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Treating vaginal dryness

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read

Vaginal dryness is a common problem that many women have at some point in their lives. It can affect women of all ages, but it is far more common in women who are post-menopausal. It affects around 2 in 10 women under the age of 50.

The symptoms of vaginal dryness can cause you to feel sore or itchy in and around your vagina. You may also feel pain or discomfort during sex and may need to pee more often than usual. Many of the symptoms of vaginal dryness can also be mistaken for other common infections, such as thrush and urinary tract infections (UTIs). Vaginal dryness can also increase your risk of recurrent UTIs.

Should anyone avoid using over the counter vaginal dryness treatment?

If the vaginal dryness has been present for a few weeks or is affecting your daily life, even after a trial of over-the-counter treatment, then it would be worth a visit to your doctor. If you are experiencing any symptoms that may not fit with vaginal dryness, such as unusual discharge or irregular bleeding from your vagina (in between your periods or after sex), then it would also be worth a visit to see your doctor to discuss in more detail.

If your doctor thinks that vaginal dryness is related to hormonal changes, they may discuss the option of prescribed treatments, as some of the over-the-counter medicines would be less likely to help.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

There are three main types of treatments for vaginal dryness. Here, we will go through the options and discuss which would be the most suitable for you.

  1. The first type of products are over-the-counter vaginal moisturizers, which are applied every few days to moisten and keep vaginal tissues healthy. They are long-lasting and help alleviate the discomfort associated with vaginal dryness. They can be suitable for people who experience discomfort intermittently or throughout the day.
  2. The second type of product are vaginal lubricants, which are to be applied during sexual activity to alleviate any discomfort during intercourse. This over-the-counter option is suitable for people who only experience discomfort during intercourse.
  3. The final option is a prescription-only medicine and therefore requires speaking to your doctor about it. This is a low-dose vaginal hormonal (estrogen) cream, tablet, or ring, to treat vaginal tissues. It is only suitable for post-menopausal women who are experiencing reduced estrogen. Systemic hormone therapy pills/patches can be used with a low-dose vaginal estrogen treatment if vaginal dryness and related symptoms persist.

When to see your doctor?

As we discussed earlier, if you have unusual symptoms or aren't clear on the cause – it would be best to get further advice. If the symptoms are severe and affecting your life (such as impacting your sex life, relationships, or ability to do normal activities of daily living), then it would be best to discuss further with your doctor.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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