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Causes of Vaginal Dryness

written by: BStone • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 2/26/2011

Vaginal dryness is a common symptom of perimenopause, but it can occur at different times of a woman's life as well. Learn about the causes of vaginal dryness.

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    Natural Lubrication

    When hormone levels are balanced and the body is well hydrated and nourished, the vaginal walls are naturally lubricated. A thin layer of clear fluid keeps the vagina moist, and with sexual arousal, glands on either side of the vulva secrete lubricating fluids. Without this lubrication, sexual intercourse can be very painful. If the dryness is intense, the vagina may feel dry, irritated and uncomfortable. When does this natural lubrication become inhibited? What are the causes of vaginal dryness?

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    The Estrogen Factor

    When levels of estrogen drop during perimenopause, menopause, after childbirth, and during breast feeding, vaginal dryness is a common side effect. Estrogen helps the vagina remain moist and lubricated and supports thick, elastic tissue. Lower levels can inhibit natural, healthy lubrication.

    While the natural decline of estrogen production that occurs in the years before menopause will often directly cause dryness, and temporary problems may happen as hormones change after giving birth and during breast feeding, there are other factors that can cause lower estrogen, thereby leading to vaginal dryness. Conditions such as anorexia, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and problems with the glandular system can cause a hormonal imbalance. So too can lifestyle factors, such as a poor diet and tobacco use.

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    Stress and the Mind

    Psychological factors can also contribute to vaginal dryness. Simply having too much stress in life can certainly effect the body's inner balance, which can affect many things, including the production of hormones. Stress, emotional disturbances, and depression can also lead to lowered libido. If you are not interested in sex mentally, then the body is likely to follow suit.

    Dealing with whatever psychological issues may be affecting sexual interest may be important for addressing vaginal dryness. Also, it is important to give the body time to become aroused. Plenty of time for foreplay and for mentally being interested in your partner and in having sex may help as well. Mature women may naturally require more time to become aroused. Both mental and physical stimulation can help in many cases of vaginal dryness, although addressing overall well-being and hormone production is important as well.

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    Treating Vaginal Dryness

    Tofu Is Good for Balancing Hormones Having an idea of the possible causes of vagina dryness you can have a better idea of how this condition can be treated. Certainly talk to your doctor, especially if the dryness persists or if there are other symptoms such as irritation. Addressing this issue may be as simple as dealing with emotions or stress and eating a more nutrient-rich diet and drinking plenty of water. There are many natural ways to provide lubrication. Your doctor can also recommend estrogen therapy or lubricants.

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    References

    "Symptoms — vaginal dryness." (Women to Women) <http://www.womentowomen.com/understandyourbody/symptoms/vaginaldryness.aspx>

    Holmes, Marcy, NP. "Vaginal Dryness — you have options." (Women to Women) <http://www.womentowomen.com/menopause/vaginaldryness.aspx>

    Web MD <http://women.webmd.com/vaginal-dryness-causes-moisturizing-treatments>

    photo by Joy

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