Every woman will typically go through menopause, and vaginal dryness is a common symptom of that may be linked to reduced female hormone levels. Menopause and vaginal dryness, among other symptoms, mark the end of reproductive years and, without eggs to mature and release, female hormones are no longer considered necessary by the body. Natural menopause is often characterized by a gradual reduction in estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels, which may be related to the occurrence of vaginal dryness in menopausal women.
Vaginal atrophy is another term for vaginal dryness. Between the ages of 40 and 65, typically the years when hormone levels are gradually reducing, vaginal atrophy is often noticed. At the mouth of the uterus are membranes that produce moisture for the vagina. The amount of moisture produced is linked to estrogen levels. When estrogen levels are reduced naturally, moisture may also lessen.
Mucous, also produced near the uterus, is also regulated by estrogen. These mucous membranes are often referred to as the vaginal epithelium by a gynecologist or other doctor. As a result of reduced moisture and mucous, walls of the vagina may thin and dry out. There are many symptoms of menopause, and vaginal dryness is not the only one commonly associated with a reduction in estrogen levels.
When estrogen levels reduce during menopause, acidity levels in the vagina may also fall. This can cause a basic, or non-acid environment. Acid in the vagina tends to fight off microorganisms that cause problems, like yeast infections. Urinary tract infections may also be a concern after menopause.
Symptoms of menopause and vaginal dryness may include itchy skin around or inside the vagina, and pain during intercourse. Over-the-counter personal lubricants may be used to replenish moisture and reduce friction during sex. If itching is related to dry skin, personal lubricants may help remedy this symptom as well.
Another potential home treatment for vaginal dryness is intercourse itself. During sex, mucous membranes, typically regulated by estrogen levels, produce mucous despite the lack of estrogen. More intercourse could mean less vaginal dryness. The opposite may also be true, as less sex could mean more vaginal dryness and increased pain during intercourse.
Estrogen therapy, hormone replacement therapy, or estrogen creams can be prescribed by a physician if symptoms of menopause and vaginal dryness continue. Estrogen therapy is typically taken once a day and can return estrogen levels to pre-menopause levels. Estrogen therapy taken after menopause will not typically restore ability to conceive children, however.
Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is available in several modes. Pills, patches, and creams are three of the more common ways of using ERT or HRT. If pre-menopause estrogen levels were not measured with blood tests, it could take several tries before a doctor can prescribe the right amount of ERT or HRT to alleviate symptoms of menopause and vaginal dryness.