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Vaginal Dryness

The discomfort of vaginal dryness is experienced by almost every woman at some point in life. A dry vagina can feel itchy and burning, and can take the joy out of sex. In fact, vaginal dryness is a leading factor in female sexual dysfunction and painful intercourse.

Causes of Vaginal Dryness

A woman's vagina naturally produces a clear, relatively odorless vaginal lubrication that assists in sexual penetration. How much lubricant is produced is influenced by a number of different factors and varies from woman to woman.

Factors that can influence vaginal dryness are:

  • Intercourse
  • Diaphragms
  • Antidepressants
  • Antihistamines/decongestants
  • Antibiotics
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Allergens such as dyes and fragrances in toilet paper and laundry detergent
  • Drying soaps
  • Douches
  • Tampons
  • Condoms

Low Estrogen and Vaginal Dryness

For most women, however, vaginal dryness is a direct result of lower estrogen levels that occur naturally during menopause, after the ovaries are removed and at other times in life. Estrogen causes the vagina to thicken. When estrogen decreases, the tissues of the vagina naturally thin, become less elastic, drier and more fragile.

Low estrogen levels may result from:

  • Menopause, perimenopause, postmenopause
  • Hysterectomy and related surgeries
  • Menstrual cycle changes
  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth
  • Nursing
  • Some hormonal contraceptives
  • Endometriosis drugs
  • Infertility drugs
  • Stress, fatigue
  • Rigorous exercise
Over 80% of women suffer from vaginal dryness during perimenopause and beyond. For women who stop using HRT, vaginal dryness may be especially difficult.

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