Vaginal dryness is a common condition that affects many women throughout their lives. It can cause pain, pain during intercourse, itching, frequent UTIs and can leave many women feeling insecure. Whilst it can be caused by several factors, it is most commonly associated with menopause. It's an uncomfortable condition but it can be treated using hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Keep reading to find out more about vaginal dryness and how you can get treatment online.
Vaginal dryness, sometimes known as vaginal atrophy or atrophic vaginitis, is one of the most common and uncomfortable symptoms of menopause.
While it is most commonly associated with the menopause, it can occur in women at any age.
Whilst vaginal dryness is most common in post-menopausal women, around 17% of women experience vaginal atrophy before they go through menopause.
Some causes of vaginal dryness pre-menopause include:
However, it may not always be an underlying condition. You may be experiencing vaginal dryness because you're simply not aroused enough during sex.
Vaginal dryness can also be linked to using overly perfumed hygiene products such as douches or soaps.
The menopause is a pivotal stage in a woman's life and a huge topic when it comes to women’s health. Menopause occurs when you stop having periods, and are no longer able to conceive naturally. This stage causes a multitude of symptoms. In fact, 75% of women going through menopause report multiple symptoms, with 25% experiencing severe menopausal symptoms. Most women experience hot flashes, brain fog, night sweats and mood changes. One of the most uncomfortable of these symptoms is vaginal dryness.
Vaginal dryness, sometimes known as vaginal atrophy or atrophic vaginitis, is one of the most common and uncomfortable symptoms of menopause. Post-menopause, your ovaries have stopped producing oestrogen, a female sex hormone that is responsible for many functions in the body.
This change in hormone levels affects you across the body but one of the most important roles of oestrogen is vaginal lubrication. But as oestrogen levels fall post-menopause, the vaginal walls to become thinner, drier and more inflamed. This process is often referred to as the genitourinary syndrome of menopause and is what causes vaginal dryness.
Women who experience vaginal dryness post-menopause tend to experience the following symptoms:
If you're experiencing these symptoms for the first time or you're going through menopause early (premature menopause), it can be difficult to spot as these symptoms as they could be caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or another vaginal infection like a yeast infection (thrush) or bacterial vaginosis (BV). That's why it's important to consult your healthcare provider if you spot any sudden or persistent differences in your intimate health.
The best way to treat vaginal dryness during sex is to use a lubricant. There are two main types of lubricants available: water-based and oil-based lubricants. But, how do you know which one is better?
Water-based lubricants are more generally recommended to use during sex. This is because they don't affect barrier contraception and tend to be kinder to the skin, as they have fewer chemicals. They are also more deeply moisturising than oil-based lubricants, as oil-based lubricants are better at moisturising the surface level of the skin, not the deeper vaginal tissues. Oil-based lubricants can also trap bacteria, which may not be suitable for menopausal women as vaginal dryness leaves you more susceptible to infections.
You can buy lubricants at most health stores, pharmacies or online. Check the ingredients before buying to ensure it's suitable for you.
Another good over-the-counter treatment option available are vaginal moisturisers.
They are non-hormonal treatments that work to rehydrate the mucosal tissue in the vagina over time, adhering to the vaginal lining and mimicking natural vaginal secretions. Vaginal moisturisers are available as creams, gels and suppositories. They all work efficiently in alleviating vaginal dryness.
When picking a vaginal moisturiser, make sure to check the ingredients. Avoid moisturisers that are overly scented and look for gynaecologist-approved ingredients such as hyaluronic acid. It's tricky to spot the correct ingredients so if in doubt, check the reviews and see if others have had a good experience with that product.
You should also be mindful of home remedies for vaginal dryness, as doing anything or applying anything to the vagina that has not been clinically-proven could do more harm than good.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is the most common treatment for vaginal dryness. It is often used to relieve other signs of menopause, including hot flashes and night sweats. HRT works by supplementing the hormones your body has stopped producing which helps to alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause. There are two main types depending on the hormones they contain.
You can get combined HRT treatments containing two hormones (oestrogen and progestogen). These tend to be the most commonly prescribed treatments for menopausal women. The other main type available is oestrogen-only HRT. Oestrogen therapy is less common and is mostly used by women who have had a hysterectomy. Both types are available in many different formats including pills (e.g Livial or Kliovance); patches (e.g Evorel Conti or Evorel Sequi) and gels. There are so many options available that it is likely you'll find the best HRT option for you.
If vaginal dryness is your main symptom, your GP may recommend you try a vaginal oestrogen cream. Creams such as Estriol cream are applied intravaginally using an applicator, meaning they supplement the oestrogen levels topically to the vagina and provide more direct relief. These vaginal creams also tend to have lower doses of hormones, meaning they are statistically safer than other forms.
HRT also has other health benefits. Research from the British Menopause Society found that within 10 years of HRT treatment, women had a significantly reduced risk of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular mortality. HRT has also been found to improve sleep and reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis.
There are some risks and potential side effects of taking HRT, such as an elevated risk of breast cancer. However, the benefits tend to outweigh these risks. You should always discuss your concerns with a healthcare professional and they can individually assess your suitability for treatment.
Yes! Depending on the cause, vaginal dryness can often be prevented.
Some general tips you can do to prevent dryness include:
If you're not sure what else you can do to alleviate vaginal dryness, consult your doctor.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of vaginal atrophy, it is best to seek treatment right away. Left untreated, this condition can lead to a number of health complications.
For example, vaginal dryness can often lead to recurrent urinary tract infections. This is because when the vagina is dry and irritated, it becomes more difficult for urine to travel properly from the bladder. As a result, bacteria may build up and cause an infection. Vaginal atrophy can also cause other urinary problems such as incontinence a, leakage and nocturia (waking up during the night to urinate).
Untreated vaginal dryness also puts you at a greater risk of other bacterial infections such as thrush and BV, because the hormone changes combined with pH levels in the vagina lead you more at risk of potential flora changes.
In addition, vaginal atrophy can also cause painful intercourses and a decrease in libido. Dyspareunia is the term for painful intercourse caused by vaginal dryness. If left untreated, this condition can have a significant impact on your mood and self-esteem.
Lubricants and moisturisers are over-the-counter treatments, and are very easy to access online. Thankfully, it's the same with HRT and it has never been easier to order online.
Provided you have had a form of it before, you can order your preferred method of HRT at euroClinix. You don't have to see your GP and you don't need to pick up your prescription - our service is all inclusive! You just need to fill out a quick medical questionnaire which is reviewed by one of our registered doctors. Once approved for treatment, your medicine is dispensed and dispatched by our online pharmacy with free next-day delivery.
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