Vaginal Dryness: Causes and Treatments

Learn what causes vaginal dryness and how at-home remedies are the first line of defense.

Vaginal dryness (also called atrophic vaginitis) occurs when the vaginal tissues thin and shrink with age. This results in less lubrication of the vaginal walls. Vaginal dryness can cause:

  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Light bleeding after sex
  • Vaginal soreness
  • A burning sensation when you urinate

Causes of vaginal dryness

Decreased estrogen is the most common cause of vaginal dryness. This is why vaginal dryness mostly affects women nearing menopause or after menopause. Other reasons for decreased estrogen include:

  • Removal of both ovaries (which brings on premature menopause)
  • Radiation of the pelvic area or chemotherapy treatments
  • Breastfeeding after childbirth

Other things that can cause vaginal dryness include:

  • Irritation of the vagina caused by tampons, soaps, or contraceptives
  • Allergic reactions to condoms

Some women think they suffer from vaginal dryness when they notice decreased vaginal secretions before intercourse. However, in this case the cause is more often related to not being sexually aroused. Too much penetrating sex in a short period of time can also lead to vaginal irritation and dryness.

Vaginal dryness is likely to continue until you figure out and treat the cause. This problem not only affects a woman’s sex life. It can also increase the risk of a urinary tract infection.

Home remedies to try

  • Lubricate
    • If you often have pain during sexual intercourse, even with adequate foreplay, try to use a water-soluble vaginal lubricant prior to sex.
    • You can also have your partner use a lubricated condom.
  • Moisturize
    • To combat vaginal dryness day-to-day, use a water-soluble vaginal moisturizer. The most common is Replens.
    • The moisturizer mimics the vagina’s natural secretions.
    • Typically, vaginal moisturizers can be used once every two to three days.
  • Slow down and savor the moment
    • If dryness is caused by rushed lovemaking, slow down and spend more time with foreplay. This can help increase vaginal secretions.

How to prevent vaginal dryness

  • Avoid douching and using spermicidal foams, creams, or gels
    • These can negatively affect the vaginal tissue and lead to drying.
  • Regular sexual activity may help
    • This improves blood circulation in the vagina. And it helps counter dryness.

When to call your doctor about vaginal dryness

Contact your doctor if the home remedies don’t relieve vaginal soreness, burning, itching, or painful sexual intercourse. They will perform a pelvic exam, specifically checking the health of vaginal tissues. Hormone levels in the blood may also be evaluated.

Topical estrogen creams or a low-dose estrogen ring such as Estring may help ease vaginal dryness in older women.

  • The estrogen ring is about the same size as a diaphragm.
  • It’s placed in the vagina and releases controlled doses of estrogen for 90 days.
  • The estrogen creams and rings avoid the side effects associated with taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This raises estrogen levels throughout your body.
  • Ask your doctor to advise you about using these products.

If you have vaginal dryness, try at-home remedies first including increasing sexual arousal and avoiding vaginal irritants. If these tips do not work, see a doctor for an examination of your vaginal tissues and hormone levels.