• It is characterised by a lack of lubrication in the vaginal area, which can cause discomfort, itching, burning, and pain during sexual intercourse
• It is important to talk to your healthcare provider, who can help determine the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment options
At some point in a woman’s life, she may suffer from vaginal dryness. It is a common condition that comes particularly during and after menopause.
Vaginal dryness is lack of lubrication in the vaginal area. The dryness makes one uncomfortable, itchy or burning, and definitely comes with pain during sex.
Gynaecologist Wasike Wamalwa said menopause is one among many reasons for this condition.
He said because a lot of hormonal change goes on in a woman’s body during menopause, she is likely to suffer vaginal dryness.
That hormonal change is the most common cause of vaginal dryness.
“During menopause, a woman's body produces less oestrogen, which can lead to a thinning and drying of the vaginal tissue,” he said.
He said this can cause discomfort and pain during sexual intercourse.
Wamalwa said vaginal dryness could also come about as a side effect of certain medications, such as antihistamines, antidepressants and chemotherapy drugs.
“These medications can interfere with the body's natural lubrication process, leading to dryness and discomfort,” Wamalwa said.
Breastfeeding, too, can cause one’s vagina to lose its lubrication.
He said women who are breastfeeding may experience vaginal dryness due to a decrease in oestrogen levels.
“Breastfeeding actually suppresses ovulation, which can cause a decrease in oestrogen production,” he said.
Stress levels in women can also contribute to loss of lubrication.
When a woman is stressed, “her body produces more cortisol, which can interfere with the production of oestrogen. This can lead to a lack of lubrication in the vaginal area,” Wamalwa said.
Additionally, there are certain hygiene products, such as douches, scented soaps and perfumes, which can cause vaginal dryness.
“These products can disrupt the natural pH balance of the vagina, leading to dryness and discomfort,” he said.
Wamalwa said radiation therapy also has the effect of causing one to have dry vaginal walls. It affects women who have undergone therapy for cancer treatment.
He explained that radiation has the effect of damaging the moisture-producing glands in the vaginal area.
“Also health conditions such as diabetes can cause one to suffer from vaginal dryness,” he said.
For diabetics, high blood sugar levels can interfere with the body's natural lubrication process, leading to dryness and discomfort.
Wamalwa also spoke of an autoimmune disorder called Sjogren's syndrome. He said it is not very common but can cause dryness in the eyes, mouth and vagina.
Basically, it is the body attacking its own moisture-producing glands, leading to a lack of lubrication in different parts of the body.
Further, a surgery where one’s ovaries are removed (hysterectomy or oophorectomy) will automatically lead to vaginal dryness.
He said removal of ovaries will cause a decrease in oestrogen production.
“Remember a woman’s ovaries produce her hormones,” he said.
Wamalwa advised that if one is experiencing vaginal dryness, they should talk to a healthcare provider, who can help determine the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment options.