What Causes Vaginal Dryness?
A thin layer of moisture coats the walls of the vagina. This moisture provides an alkaline environment that sperm can survive in and travel in for sexual reproduction. These vaginal secretions also lubricate the vaginal wall, reducing friction during sexual intercourse.
As a woman ages, changes in hormone production can cause the vaginal walls to thin. Thinner walls mean fewer cells that secrete moisture. This can lead to vaginal dryness. Hormonal changes are the most common cause of vaginal dryness, but they aren’t the only cause.
What are the effects of vaginal dryness?
Vaginal dryness can cause discomfort in the vaginal and pelvic regions. Vaginal dryness can also cause:
- loss of interest in sex
- pain with sexual intercourse
- light bleeding following intercourse
- urinary tract infections (UTIs) that don’t go away or that reoccur
- vaginal itching or stinging
- Vaginal dryness can be a source of embarrassment. This may prevent women from discussing symptoms with their physician or partner; however, the condition is a common occurrence that affects many women.
Causes of vaginal dryness
Falling estrogen levels are the chief cause of vaginal dryness. Women begin to produce less estrogen as they age. This leads to the end of menstruation during a time called perimenopause.
However, menopause isn’t the only condition that causes a decrease in estrogen production. Other causes include:
- cigarette smoking
- excessive stress
- immune system disorders, such as Sjögren syndrome
- rigorous exercise
- some cancer treatments, such as radiation to the pelvis, hormone therapy, or chemotherapy
- surgical removal of the ovaries
- Some medications can also reduce secretions in the body. Douching may also cause dryness and irritation, as well as some creams and lotions that are applied to the vaginal area.