Most women associate vaginal dryness with the menopause. Yet women can suffer from vaginal dryness at any age. It is usually the result of hormonal fluctuations – which can happen to women at any time. The menopause, pregnancy, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, and even excessive intimate hygiene can all cause vaginal dryness. However, this article will look not at the causes of vaginal dryness but rather at the ways in which it manifests itself and the symptoms affecting women who suffer from it.
Just what is vaginal dryness?
The medical term for vaginal dryness is vaginal atrophy. When production of the female sex hormone oestrogen decreases, this results in reduced blood supply, a drop in the production of vaginal fluid and even decreased cell formation in a woman’s genital area. Oestrogen receptors are found in the wall of the vagina, to which the hormone oestrogen usually binds. If oestrogen is no longer produced in sufficient quantities this no longer happens, which then results in a decrease in the blood supply and in the production of vaginal fluid and in cell formation in the female genital area. Usually, a woman’s vagina is always moist with a milky-white fluid, which not only protects the intimate area but also reduces the constant rubbing. Low oestrogen levels result in a decrease in the natural moisture levels in the vagina. Oestrogen is therefore responsible for all these processes in the female genital area. The hormone oestrogen also influences the pH of vaginal fluid. A healthy vagina has an acidic environment, which protects the genital area from bacteria and infections. Low oestrogen levels therefore also lead to reduced protection against infections, which occur more frequently as a result.
Women affected by vaginal dryness experience the following unpleasant symptoms.
Symptoms of vaginal dryness
- Dry vagina: Women suffering from vaginal dryness have a dry feeling in their genital area, which is uncomfortable and causes pain.
- Soreness, itching and burning: Lack of moisture can lead to soreness, itching and burning in the genital area in those women affected. Women usually experience these symptoms in everyday life, too, which can be very uncomfortable.
- Greater susceptibility to infections: The lack of moisture and the resulting lack of protection also makes a woman more susceptible to vaginal infections. Many women therefore have to deal with recurring bacterial and fungal infections.
- Painful sex: A dry vagina is most uncomfortable when there is excessive rubbing, such as during intercourse. The film of fluid found in the vagina reduces friction and also minimises the risk of injury during sex. If there is a change in the natural lubrication in the female genital area it is usually very painful for women, and intercourse results in painful rubbing. This can even lead to light bleeding and damage to the skin. As a result, the most pleasurable pastime in the world can turn into something far less pleasant. Not only is this hard for women, it can also place a strain on their relationships.
- Light bleeding after intercourse: In cases of feminine dryness, excessive rubbing and lack of lubrication can even result in light bleeding after sex.
- Minor wounds/micro-fissures in the skin: Too much friction can also lead to minor wounds or micro-fissures in the skin if the vagina is too dry.
- Pain and burning when walking or sitting: Rubbing is not just an issue when it comes to sex. It can also be a problem when doing everyday activities, such as walking or sitting. Women with vaginal dryness experience unpleasant burning and pain in day-to-day life, too.
- Burning pain when urinating: Since the genital area is particularly sensitive and painful, some women also find urinating uncomfortable.
- Reduced elasticity in the vaginal tissue: The lack of oestrogen also disrupts the formation of new cells. The walls of the vagina become thinner and lose their elasticity.
For the women who experience them, these symptoms can cause real suffering, and although in most cases they also cause extreme emotional stress and can give rise to relationship problems, very few women talk about the problem of feminine dryness. Yet there is a simple solution.
What can help to combat the unpleasant symptoms of vaginal dryness?
Doctors and pharmacists advise using a lubricant for vaginal dryness. Contrary to popular belief, lubricants are also suitable for everyday use. Used regularly, they can help to rebalance moisture levels and alleviate the symptoms of feminine dryness. Far too many women suffer from vaginal dryness, despite the fact that there are lubricants available which can help to relieve their symptoms. Lubricants generally contain silicone or water. Water is absorbed into the mucous membranes of the dry vaginal walls, providing them with the moisture they need. Silicone-based lubricants, in contrast, remain on the surface. The silicone molecules are larger than the pores of the skin, which is why a silicone-based lubricant forms a protective film after it is applied, protecting the sensitive genital area and thus helping to alleviate the symptoms of vaginal dryness described above.
Find out more about this subject: