Almost every woman has encountered some sort of vaginal issue at some point in their life. However, when these problems become ongoing or chronic, they can create a lot of discomfort and stress. Even though most women experience vaginal dryness as they reach menopause due to hormonal changes typical for this transition, it can affect any woman regardless of their age.
What is Vaginal Dryness, and How to Recognize It?
Vaginal dryness occurs when the vagina doesn’t produce enough natural lubrication and is not moisturized. However, dryness isn’t necessarily limited to the vaginal canal but can affect the vulva or the external female genital region. This can cause irritation and itching in the vaginal area. You may feel uncomfortable when putting on your underwear or keep getting urinary tract infections (UTIs).
You may also experience other symptoms of vaginal dryness, such as:
- Feeling sore around and in your vagina
- Experience pain and discomfort during intimacy
- Need to urinate more often than usual
- Discharge or slight bleeding from the vagina
- Bleeding in between your periods or after sex
These vaginal issues can make you feel embarrassed and uncomfortable, make you avoid sex and intimacy, and diminish your overall quality of life and well-being. So, it is essential to address your concerns with your GP to get the appropriate treatment, such as hormonal treatment with estrogen creams.
What Causes Vaginal Dryness
Several factors can contribute to the development of vaginal dryness. Here are some of the most common causes of vaginal dryness:
- Menopause and low estrogen levels
Low hormone levels associated with menopause are one of the most prevalent reasons for vaginal dryness. During and after menopause, a woman’s body produces less estrogen, a female sex hormone that is essential for regular reproductive activity and sexual characteristics. However, estrogen is also a hormone that helps maintain vaginal lubrication, thickness, and elasticity. As estrogen levels drop, vaginal tissues thins out, producing dryness and irritation of the vaginal walls, a condition known as vaginal atrophy.
However, menopause is not the only factor that can make you prone to vaginal dryness. Other causes may include:
- Breastfeeding and childbirth, as estrogen levels suddenly and dramatically drop during this period.
- Using contraceptive pills or antidepressants
- Using some cold and allergy medications (antibiotics and antihistamines)
- Cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy
- Undergoing hysterectomy (the surgical removal of the uterus and cervix)
- Underlying conditions such as autoimmune diseases (Sjögren syndrome)
- Using scented soaps and washes in and around your vagina
How to Treat Vaginal Dryness?
You can use vaginal moisturizers to treat vaginal dryness, apply water-based lubricants before sex to treat vaginal dryness. However, sometimes the conditions may not improve with one-size-fits-all solutions. When over-the-counter medications are not available or appropriate (due to your sensitivity, allergies, or other factors), individualized treatment with compounding medications might help.
What are Compounding Medications?
Compounding medications are drugs made to meet a specific patient’s needs. Pharmacists make tailored medications by combining several FDA-approved ingredients to meet the particular needs of a patient.
How Compounding Pharmacy Can Help Restore Vaginal Health
Compounding pharmacies have teams of well-trained professionals who prepare compounding medications in specially designed facilities to ensure maximum safety and effectiveness of the compound medications, such as vaginal creams to treat vaginal dryness.
These creams are prepared using bioidentical hormones that may help restore vaginal elasticity and moisture.
One study shows that the hormone cream Estriol is more effective than non-hormonal creams in treating severe symptoms of vaginal dryness. Estriol is a type of estrogen that the body naturally produces and is also present in medications like menopausal hormone therapy.
While the non-hormonal cream Vagisan shows effectiveness in treating mild and moderate vulvovaginal dryness, it must be administered vaginally numerous times per day in higher dosages. In compassion, the same efficacy can be achieved with a single daily application at lower doses of estriol.
While the study found that both hormone-free and Estriol cream helped women with mild or moderate discomfort, for women with severe discomfort from vaginal dryness, the Estriol cream worked significantly better. Additionally, some experts find that Estriol can help with urinary tract infections and incontinence in menopause.
Vaginal dryness is an uncomfortable but treatable condition. Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor or compounding pharmacist if vaginal dryness creates discomfort and prevents you from enjoying intimacy or going about your daily life. If hormonal changes cause vaginal dryness, you might successfully treat it with prescribed compounding medications in the form of bioidentical hormone replacements.