Conditions that contribute to vaginal dryness include those below.

Decreased estrogen levels

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. These factors create a natural defense against vaginal and urinary tract infections. But when your estrogen levels decrease, so does this natural defense, leading to a thinner, less elastic and more fragile vaginal lining and an increased risk of urinary tract infection.

Estrogen levels can fall for a number of reasons:

  • Menopause or the transition time before menopause (perimenopause)
  • Childbirth
  • Breast-feeding
  • Effects on your ovaries from cancer therapy, including radiation therapy, hormone therapy and chemotherapy
  • Surgical removal of your ovaries
  • Immune disorders
  • Cigarette smoking

Medications

Some allergy and cold medications contain decongestants that can decrease the moisture in many parts of your body, including your vagina. Anti-estrogen medications, such as those used to treat breast cancer, also can result in vaginal dryness.

Sjogren's syndrome

In an autoimmune disease called Sjogren's (SHOW-grins) syndrome, your immune system attacks healthy tissue. In addition to causing dry eyes and dry mouth, Sjogren's syndrome can also cause vaginal dryness.

Douching

The process of cleansing your vagina with a liquid preparation (douching) disrupts the normal chemical balance in your vagina and can cause inflammation (vaginitis). This may cause your vagina to feel dry or irritated.

Dec. 21, 2012