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Vaginal dryness

Medically reviewed on January 11, 2018

Definition

Vaginal dryness may be a problem for women at any age, although it occurs more frequently in older women, particularly after menopause.

Causes

Reduced estrogen levels are the main cause of vaginal dryness. Estrogen, a female hormone, helps keep vaginal tissue healthy by maintaining normal vaginal lubrication, tissue elasticity and acidity. Other causes of vaginal dryness include certain medical conditions or hygiene practices.

Estrogen levels can fall for a number of reasons:

  • Breast-feeding
  • Childbirth
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Effects on your ovaries from cancer therapy
  • Immune disorders
  • Menopause
  • Perimenopause (the transition time before menopause)
  • Oophorectomy (ovary removal surgery)
  • Use of allergy and cold medications or anti-estrogen medications

Other causes of vaginal dryness include:

  • Douching
  • Sjogren's syndrome

When to see a doctor

Vaginal dryness affects many women, although they frequently don't bring up the topic with their doctors.

If vaginal dryness affects your lifestyle, in particular your sex life and relationship with your partner, consider making an appointment with your doctor. Living with uncomfortable vaginal dryness doesn't have to be part of getting older.

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