Atrophic Vaginitis or vaginal dryness is the loss of normal moisture (or lubrication) in the vagina. The result can be feelings of discomfort and pain. It can also make sexual activity uncomfortable. It’s a common problem. Any woman can have it, but it’s more common in women close to menopause (change of life). It affects about 1 in 5 women near that time and more than half of women after they don’t make the female hormone estrogen for 5 years.
Vaginal dryness may be due to changes in the vagina caused by infection or low estrogen levels. Low estrogen levels can occur after menopause (atrophic change), childbirth and breastfeeding, cancer treatment, smoking, and surgery (removal of ovaries). Vaginal dryness may also occur because of medicines, douching (cleaning the vagina with special liquids), skin conditions in the genital area, and not enough or improper sexual stimulation. Sometimes, the cause is unknown.
The most common symptoms include irritation, itching, burning, and pain with sex. Because the vaginal tissues are less elastic, small tears or slight bleeding after wiping or sex may also occur.
Your healthcare provider makes a diagnosis from symptoms and an examination of vaginal tissues. He/she may in some cases also get a sample of cells or secretions from the vagina for study with a microscope or other tests.
Your healthcare provider will discuss the best way to manage symptoms. Some women may use estrogen supplements, which may be taken by mouth as a pill, absorbed from a patch placed on the skin, applied as a cream directly on the vagina and its opening, or absorbed from a pill placed in the vagina. Many women sometimes use water soluble lubricants during sex. Some long-acting moisturizers can give some relief. Other treatments include self-care measures, such as increasing water intake to avoid getting dehydrated.
- Let your healthcare provider know if you have symptoms of vaginal dryness.
- Practice good vaginal hygiene.
- Drink more water.
- Try over-the-counter moisturizers or water-based lubricants.
- Give yourself time to become aroused and lubricated.
- Do not use oil-based substances, such as petroleum jelly, without getting your doctor’s okay. They can result in a gummy mess that can do more harm than good.
- Avoid using products that can irritate the vagina. These products include soaps, lotions, bubble bath, douches, feminine sprays, and perfumes.
This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider.