause light bleeding due to microtears in the vaginal tissues.

Don’t be embarrassed, though. Around 17% of people assigned female at birth (AFAB) age 18 through 50 experience vaginal dryness unrelated to menopause during intercourse.

So if you’re not going through menopause, cancer treatments, or taking the medications we just listed, what’s the problem? For many women, a lack of foreplay or sexual interest in their partner can prevent their vagina from lubricating naturally, making sex feel dry and uncomfortable.

Diagnosing Vaginal Dryness

Naturally, many people are hesitant to address sexual health concerns with their primary care providers or medical professional. However, the long-term health and wellness benefits you gain from taking active control of your sex life far outweigh a few minutes of embarrassment or awkwardness you may feel.

At Rapid STD Testing, we genuinely care about the health and well-being of our patients. We offer same-day STD testing that’s fast, accurate, and confidential.

Remember, you know your body the best. Should you notice any unusual signs or feelings, such as a lack of lubrication, itching, or soreness, seeking treatment from an OB/GYN is the safest way to address those concerns. You can also order a 10-panel STD test from our website to determine if your symptoms could be from an infection.  

You should consult your doctor or OB/GYN if your vaginal dryness symptoms:

  • Include moderate to severe vaginal bleeding
  • Disrupt your everyday life and activities
  • Don’t improve or go away after taking over-the-counter medications
  • Affect your relationship and sex life with your partner

Your doctor will diagnose your symptoms based on a physical examination and your medical history. During your appointment, you can expect to answer questions about your general health, the symptoms you’re experiencing, and if you take any medications. The physical evaluation may include:

  • A pelvic exam to assess the inside of your vagina and its walls and lining
  • A blood test to confirm your hormone levels and if you have any other medical conditions

During the pelvic exam, your physician will look for signs of redness, irritation, and thinning. They may also collect a sample of your vaginal cells or discharge to check for other health conditions, such as a urinary tract infection.  

Unfortunately, despite the prevalence of this health condition, only a quarter of women seek out treatment to relieve their symptoms. It’s natural to feel anxious or nervous about speaking with a doctor about such an intimate problem, but you can always write down your symptoms and questions if you’re feeling too embarrassed.   

Treatment and Prevention of Vaginal Dryness

Finding a suitable and effective treatment for vaginal dryness begins with accurately diagnosing the cause. Standard treatment methods include medication, creams, and lubricants.

Types of Medication for Vaginal Dryness

For cases of GSM caused by low hormone levels, estrogen therapy is the most common treatment.

Ospemifene (Osphena) is a selective estrogen modulator that mimics natural estrogen inside your body and can treat pain during sexual intercourse.

Low-Dose Estrogen medications come as a tablet, rings, or creams and relieve your symptoms by increasing the amount of estrogen in your body.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a vaginal suppository that simulates the effect of estrogen in your body. It’s ideal for menopausal people who suffer from painful intercourse.

Be advised that many forms of estrogen therapy can cause side effects, such as breast pain and even vaginal bleeding. Doctors do not recommend topical forms of estrogen (like creams) if:

  • You have a family history of endometrial cancer
  • You’re pregnant or nursing
  • You have breast cancer
  • You have unexplained vaginal bleeding

Natural Treatment

What is a natural remedy for being “dry down there?” First, you can try making some healthier choices and lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoiding products with heavy perfumes
  • Staying well-hydrated during the day
  • Performing pelvic floor exercises, like Kegels

Another option is water-based lubricants and vaginal moisturizers. You can also try using natural lubricants, including aloe vera, coconut oil, jojoba, and vitamin E suppositories. 

How Can You Increase Your Natural Lubrication?

If you’re opposed to taking medications, one of the best ways to increase your body’s production of vaginal lubrication and moisture is by partaking in regular sexual activity. Spend some time engaging in foreplay with your partner to stimulate those feelings of arousal.

Sexual activity and intercourse increase blood flow, circulation, and vaginal secretions. If you don’t have a partner, indulge in some self-care and masturbate, either with your hand or a vibrator.  

Take Care of Your Sexual Health with Regular STD Testing and Self-Care

Vaginal dryness can affect health and quality of life for women of any age, although it’s most common in older women going through menopause. Taking proper care of your vagina is essential to your reproductive health.

If you’re sexually active, don’t wait – visit a Rapid STD Testing center now. Call us at 866-872-1888 to take a rapid STD test at one of our 2500+ nationwide locations and stay in firm control of your sex life and wellness. 


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By: RSC Editorial Team
May 2, 2023

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