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Vaginal Dryness

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Vaginal Dryness
Making changes in lifestyle such as switching to fragrance free personal products, lighter scented perfumes, eating a regular balanced diet, supplementing with multiple vitamin and mineral support, can bring the much needed relief for vaginal dryness.

Vaginal dryness is a common problem for women during and after menopause. In fact, four out of every ten women experience vaginal dryness at the menopausal age. Reports reveal that 50% of women between forty and sixty years of age are confronted by vaginal dryness, though occasionally.

Vaginal dryness is medically described as 'atrophic vaginitis' which is lack of adequate moisture in the vaginal area. Women who suffer vaginal dryness very often dread to have intercourse and they avoid sex as a result. This is mainly due to the fact that lack of vaginal lubrication can make intercourse painful. Consequently, women suffering from vaginal dryness also experience a drop off in libido.

The amount of vaginal lubrication is bound to vary from one woman to another. The vaginal fluid itself is clear and odorless. Not many women notice the vaginal fluid most of the time other than when they are sexually aroused.

As John Grossman MD, a gynecologist at the George Washington University Hospital and Medical Center in Washington DC comments: 'The vagina wasn't designed to be sterile; It has its own biologically normal, natural method of bacterial control- mainly by maintaining a natural level of acidity'.

Causes for vaginal dryness

A variety of conditions can cause vaginal dryness. Potential causes include:

  • Decreased estrogen levels can be construed as the most prominent cause for vaginal dryness. Estrogen is a female hormone that helps to maintain normal vaginal lubrication, renders tissue elasticity and acidity. When estrogen level decreases, the natural defense declines leading to thinner and less elastic vaginal lining combined with dryness of the vagina.

    • Menopause or perimenopause is one of the reasons for fall in estrogen levels.

    • Childbirth, breast feeding and surgical removal of ovaries, cancer therapy, immune disorders and even cigarette smoking are other factors that lead to decline in estrogen.

  • Certain allergies to medications such as antidepressants decrease the moisture in various parts of the body including the vagina. Anti estrogen medications administered for cancer treatments and medications for treatment of ulcer, high blood pressure also contribute to vaginal dryness.

  • Sexually transmitted diseases, vaginal trauma and malignant and benign tumor could be other factors for vaginal dryness.

  • An auto immune disease called Sjogren's syndrome which attacks healthy tissues is seen to cause vaginal dryness.

  • The practice of cleansing the vagina with a liquid preparation, douching, can disrupt the normal chemical balance and cause inflammation. This can also result in vaginal dryness. In perimenopausal women and menopausal women particularly in those undergoing hormonal replacement therapy, vaginal dryness is more acute. It is in fact one of the top ten problems afflicting menopausal women.

  • In postpartum women, higher stress levels are correlated with vaginal dryness.

  • Elevated levels of stress due to pressures and demands at work, family and financial issues in this fast paced hectic life style are leading contributory factors.

Signs and symptoms of vaginal dryness

The common signs and symptoms of vaginal dryness include

  • Dryness
  • Itching and stinging around the vaginal opening
  • Burning sensation
  • Pain
  • Mild bleeding and discomfort during intercourse
  • Urgency and frequency of urination

Diagnosis of vaginal dryness

A doctor or a gynecologist normally takes a health history of the patient and finds out how long she has been experiencing these symptoms of burning, itching and discomfort in the vaginal area. Other factors such as douching or medications are examined. The doctor does a pelvic exam, checking the vagina for thinning or redness and rules out possible other causes for discomfort including urinary tract infection. Sometimes, Pap test is done to remove the cells from the vaginal wall or cervix for testing.

Treatment options for vaginal dryness

Vaginal dryness during perimenopause and menopause is almost inevitable. By and large, vaginal dryness is caused by hormonal imbalance. If vaginal dryness is caused by low levels of estrogen, then estrogen replacement therapies should help. Estrogen therapy can be administered by skin patch, vaginal cream or directly into the vagina or as oral supplement.

There are three types of vaginal estrogen used commonly in most women:

  • A doctor could insert a vaginal estrogen ring 'Estring' which is soft and flexible ring into the vagina. This releases a steady stream of estrogen directly to the vaginal tissues. The ring should be replaced once in three months.

  • Vaginal estrogen tablets are inserted into the vagina using a disposable applicator once a day. After a few weeks of treatment, the tablets can be inserted twice a week and gradually stopped.

  • Vaginal estrogen creams are applied to the vagina using an applicator, daily for the first few weeks and then one to three times a week.

There are proven methods that can help increase natural biological production of the bodily fluid necessary for vaginal lubrication. Some natural and safe approaches to alleviate vaginal dryness include the following measures:

  • A best solution to combat vaginal dryness is to boost water intake. It is necessary to check one's hydration and consume at least eight to ten eight ounce glasses of water a day. This is a simple yet surprisingly helpful step.

  • It is found that many of the personal bathing and laundry products contain perfume and other chemicals which can irritate the delicate mucosal tissues that line the vagina. It becomes therefore imperative to review the list of ingredients in such products before actually using them. Alternatively, a super fatty hypoallergenic soap with no dyes or fragrances and one that is non alkaline with pH balance maintained is recommended.

  • The estrogen which is needed for vaginal lubrication is made from cholesterol. Many women who consume low-fat, high-carb diets severely lack cholesterol and essential nutritional intake which produce sex hormones. It is therefore essential to give the body the support it needs to balance the hormones. For instance, soy and flax seed are good source of phyto estrogens.

  • It is advised not to use vinegar, yogurt and hand lotions, soaps and bubble baths to relieve discomfort of vaginal dryness as these could simply irritate the vagina and lead to serious infections.

  • It should be worthwhile to find medical-grade top-quality multivitamin and mineral supplements which can cover the missing gaps in natural nutritional diets.

Making changes in lifestyle and environment such as switching to fragrance free personal products, lighter scented perfumes, eating a regular balanced diet, supplementing with multiple vitamin and mineral support, can bring the much needed relief for vaginal dryness.

Other treatment methods for vaginal dryness

  • Sometimes a personal lubricant can prove to be effective and provide immediate relief from vaginal dryness. This can be tried while waiting for improved hydration, nutrition and endocrine support. There are wide ranges of formulations available which are safe for use in this sensitive part of the body. For example, vitamin E vaginal suppository is found to work extremely well.

  • A healthcare practitioner would also suggest locally released bioidentical estrogen replacement therapy in the form of estriol vaginal cream or progesterone creams that could prove effective.

  • Some gynecologists offer a practical solution to combat vaginal dryness to enable sexual intercourse more comfortable. Try dipping a finger into the vagina and drawing some of the lubrication out to coat the dry surface, they suggest. This way, the moisture that may pool in the back of the vagina in a laid back position can be brought forward. In case the dryness is only occasional, a water based lubricant can be used during sexual intercourse.

  • Many doctors opine that having sex on a regular basis is a natural way to make for more vaginal lubrication; continuing sexual activity is an important help in holding back the thinning and drying effects of menopause on vaginal tissues.

  • In addition to the above physical issues, it is of utmost importance to assesses the emotional state, and evaluate depression or stress levels as these can cause havoc to the natural production of vaginal lubrication.

Yet one cannot expect miraculous results instantly and it would require a couple of weeks for treatment methods and remedies to work

Bibliography / Reference:

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