Does it burn or itch in your vaginal area? Does it pain or burn in your vaginal area during sexual intercourse? If it does, then it may be a case of vaginal dryness, medically known as atrophic vaginitis, which is mainly due to decreased levels of estrogen in females due to various reasons.
You need not really worry much about the condition as it is really a simple problem provided it is treated under proper medical guidance.
Consult Your Doctor
Before trying out any treatment yourself, consult your gynecologist as the vagina is a sensitive area and not all over-the-counter medications or self treatment may be effective and some may even cause harm. Application of lotions or douches, bubble baths, and usage of perfumed soaps on the affected area should not be done or done under proper medical supervision. However, some of the over-the-counter vaginal moisturizers are safe to use without prescription. Their effects are temporary mostly lasting for a day.
Here are certain steps that doctor is likely to follow in treating vaginal dryness :
Study Your Health History
Your gynecologist will study your health history to note the duration for which you were suffering with the issue and the effects of home treatments like douching and unprescribed medications which you may have tried out as a firsthand treatment. If they are found to have nil or ill effects on you, you will be advised to stop them immediately.
Do Tests to Eliminate Other Causes of Vaginal Discomfiture
Infection of the urinary tract and potential danger of cervical cancer can also be reasons of vaginal dryness or discomfiture. Your doctor will examine your pelvic region and do some tests (like pap test for cancer detection) to rule out these causes.
A wet prep test is done to detect any vaginal infection that does not involve the urinary tract. Your hormonal levels and their activity will indicate your menopausal status.
Establish The Cause of Vaginal Dryness
Though vaginal dryness is largely caused by inadequate levels of estrogens in the body, tests should be done to find out if other causal factors like infection, presence of irritants, usage of some medications are also responsible for the condition in you. After establishing the cause of your vaginal dryness you may be treated as suggested below:
Usage of Lubricants/ Vaginal Moisturizers
Simple cases of vaginal dryness are treated with the usage of vaginal moisturizers like Lubrin or Replens.Lubrin, a glycerine based vaginal insert, is prescribed in cases of menopausal atrophic vaginitis and it stimulates production of natural vaginal lubricants. This colorless, odorless, non-staining and water soluble lubricant does not contain any spermicidal chemicals and therefore safely used during sexual intercourse. Its effect is long lasting.
Replens is another fast acting vaginal moisturizer that gives instant relief. This FDA and doctor recommended lubricant also regenerates dry and compacted cells as it contains a bioadhesive that sticks to those cells and provides them moisture. This rejuvenating vaginal moisturizer provides a long lasting effect.
Water soluble vaginal lubricants are recommended over oil-based ones such as petroleum jelly or mineral oil as the lateral may cause infections in you. They are also known to spoil sexual pleasure when using rubber diaphragms or condoms.
Topical Estrogen Treatment
Estrogen is introduced in the vagina in different forms as discussed further.
As a Cream
The cream is applied to the vagina by using an applicator. Estrace and Premarin are a couple of vaginal creams that are used by women these days for the purpose. Though these creams are applied externally, they are absorbed by the body in small quantities and do affect the estrogen level in the body. You should only apply the prescribed quantity of these creams.
Estrace is administered daily for the first 3-4 weeks and then once or twice a week. Estrace is not suitable for usage by all people. You should inform your doctor if you are pregnant, or suffered from certain health conditions like breast cancer, heart attack, kidney disease, liver disease, gall bladder disease, hypothyroidism, asthma, calcium shortage, epilepsy, hysterectomy, lupus, genetic background of blood clotting, porphyria and endometriosis. It is recommended to furnish your complete medical history to your doctor even if you are suffering from conditions which are not mentioned in the list above. You should also inform your doctor if you are using any medications.
Estrace may increase the risk of ovarian, breast or uterine cancer in people using it for a prolonged period of time. Therefore, you need to consult your doctor regarding these potential dangers and take preventive measures. If you happen to miss out on a dose of this medicine do not take the compensatory dosage along with the next scheduled dosage as it will result in poisoning which may be hazardous. In cases of accidental overdose, you should rush to your nearest medical help or call up emergency helpline – 1-800-222-1222. Remember to take the next dose and set a reminder on your mobile phone or computer to remind you about your dosages in future.
Always go by the dosage exactly prescribed for you and never more than that. Smokers are advised to quit smoking when on Estrace. Estrace causes a number of side effects such as vomiting, chest pain or discomfiture, or pain in the stomach. On experiencing any kind of bodily uneasiness, do not procrastinate but get in touch with your doctor as soon as possible regarding the same.
Premarin is a combination of conjugated estrogens and is also used for the same purpose as Estrace and it also comes with the same benefits and potential hazards as Estrace and you should exercise the same caution that you would while using Estrace.
The preference of one cream over the other is individualistic. Your medical practitioner is the best person to zero in on one of these for you.
Vagifem are vaginal estrogen tablets which are inserted in the birth canal once daily for the first couple of weeks with the aid of an applicator. Later, the dosage is reduced to once or twice a week. Here is some important information that drug sites convey to people using Vagifem or any form of estrogen medication, in general. Administration of estrogens singly or along with progestins increases risk of uterine cancer, stroke, heart disease, dementia and a number of other conditions. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that you work on a preventive therapy plan when you are on Vagiform or any other estrogen medicines.
A tender and flexible estrogen ring, made of bio-compatible material, is inserted into the vagina for releasing estrogen into it. You do not have to handle it on a daily basis as in the case of tablets or creams. You just need to get it replaced by your medical practitioner once every 3 months.
The same restrictions of usage as mentioned in other forms of estrogen medications is to be followed. Some common side effects of estring are abnormal vaginal discharge, pain itching discomfiture in the genital areas, abdominal pain or headaches.
Estrogen –free Treatment of Vaginal Dryness
There are some herbal remedies for vaginal dryness but their effectiveness is not sufficiently corroborated with scientific proofs. Isoflavins in soyabeans are said to simulate the effects of estrogen but the dosage or the best source of such natural products is not clearly established yet. However, you could always consume products rich in soya like soyabeans, tofu and soya milk. Black Cohosh is a commonly sold dietary supplement for women suffering from menopause but its specific action on atrophic vaginits is not known yet.
Creams containing wild yam are in good use these days. But they contain synthesized MPA ( medroxyprogesterone acetate) which is a progesterone derivate and administration of progesterone should be done with utmost carefulness. Products containing natural oils of sunflower, sweet almond, grapeseed, or apricot are found to soothe the vaginal discomfiture during sexual intercourse. Vitamin E creams and Sylk( containing kiwifruit extracts ) are also a popular option for lubricating the vagina.
Natural Ways of Treating Vaginal Dryness
Adequate foreplay before intercourse is one way of lubricating the vagina. Erotic stimulation (like watching erotic movies) would also moisten the vagina. Taking a long walk before going to bed is also recommended as it facilities release of lubricating hormones.
A diet rich in l-arginine( dairy foods, some meat and plant foods) and aphrodisiac foods like banana or raw oysters are considered to enhance vaginal moisture. These methods are harmless and can be tried before consulting a doctor. These can also be done along with medical treatment to improve vaginal moisture and sexual health in general.