Vaginal dryness is one of the most commonly reported sexual health issues. It’s a particularly notable problem for post-menopausal women, but it’s not restricted to a specific age group.

Symptoms of dryness include – well, dryness. The vagina normally maintains a small amount of lubrication, which helps to protect the reproductive system from potentially harmful bacteria and fungi while supporting beneficial microorganisms. Vaginal lubrication also makes penetrative sex more comfortable, and it reduces the chances of skin damage and irritation.

Needless to say, you need a relatively normal amount of vaginal lubrication to stay healthy. While occasional “dry spells” are normal (and don’t worry, we won’t use that phrase again in the rest of this article), ongoing dryness can be a cause for concern.

Some of the most common causes of vaginal dryness include:

  • Menopause – By some estimates, 60 percent of menopausal women experience vaginal dryness at some point. This is due to the hormonal changes that naturally occur during menopause; many women also experience vaginal atrophy, which occurs when the lining of the vagina becomes thinner.
  • While this can cause unpleasant symptoms, it is completely natural and treatable; many physicians will recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to minimize symptoms.

  • Pregnancy and Reproductive Issues – Anything that affects your hormones could conceivably cause dryness. Some common health issues that fall into this category include breast cancer, Sjögren’s syndrome, and even normal allergies. Pregnant women commonly report vaginal lubrication problems – not surprising, given the drastic hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy.
  • Medications and Drugs – Birth control, antidepressants, allergy medications and many other prescription drugs can cause or contribute to vaginal dryness. Alcohol and tobacco use can also have a dehydrating effect on the body, causing temporary dryness.
  • Douching – Vaginal douching is not recommended for a number of reasons, but it’s primarily dangerous because it can cause severe dryness. The water in the douche removes natural lubrication, then evaporates, leaving you dry.
  • Relationship Problems and Stress – Lubrication issues are sometimes stress related. If your life has recently changed in a major way, there’s a good chance that your dryness isn’t a biological problem.
  • This is by no means a comprehensive list, and in many cases, a variety of factors can work together to cause lubrication issues. In any case, dryness that lasts for more than a few days can be seriously problematic – your vagina needs a healthy amount of lubrication in order to fight off infections, and dryness can cause an imbalance in vaginal flora.

    How Can I Treat Vaginal Dryness?

    Before taking any steps to treat dryness, you should speak with your physician. Changes in vaginal lubrication can indicate hormonal issues, and while dryness rarely indicates a serious health condition, it’s always a good idea to play it safe by getting a quick medical examination.

    You may be able to improve your natural lubrication through proper diet and exercise; this can reduce stress and improve the body’s ability to naturally process hormones. You can also alleviate many of the symptoms of vaginal dryness by choosing an appropriate personal lubricant.

    For personal lubrication, we recommend a water-based formula with a limited number of ingredients. Stick with a simple lubricant that will provide enough slickness to maintain vaginal health. Silicone lubricants are another good option, but avoid oil-based lubes, since they can significantly increase your risks of yeast infections.

    Extra lubrication will diminish the symptoms of vaginal dryness and make sex more comfortable, but it will not treat the condition. Remember to speak with your gynecologist to identify the source of the problem and to come up with an appropriate treatment plan.