Women’s sexuality can sometimes be affected by difficulties such as vaginal dryness. Let’s talk about an all too often taboo subject.
Whether you’re a man or a woman, sexuality should be a source of enjoyment, fulfillment and an opportunity to experience satisfying intimacy. For some women affected by a vaginal health problem, intercourse may be more difficult.
Symbolically speaking, the vagina can be depicted as an ecosystem. It is a dynamic system with a tenuous balance. This ecosystem consists of various micro-organisms (especially fungus and bacteria that are non-harmful initially) which coexist in perfect harmony. To maintain this harmony, the vagina must be well-hydrated and have appropriate pH levels.
Therefore, the surface of the vaginal mucosa consists of what we might call a fragile biofilm. When it is damaged, women may experience certain problems such as vaginal dryness, vaginal atrophy and sometimes even the presence of lesions and fissures.
Causes of vaginal dryness
Vaginal dryness can manifest itself at different times in a woman’s life and can be explained by the presence of various factors, such as:
- advanced age
- illness (diabetes, cancer, depression, etc.)
- taking certain drugs (antidepressants, contraceptives, anti-acne medication, etc.)
- use of certain products (soaps, feminine deodorants, vaginal douches, etc.)
- chemotherapy or radiation therapy
- psychological difficulties
- stress or fatigue
- a previous sexual trauma
During menopause, it is estimated that upwards of 50% of women will experience vaginal dryness. This problem ranks second in terms of the most common symptoms after hot flashes. It occurs because there is a decrease in hormonal production (oestrogen) prior to or following menopause. In addition to drying out, the vaginal mucosa becomes thinner—this is called vaginal atrophy.
Symptoms and complications of vaginal dryness and vaginal atrophy
Vaginal dryness and vaginal atrophy may cause various symptoms, such as:
- burning sensation or discomfort of the vulva or vagina
- feeling of irritation or itching
- discomfort or pain during intercourse
- unusual appearance of or increased vaginal discharge
- abnormal bleeding
- urinary problems
Additionally, suffering from these symptoms may lead to complications or other difficulties, such as:
- lesions or fissures
- infection, most often caused by fungus or bacteria
- decreased sex drive
- loss of interest in intercourse
- difficulty experiencing pleasure or reaching orgasm
- performance anxiety
- lower self-esteem
Solutions for vaginal dryness
To offset vaginal dryness or vaginal atrophy, it is necessary to first understand their causes. You can then try to eliminate them whenever possible, but this isn’t always the case. Preventive measures or treatments can greatly vary. Here are a few:
- Psychotherapy. When a sexual problem is attributable to psychological factors, including a previous sexual trauma, it may be beneficial to consult a psychologist or a sexual health specialist (sexologist).
- Hormone therapy. If vaginal dryness is caused by menopause, taking hormone supplements may be considered (estrogen therapy). These supplements can be administered by mouth, transdermally (gel, cream or a patch), or topically (vaginal cream, tablet, or ring). Additional information can be obtained from a doctor or pharmacist, as hormone therapy isn’t suitable for all women. When the problem is caused by a contraceptive, it may be necessary to change drug. Pharmacists are always there to provide information and advice about various types of hormone medication.
- Vaginal lubricants. When vaginal dryness causes discomfort or pain during intercourse, it may be beneficial to use a vaginal lubricant. This product facilitates intercourse and makes it more comfortable. Ask your pharmacist for information, since there are products available at the pharmacy.
- Vaginal moisturizers. These products are also available at the pharmacy without a prescription. Application of a hormone-free vaginal moisturizer may help restore vaginal moisture and improve vaginal wall suppleness, and comfort. Some moisturizers have a duration of action of up to three days. Your pharmacist can give you information about them.
- Smoke cessation. Indeed, smoking may contribute to vaginal dryness. Quitting smoking helps restore the vagina’s ecosystem, which is crucial to vaginal health.
Don’t hesitate to speak to your pharmacist if you have any questions related to women’s health.
This health tip is presented in collaboration with: