Vaginal dryness is a problem that affects many women and can appear at any stage of life, although there are times when this lack of hydration is higher and causes great discomfort for women who suffer from it, such as itching, irritation or pain in the vaginal area.
The characteristics of vaginal mucosa change throughout a woman's life, and are mainly influenced by hormone levels (oestrogens). To protect itself, the vaginal mucosa secretes a large amount of fluids to remain hydrated moisturised, flexible and lubricated. There may be less of the lubricating vaginal fluid produced, which is greater during sexual arousal, (during the menopause for instance), contributing to the onset of vaginal mucosa which is susceptible to irritation and inflammation, causing pain during sexual relations.
Why does vaginal dryness occur?
Reduced fluid production may have several causes, although it is most commonly due to hormonal changes:
Reduced oestrogen levels during the menopause cause dryness and vaginal atrophy.
After labour and particularly during breast-feeding, transient dryness may also occur due to a combination of hormonal and psychological factors.
Pre-menopausal women with lower endogenous oestrogen levels for medical reasons (medicinal products such as oral contraceptives) or surgical reasons may also suffer from vaginal dryness.
Other conditions, such as diabetes, stress, fatigue and anxiety may enhance this dryness.
Dyspareunia or coitalgia
Vaginal dryness can be accompanied by uncomfortable sensations such as irritation, itching, a stinging sensation and pain in the genital area, especially during sexual intercourse. In medical terms, this is known as dyspareunia or coitalgia.
Pain during sexual intercourse is a common condition among women that can be stopped or decrease with the right therapeutic approach.
Symptoms of dyspareunia
The main symptom of dyspareunia is pain during intercourse, located in the vaginal opening or deep in the pelvis.
The pain may be localised or there may be a more extensive feeling of discomfort.
Dissatisfaction or disinterest may occur in sexual relationships.
Recommendations when experiencing pain during sexual relations
When experiencing pain during sexual relations, it is important to follow this advice:
- Go to the gynaecologist. When experiencing pain during sex, it is essential to consult the gynaecologist.
- Avoid irritating agents. The use of creams, gels or other products to care for and clean the intimate area that are inadequate can alter the mucosa and cause irritation.
- Apply an intimate gel with hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid has been shown to significantly improve vaginal dryness and dyspareunia.
- Use drugs for dyspareunia wisely. In certain cases, it may be necessary to resort to pharmacological treatment. The gynaecologist is the one who must prescribe and supervise said treatment.
- Surgical treatment. In severe cases of dyspareunia or those that are resistant to conservative therapy, surgical treatment may be necessary.