Vaginal dryness is an uncomfortable, yet common condition affecting millions of women. You do not have to be menopausal to experience dryness. Women who are “peri-menopausal” also experience dryness in the vaginal area.
What is it? It is a condition in which the natural lubrication system of the vaginal is no longer working properly leaving the vaginal area dry, itchy, burning, and pain with intercourse. It is often most caused by a hormonal imbalance. Typically, it is a lack of estrogen that causes not only dryness, but in more extreme or long term cases, vaginal atrophy. Vaginal atrophy or Atrophic vaginitis also causes changes to the cells of the vaginal lining, causing them to be more thin and fragile resulting in tearing and bleeding. There are other causes for vaginal dryness besides hormones such as dehydration, stress, medication side effects such as birth control, antihistamines, and autoimmune conditions such as Sjogren’s syndrome.
When you have vaginal dryness you are more susceptible to urinary tract infections due to the lack of protection that the lubrication provides. The natural lubrication of the vagina helps to keep bad bacteria out and without it the normal flora of the vagina can become imbalanced leading to more frequent urinary tract infections. However, many women experiencing vaginal dryness have all the symptoms of a UTI (urinary tract infection) without any bacteria present. Symptoms such as increased urgency, frequency, burning and itching with urination can all be due to the dryness of the vagina. This makes things pretty uncomfortable down there.
What can you do about it? Many women utilize hormone replacement therapy either systemically or vaginally. There are many options for hormones replacement including natural bio-identical hormones to traditional hormone replacement therapies. Estrogen is the most common hormone to help vaginal dryness. There are products that are made just for the vagina and vaginal dryness. Talk to your doctor about which one would be right for you.
Other things to consider are hydration levels, make sure you are hydrating and drinking enough water that your urine is light straw colored to clear. Minimize stress as stress affects many systems of our body including hormones and can lead to vaginal dryness or exacerbate it. Take a look at your medications to see if any of those could be contributing to dryness. In all cases consulting your Naturopathic doctor can provide you with the most comprehensive and individualized treatment plan for your individual situation.