Vaginal dryness can be problem for women at all ages, but it is more common in older women, particularly after menopause. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to relieve vaginal dryness.
What is vaginal dryness?
Vaginal dryness is when the normal moisture is missing from the vagina. It is a common problem that causes burning, itching, pain or lack of lubrication during sex.
Any woman can be affected by vaginal dryness, although it is most common in women who have experienced the menopause. It affects over half of women aged after menopause.
Around a quarter of women in this age group experience dryness during sex and some women experience pain. If you are in pain, talk to your doctor about what can be done to help, including possible medicines you can take.
What causes vaginal dryness?
The most common cause of vaginal dryness is reduced levels of oestrogen, the female hormone that maintains normal vaginal lubrication, tissue elasticity and acidity.
Many women find vaginal dryness a problem after menopause as a result of the lack of oestrogen in their bodies. As a result of this, the vagina loses elasticity and the lining becomes thinner and dryer. Further irritation can also occur as the vagina becomes less acidic and loses some of the bacteria used to fight against infections.
There are a number of other causes of vaginal dryness. These include:
- not enough foreplay or arousal
- use of hygiene products, such as feminine sprays and harsh soaps
- use of swimming pool and hot tub chemicals
- use of certain douching
- breastfeeding, as a result of low oestrogen levels
- some types of contraception
- cancer treatment
- surgery to remove the ovaries
- some medicines such as allergy treatments or antidepressants
- a skin condition in the genital area
How is vaginal dryness treated?
Many women are reluctant to talk to their doctor about vaginal dryness but there are treatments that can help.
Lubricants and vaginal moisturisers can ease the symptoms of a dry vagina. Water-based lubricants can be used for intercourse (non-water based lubricants can damage condoms). You can buy these products at your local pharmacy or supermarket and you do not need a prescription.
If you are going through menopause, hormonal treatments, such as vaginal oestrogen creams and tablets can also help. Talk to your doctor about the options.
Not sure what to do next?
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Last reviewed: October 2021