According to recent figures from the British Menopause Society, one in three women experience vaginal dryness during menopause. Alongside vaginal itching and irritation, these common symptoms can prove challenging to manage.
The good news is these challenges don’t need to define your menopause journey. Here, we look at what vaginal dryness is, what causes the problem, and how you can treat it.
What is vaginal dryness?
Vaginal dryness can show up in different ways. Some women might notice it only occurs during intimate moments, while others may experience continuous discomfort throughout the day. Along with dryness, you may experience a range of other sensations, such as a feeling of ‘prickliness,’ itchiness, irritation, and even pain.
This condition can increase your susceptibility to yeast infections (also known as thrush). This happens because the delicate tissues of the vagina lose their natural defences due to the dryness. You might notice a change in your vaginal discharge as well, which could either decrease or increase.
The risk of developing bacterial vaginosis can also increase when you have vaginal dryness. It occurs when there’s an imbalance in the usual bacteria that live in the vagina. In some cases, if there’s an increase in vaginal discharge, it might lead to more irritation.
The causes of vaginal dryness
The hormone known as oestrogen plays a significant role in maintaining the lubrication, health, and elasticity of our tissues. However, during perimenopause and menopause, levels of this crucial hormone drop, leading to delicate and dry tissues.
This hormonal shift can also result in loss of elasticity in the vagina and vulva, potentially making intimate moments painful. The vagina might also become shorter and lose its natural folds, undergoing changes medically termed as urogenital atrophy.
Treating vaginal dryness
Menopausal changes such as vaginal dryness, itching, and irritation are common but can be managed with a variety of solutions. Lubricants, especially oil, water-based or silicone-based, can help during intimate moments.
For daily relief, over-the-counter vaginal moisturisers and soap-free washes are beneficial. Remember to avoid any products with perfumes or added features like heating or tingling, as these might cause more discomfort.
If over-the-counter treatments don’t provide enough relief, medical options are available. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) might help some women, but for others, supplementary vaginal oestrogen, prescribed by your doctor, can be beneficial. Applying oestrogen directly to the vagina exposes your body to only a tiny amount, minimising risk while alleviating symptoms. Remember, everyone is unique, so what works best will depend on your personal circumstances and symptoms.
If you are experiencing vaginal dryness or any other concerning symptoms, schedule a menopause health check with SureScan today.