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Vaginal dryness

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Vaginal dryness is when your vagina feels sore, itchy, or painful. This can cause discomfort when having sex or passing urine. It’s a common problem and can be caused by a number of conditions, medications, and lifestyle factors. It’s not often a symptom of serious concern, and there are several ways to prevent, manage and treat the symptoms.

What causes vaginal dryness?

The hormone estrogen helps keep the lining of the vagina moist and supple. Vaginal dryness is commonly affected by things that change or affect your hormone levels, such as the contraceptive pill, breastfeeding, menopause, or having your womb removed (hysterectomy). Medical conditions like Sjogren's syndrome can also cause it.

Medications, including antidepressants and chemotherapy, can cause vaginal dryness. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, exercising excessively, stress, and using perfumed or scented soaps or washes around the vagina can add to the dryness.

How can I manage vaginal dryness myself?

It is best to stop smoking, avoid stress and avoid perfumed or scented products in and around the vagina. Although tempting to ease discomfort, oil-based products like Vaseline or petroleum jelly inside the vagina carry the risk of infection and can prevent condoms from working properly.

You can use products specifically made for the vagina, like vaginal moisturizers, to help improve moisture levels. Water-based lubricants also help improve your symptoms during sex to make it more enjoyable.

When should I see my doctor?

If methods you have tried at home are not working, or the symptoms are really affecting you, if you have bleeding from the vagina or bleeding after sex, then book an appointment with your doctor.

What can my doctor do?

If your symptoms are caused by low estrogen levels, as in menopause, your doctor may suggest estrogen replacement cream. This can be applied directly to the vagina and surrounding genital area to help improve your symptoms. Depending on your preference, this also comes in the form of a small flexible ring, an applicator like a small tampon, and a cream. Topical estrogen is not recommended if you have breast or endometrial cancer, are pregnant, are breastfeeding, or have unexplained vaginal bleeding.

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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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