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HEALTH : Vaginal Dryness Alternative Treatments

 


Vaginal dryness is an uncomfortable and often painful condition that occurs naturally during and after menopause. 

Alternative treatments for vaginal dryness

Vaginal dryness is an uncomfortable and often painful condition that occurs naturally during and after menopause. Menopause causes estrogen levels to decline, which causes the dryness.

Beyond menopause, certain medications and immune disorders can also cause vaginal dryness. Your healthcare provider can help you determine the right treatment for this condition, which may mean estrogen therapy or alternative methods, such as topical creams or dietary changes.

Vaginal dryness is very common in women going through menopause and for postmenopausal women as well. Here are some common causes:

Decreased estrogen

Estrogen is a hormone that’s essential to keeping vaginal tissues healthy. This hormone helps to maintain the vagina’s normal lubrication, acidity levels, and elasticity. Therefore, when estrogen levels decline, the lining of the vagina becomes thinner and less elastic, and the vagina produces less lubrication.

Estrogen levels can drop during and after menopause, during childbirth, and during periods of breastfeeding. You may also experience a loss of estrogen if you smoke cigarettes, have had your ovaries removed, have been treated for cancer, or have certain immune disorders.

Medications

Some medications cause dryness throughout the body, including inside the vagina. Cold and allergy medicines can have this effect, as can some antidepressants. Chemotherapy medications, such as those used to fight breast cancer, can also cause dryness.

Other causes

There are a few additional, but less common, reasons why you may experience vaginal dryness.

If you use a store-bought vaginal cleanser or douche, for instance, you’re disrupting the natural balance of chemicals in your vagina. This can cause inflammation and dryness.

A rare autoimmune disease called Sjögren’s syndrome, which causes dryness in the eyes and mouth, can also cause vaginal dryness.

While it may seem embarrassing to bring up the topic of vaginal dryness with your healthcare provider, it’s an important medical condition and should be addressed sooner rather than later. The dryness can make you uncomfortable and can hinder your relationship because it can make sex very painful.

As soon as dryness begins to interfere with your lifestyle, make an appointment with your healthcare provider.

At your appointment, your doctor will likely ask you several questions about your symptoms, some of which may seem unrelated. Make sure to inform your doctor of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you’re taking. Your doctor will also conduct a physical exam, which includes a pelvic exam.

During a pelvic exam, your doctor will press down on your abdomen while also inserting a gloved, lubricated finger into your vagina. This will help them detect any changes or abnormalities of the reproductive organs.

If your doctor is unable to pinpoint a cause for your dryness, or if you have other symptoms, you may need to undergo additional tests. You may need to have a Pap test, which is when your doctor collects cells from your cervix to test for infection and cancer. You may also have a sample from your vaginal tissues removed for testing.

Once your doctor knows the underlying cause of your dryness, you’ll be given treatment options. Although estrogen therapy is a common treatment, there are alternative options as well.

Hormone therapy may not be the right treatment for everyone. Some women aren’t good candidates for hormones because of a past history of disease, such as cancer.

Replacing natural estrogen can help with dryness, but can also trigger side effects. These include:

  • weight gain
  • fluid retention
  • nausea
  • headaches
  • breast tenderness
  • spotting of the skin
  • increased risk of stroke, blood clots, and breast and ovarian cancers

There are several alternatives to estrogen therapy that work very well and are often worth trying before using estrogen therapy. They include the following:

  • Water-based lubricants can help add moisture to the vaginal lining. Their effectiveness can last for hours at a time, making them a good alternative when dryness causes discomfort during sexual intercourse.
  • Vaginal moisturizers made specifically for addressing dryness can be used to relieve symptoms for up to three days with just one application.
  • Compounds in soybeans and soy products mimic the effects of estrogen. If you add soy to your diet, you may experience some relief from vaginal dryness.
  • Black cohosh is an herbal supplement that’s considered by some to relieve menopausal symptoms. There are no significant clinical studies that show its effectiveness.
  • Wild yam is another supplemental ingredient that promises to relieve dryness, but evidence from research is lacking.

Talk to your doctor before taking any kind of herbal medicine, as it may interfere with other medications, vitamins, or other herbs you’re currently taking.

In addition to these alternatives, it’s also a good idea to avoid vaginal cleansers or douches. These products will only make dryness worse. And while dryness can make sex uncomfortable, having intercourse more regularly actually promotes natural lubrication.

Vaginal dryness is an uncomfortable condition, but it can be managed and treated.


What Causes Vaginal Dryness?

Overview

A thin layer of moisture coats the walls of the vagina. This moisture provides an alkaline environment that sperm can survive in and travel in for sexual reproduction. These vaginal secretions also lubricate the vaginal wall, reducing friction during sexual intercourse.

As a woman ages, changes in hormone production can cause the vaginal walls to thin. Thinner walls mean fewer cells that secrete moisture. This can lead to vaginal dryness. Hormonal changes are the most common cause of vaginal dryness, but they aren’t the only cause.

Vaginal dryness can cause discomfort in the vaginal and pelvic regions. Vaginal dryness can also cause:

Vaginal dryness can be a source of embarrassment. This may prevent women from discussing symptoms with their physician or partner; however, the condition is a common occurrence that affects many women.

Falling estrogen levels are the chief cause of vaginal dryness. Women begin to produce less estrogen as they age. This leads to the end of menstruation during a time called perimenopause.

However, menopause isn’t the only condition that causes a decrease in estrogen production. Other causes include:

Some medications can also reduce secretions in the body. Douching may also cause dryness and irritation, as well as some creams and lotions that are applied to the vaginal area.

Vaginal dryness rarely indicates a serious medical condition. But seek help if the discomfort lasts beyond a few days or if you experience discomfort during sexual intercourse. If left untreated, vaginal dryness can cause sores or cracking in the vagina’s tissues.

If the condition is accompanied by severe vaginal bleeding, seek immediate medical attention.

During an exam, your doctor may examine the vaginal walls to look for lacerations or feel for thinning skin. They may also take a sample of vaginal discharge to test for the presence of harmful bacteria.

Additionally, hormone tests can determine if you are in perimenopause or menopause.

There are many over-the-counter lubricants that can be applied to the vaginal area to reduce dryness and discomfort. These lubricants and moisturizing creams can also change the vagina’s pH, reducing the likelihood of getting a UTI.

Women should choose a lubricant specifically intended for vaginal use. The lubricant should be water-based. They shouldn’t contain perfumes, herbal extracts, or artificial colors. These can cause irritation.

Lubricants such as petroleum jelly and mineral oil can damage latex condoms and diaphragms used for birth control.

In some instances, a healthcare provider will prescribe estrogen therapy in the form of a pill, cream, or ring, which release estrogen.

Creams and rings release estrogen directly to the tissues. Pills are more likely to be used when you have other uncomfortable menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes.

Because many products can irritate delicate vaginal skin, it’s important to seek evaluation and treatment advice at a physician’s office if the condition persists.

Refrain from using irritating products, such as douches. Avoid condoms that contain nonoyxnol-9, or N-9. They have a chemical that can cause vaginal dryness. It’s important to know that age- or reproductive-related changes to the vagina can’t be prevented.

Vaginal dryness can cause discomfort in the vaginal and pelvic regions. There are several causes for this condition.

Vaginal dryness is rarely a serious, and there are several treatments that can help treat it. There are also ways that you can help prevent it.

However, if you experience vaginal dryness that doesn’t go away, discuss it with your doctor so they can help you find the right treatment.


6 Vitamins That May Help with Vaginal Dryness

Vaginal dryness is a common problem that can affect women at any age.

However, it’s especially prevalent during menopause and is often caused by decreased estrogen levels.

Stress, anxiety, decreased blood flow, and dehydration are a few other factors that may contribute to decreased lubrication (1Trusted Source).

Fortunately, several supplements have been shown to help prevent vaginal dryness and enhance lubrication.

Here are 6 vitamins and supplements that may help increase female lubrication.

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that doubles as a disease-fighting antioxidant (2Trusted Source).

Some research suggests that it could also be beneficial for increasing lubrication and reducing vaginal dryness.

According to one study in 52 women, using a vitamin E suppository for 12 weeks was found to improve symptoms of vaginal atrophy, which is a condition characterized by the thinning and dryness of the vaginal walls (3Trusted Source4Trusted Source).

Other studies have found that suppositories containing vitamin E, along with other ingredients like hyaluronic acid, vitamin A, and vitamin D, could improve symptoms of vaginal atrophy in women undergoing cancer treatments (5Trusted Source6Trusted Source).

Despite these promising results, more research is needed to evaluate how vitamin E taken as an oral supplement rather than a suppository may affect female lubrication.

SUMMARY

Vitamin E suppositories have been shown to improve vaginal lubrication and improve symptoms of vaginal atrophy. However, more research is needed about the effects of taking vitamin E as an oral supplement.

Sometimes referred to as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is produced in the skin cells as a result of sun exposure (7Trusted Source).

Although vitamin D is most well known for its role in bone health, studies show that it could also help increase female lubrication.

In fact, one review of six studies concluded that both oral vitamin D supplements and suppositories could decrease dryness and improve vaginal health during menopause (8Trusted Source).

Another study in 44 postmenopausal women found that using a vitamin D suppository daily for 8 weeks significantly decreased vaginal dryness, compared with a control group (9Trusted Source).

What’s more, a study in 200 older women also showed that increased vitamin D levels in the blood were associated with improvements in vaginal moisture and consistency (10).

Sea buckthorn oil is a natural supplement derived from the leaves, seeds, and berries of the sea buckthorn plant.

It’s rich in essential fatty acids like linolic acid, which can strengthen the barrier of the skin and protect against water loss (11Trusted Source).

In one study in 116 postmenopausal women with vaginal dryness, consuming 3 grams of sea buckthorn oil daily for 3 months was linked to significant improvements in vaginal tissue integrity (12Trusted Source).

Women who used sea buckthorn oil also experienced improvements in vaginal elasticity and moisture than those who used a placebo, although this was not statistically significant (12Trusted Source).

Sea buckthorn oil also plays a key role in other aspects of skin health. It may help enhance wound healing, stimulate tissue regeneration, and increase the making of collagen — a structural protein that gives skin strength and elasticity (11Trusted Source).

Hyaluronic acid is a molecule produced by the body and is known for its role in skin health and aging (13Trusted Source).

Although it’s most commonly used in cosmetics, hyaluronic acid is also available over the counter in supplement form.

According to one older study, taking 5 mg of hyaluronic acid sodium salt for 8 weeks improved symptoms in 42 postmenopausal women with vaginal atrophy (14Trusted Source).

Another 2-month study in 28 young women showed a supplement containing a combination of hyaluronic acid and other ingredients like glucosamine sulfate, alpha-lipoic acid, and vitamins A, C, and E improved vaginal dryness (15).

Topical gels and suppositories containing hyaluronic acid have also been shown to increase vaginal lubrication when used alone or combined with other ingredients like vitamin A and vitamin E (5Trusted Source16Trusted Source).

However, more research is needed to determine how oral supplementation with hyaluronic acid alone may affect female lubrication.

SUMMARY

Although more studies are needed, hyaluronic acid may improve female lubrication when used in supplement, suppository, or gel form.

Fish oil is a supplement often used to increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of heart-healthy fat found primarily in fatty fish (17Trusted Source).

Some research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids could be beneficial for increasing female lubrication, especially during menopause.

One older study among 52 postmenopausal breast cancer survivors showed that taking 3.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acid daily for 6 months improved self-reported vaginal dryness (18).

Other studies have found that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids may increase estrogen levels, which may also help prevent vaginal dryness (4Trusted Source19Trusted Source20Trusted Source).

Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to increase skin hydration and reduce dryness in human and animal studies (21Trusted Source22Trusted Source).

Still, further studies are needed to determine how fish oil may affect female lubrication specifically.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a type of steroid hormone involved in estrogen production (23Trusted Source).

Because DHEA production naturally declines as you get older, it’s sometimes used as a supplement to help balance hormone levels and alleviate symptoms associated with menopause (23Trusted Source).

Multiple studies have also found that vaginal administration of DHEA could significantly improve female lubrication, reduce dryness, and increase levels of estrogen in postmenopausal women (24Trusted Source25Trusted Source26Trusted Source).

While research on the effectiveness of oral DHEA supplements is still minimal, some older studies have found that it could increase estrogen levels and enhance sexual function (27Trusted Source28Trusted Source).

Vaginal dryness can affect women at any age, but it is especially common during menopause.

Studies suggest that supplements like vitamin E, vitamin D, sea buckthorn oil, hyaluronic acid, fish oil, and DHEA could help increase vaginal lubrication.

That said, be sure to talk with your healthcare professional before adding any supplements to your routine, especially if you have any other underlying conditions or are taking medications.


Source : Healthline

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