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)
- Effects on your ovaries from cancer therapy, including radiation therapy, hormone therapy and chemotherapy
- Surgical removal of your ovaries
- Immune disorders
- Cigarette smoking
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.
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.
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
- Bachmann G, et al. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of vaginal atrophy. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Oct. 31, 2012.
- Casper RF. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of menopause. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Oct. 31, 2012.
- The North American Menopause Society. The 2012 hormone therapy position statement of The North American Menopause Society. Menopause. 2012;19:257.
- Bachmann G, et al. Treatment of vaginal atrophy. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Oct. 31, 2012.
- Fox R, et al. Treatment of dry mouth and other non-ocular symptoms of Sjogren's syndrome. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Oct. 31, 2012.
- Frequently asked questions. Women's health FAQ072. Your sexual health. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq072.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20121214T1150341035. Accessed Oct. 31, 2012.
- MenoNote: Vaginal dryness. The North American Menopause Society. http://www.menopause.org/publications/educational-materials-for-women/menonotes. Accessed Oct. 31, 2012.
- Vaginal and vulvar comfort: Lubricants, moisturizers, and low-dose vaginal estrogen. The North American Menopause Society. http://www.menopause.org/for-women/-em-sexual-health-menopause-em-online/effective-treatments-for-sexual-problems/vaginal-and-vulvar-comfort-lubricants-moisturizers-and-low-dose-vaginal-estrogen. Accessed Oct. 31, 2012.
- Cano A, et al. The therapeutic effect of a new ultra low concentration estriol gel formulation (0.005% estriol vaginal gel) on symptoms and signs of postmenopausal vaginal atrophy: Results from a pivotal phase III study. Menopause. 2012;19:1130.
- Frequently asked questions. Gynecologic problems FAQ028. Vaginitis. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq028.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20121214T1156584804. Accessed Oct. 31, 2012.
- Marnach ML (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 6, 2012.
- Gallenberg MM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 3, 2012.
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