Vaginal dryness and treatments

Women can have vaginal dryness (also known as vaginal atrophy) can occur at any point in a woman’s life. It has several causes and is related to hormonal changes affecting moisture levels within the body including the vaginal area. Vaginal dryness has been found to affect over half of 51-60 year olds, it often occurs around the time of the menopause due to changing levels of Oestrogen.

An effective treatment for vaginal dryness is hormone therapy. This involves replacing the Oestrogen with:

  • Systemic Oestrogen – this hormone therapy works to replace natural oestrogen throughout the whole body, through a tablet, patch or gel.
  • Local Oestrogen – if vaginal dryness is your only symptom- oestrogen can be delivered through a cream, tablet or a ring placed directly into the vagina. Oestrogen is then only absorbed in the genital area.

Your General Practitioner (GP) will be able to advise you on whether these treatments may be suitable for you.

A review of studies (2006) found that all methods of delivering oestrogen relieved the symptoms of vaginal dryness. The study however concluded that some creams may cause adverse effects so for this reason, a proportion of women preferred vaginal rings. When taking systemic oestrogen, side effects such as bleeding and breast tenderness was found to occur in some women.

If you suffer with any adverse effects from medication or are in pain associated with vaginal dryness, always seek advice from your GP. Other conditions and disorders can also cause vaginal dryness so a diagnosis from a GP will help identify the cause and help you get treated accordingly.

Ways of treating vaginal atrophy may include:

  • Vaginal lubricants –vaginal lubricants are a short-term remedy that may be useful, particularly when participating in sexual activities. You can choose from water, silicone or oil based products; however each may affect your body differently. Water based products have been found to be less likely to cause an allergic reaction when compared to silicone based products. Be wary of using an oil based lubricant with a condom as they may damage the condom, causing it to break more easily. Lubricants are available to buy from the chemist, supermarkets or online.
  • Vaginal moisturisers – vaginal moisturisers work for several days. Applying them regularly should make the vagina and surrounding tissues more pliable/stronger.
  • Perform pelvic floor exercises – exercises such as the kegel exercise are a popular method for strengthening muscle tone in the vaginal area.
  • Washing the genital area- try to wash with lukewarm water or a soap free cleanser. Intimate washing with soap, bath oils and shower gels can aggravate dryness so using products with perfumes in should be avoided.
  • Eating a balanced diet- this is likely to contribute to a feeling of wellbeing. In addition it may be advisable to avoid things that dry out bodily tissues such caffeine and alcohol.
  • Communication with your partner is also highly recommended.

Your GP or nurse at your doctor’s surgery are there for you to talk to over personal menopausal symptoms such as vaginal dryness.

Sources used in writing this article are available on request

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Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. The content however should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands or treatments.

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 11 August 2014
Next review: 11 August 2017