Vaginal dryness: Causes, symptoms, solutions and all you need to know
Most women who are going through their menopause experience vaginal dryness in the form of itching, painful sex and burning in the area. Doctors reveal the causes, symptoms, solutions and all you need to know about vaginal dryness
Health experts insist never to ignore itchy vagina or vaginal pain as it can indicate an underlying health condition and there are a few simple hygiene practices to ensure a healthy genital and avoid poor vaginal hygiene. It is considered unacceptable for a woman to talk about the health issue openly, as a result, they suffer from poor vaginal hygiene that can lead to medical problems such as fungal infections, reproductive issues and UTIs.
Numerous beneficial bacteria (lactobacilli) are found in the vagina that helps to keep the microbial environment balanced and prevent infections like the vaginal mucosa, which extends from the cervix's outer surface to the vaginal opening and can self-clean through the production of natural secretions. Numerous external or internal imbalances, behavioural patterns or other factors can lead to dysbiosis or the disruption of healthy microbial activities, resulting in vaginal or urinary tract infections since unhygienic intimate practices are intricately linked with several risk infections such as yeast infection, urinary tract infection, bacterial infections, infertility and birth complications.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Veena Aggarwal, MD at Medtalks and Trustee at Dr KKs Heart Care Foundation of India, revealed, “Most women who are going through their menopause experience vaginal dryness in the form of itching, painful sex and burning in the area. This is due to a drop in the levels of the hormone estrogen that normally helps to maintain the lining of the vagina well lubricated, and keeps it healthy, thick, and elastic. Though vaginal dryness can occur at any age it is most common during menopause. The other causes could be child bearing and breast feeding, removal of the ovaries for any cause; radiation, chemotherapy for cancer, and some medicines that block the hormone estrogen to treat fibroids and endometriosis.”
She highlighted, “Certain medications like antidepressants and anti allergic drugs can also have the same effect. Many women regularly wash or douche their vaginal area in the hope that it will remove infection and keep the vagina healthy but in fact it has the opposite effect. A common cause for painful sex is vaginal dryness due to lack of foreplay before sex. For women who are experiencing frequent dryness of the vagina, it is imperative to consult a specialist to understand the cause and take preventive action. Some measures that can prevent vaginal dryness include avoiding soaps, lotions or other products with chemicals or scented oils; not wearing tight-fitted clothing and pantyhose regularly; and keeping the vaginal area clean. It is also important to not apply anything in the vaginal area without consulting a specialist.”
Bringing her expertise to the same, Dr Ameya Kanakiya, Co-Founder and Head of Health Outcomes and Programs at Elda Health, explained, “Lack of lubrication following sexual arousal arising out of estrogen deficiency could be one of the first symptoms of perimenopause. These symptoms of vaginal dryness progressively increase and are more pronounced after menopause. Symptoms of vaginal dryness, itching along with frequent vaginal infections, are more common after menopause than in perimenopause. The issue is pretty common, with 30-40% women have issues related to vaginal dryness in post menopause. But being considered a taboo topic, women are often reluctant to speak about it and only about 25% women actually end up seeking treatment for the same. Very often women talk about it only when the topic is initiated by their doctors by actively asking about vaginal symptoms after menopause.”
She suggested, “Continued vaginal intercourse could be one of the solutions for decreasing this symptom as it helps maintain a good blood supply to the vagina, thus increasing the vaginal secretions too. For those who find it difficult to have intercourse due to this atrophy, use of vaginal dilators along with some vaginal lubricants helps. Since the symptom is due to low estrogen levels, a local application of vaginal cream or usage of menopausal hormone therapy in selected cases, may help provide a relief. Those suffering from frequent infections also need to be instructed to avoid using any soaps in the vulval and vaginal area as this aggravates the problem further by increasing the pH of the vagina further leading to more colonisation by pathological bacteria and thus causing more infections.”