It’s one of the most common symptoms of menopause, but vaginal dryness is often the least talked-about. Though it can affect women of any age (with an estimated 17% of women aged 18-50 experiencing it at some stage) it is most common in peri and postmenopausal women. Reports indicate around 80% of this group will experience vaginal atrophy at some stage. Significantly, only around a third of these women seek help from their GP or other health professional for this issue, despite the fact that simple, affordable treatments do exist that could offer substantial relief from this often debilitating symptom.
Symptoms of vaginal dryness
Vaginal dryness most frequently occurs due to a lack of oestrogen, usually associated with menopause, but which can also occur during pregnancy and breastfeeding, hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle, stress, or even just being insufficiently aroused during foreplay and sex. Symptoms include itching, burning, pain during sex, and can sometimes be mistaken for a urinary tract infection, all of which warrant investigation by a health professional.
A simple water-based lubricant like Sylk can really improve every day comfort and sex. Available on prescription but also over the counter at all chemists, Sylk is a plant–based gel that lubricates and soothes sensitive tissues. As Sylk is hormone and paraben free, it can be used by those wanting to avoid hormonal treatments, but it can also be used in conjunction with HRT and topical oestrogen. As GP and menopause specialist Dr Louise Newson says, “symptoms like vaginal dryness are very common, but can be easily resolved. Simple treatments like vaginal lubricants can make all the difference.”
Symptoms of vaginal dryness can have a real impact on all aspects of a woman’s life. Clothes may feel uncomfortable, basic exercise can be difficult and sex can be painful, all of which can have a massive effect on a woman’s self-confidence and relationships.
Sylk recently hosted Sylk Talks Menopause, an event in central London with Meg Mathews, menopause campaigner, and Dr Louise Newson. Guests were invited to share their experiences with the panel, which also included comedy duo Scummy Mummies, and their stories all shared a common theme; a fear or reluctance to talk about their symptoms because they were embarrassed or felt they wouldn’t be taken seriously. As a result, many of the women who shared their stories were quite simply at their wits end, feeling isolated and alone.
Smashing the taboo
Throughout the evening, despite the obvious pain many of these women were experiencing, there was lots of hope. Guests left feeling empowered, and more able to talk about their experiences, and the media has been full of menopause and women speaking out in recent months. Are we seeing a movement towards a more open, more accepting conversation? Perhaps vaginal dryness can finally have its moment; not as something to be laughed at or feel embarrassed about, but as a genuine condition that women don’t have to ‘just put up with’ anymore.
Content supplied by SYLK