Vaginal dryness can make having sex uncomfortable, embarrassing, and even painful for a woman. It's not uncommon for women over 40 to experience vaginal dryness, but it can occur in women of any age. Severe dryness is usually accompanied by inflammation and is referred to as vaginal atrophy.
There are a variety of reasons for vaginal dryness, including:
- Hormonal imbalance
- Immune issues
Estrogen levels determine the amount of vaginal fluids a woman secretes, which are at their highest levels when a woman is aroused. If a woman is experiencing consistent and severe dryness symptoms, she should visit a doctor. For women who have minimum to moderate issues with vaginal dryness, there are a few over-the-counter options to try.
One of the most common solutions is lubricants. Be advised that if you decide to use lubricants, oil-based or petroleum-based options reduce the effectiveness of condoms. The oil can cause condoms to break. If you aren’t in a relationship with someone you trust and who has been tested, use condoms that come with lubrication.
Another solution is spending extra time engaging in foreplay.
To assist with vaginal dryness, you can also:
Stop smoking: The Smoke Free Initiative reports that smoking can reduce estrogen levels in women. Estrogen is directly linked to natural lubrication of the vagina. If estrogen levels decrease, so will vaginal fluids.
Drink more water: Sixty percent of the human body is water. Mucus in the body is composed of inorganic salts, skin cells, proteins, but most importantly water. Drinking more water can assist in producing vaginal secretions.
Don’t douche: A study reported by WomensHealth.Gov reported that one out of four women douche, even though it’s not recommended by doctors. Douching can actually do more harm than good. It can cause vaginal dryness and disrupt the natural pH balance of the vagina, increasing “bad” bacteria, which can lead to the decrease of vaginal secretions and an increase in yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
Just use water: First and foremost, the vagina naturally cleans itself. WomenHealth.gov states the mucous in the vagina helps rid it of bacteria, semen, and blood. Women should use warm water to clean in and around the vagina. Some may choose to use a mild soap, but that can exacerbate existing issues and is not recommended.
If adding these suggestions to your vagina health regimen doesn't help, it might be time to make an appointment with your gynecologist. Your doctor will determine whether or not the issue requires further treatment.
Alisha Bridges has battled with severe psoriasis for over 20 years and is the face behind Being Me in My Own Skin, a blog which highlights her life with psoriasis. Her goals are to create empathy and compassion for those who are least understood, through transparency of self, patient advocacy, and healthcare. She is currently a post-bach student at Georgia State University pursuing a career as a Physician's Assistance—her passions are dermatology and sexual health. Alisha also shares her passion as a Social Ambassador of the Psoriasis HealthCentral Facebook page where she shares timely tips, stories and insights on living with psoriasis. You can also find Alisha on Twitter.