When referring to the female reproductive system, the Bartholin glands are responsible for constantly producing a clear lubricating fluid. The amount of lubrication increases in response to sexual stimulation. Vaginal dryness occurs when the Bartholin glands secrete insufficient amounts of these natural lubricants. Comparable to erectile dysfunction in men, vaginal dryness should not be associated with a lack of sexual desire. Roughly one in six women will experience vaginal dryness at some point in her life.
The leading cause of vaginal dryness is hormone-related. Pregnancy, hormone imbalance and menopause, in particular, can lead to vaginal dryness. Several other factors, many of which are easily addressed, can cause vaginal dryness:
- prolonged abstinence
- frequent washing or douching
- certain types of medications (ex. antidepressants)
- panty liners
- irritating soaps
If left untreated, vaginal dryness can lead to discomfort, itching and burning. These symptoms are caused by the appearance of small fissures or lesions that develop on the vaginal wall as a result of inadequate lubrication. Pain or mild bleeding can also occur upon penetration. Additionally, vaginal dryness increases one's susceptibility to gynaecological infections.
To minimize discomfort caused by vaginal dryness, pharmacies carry a wide range of personal lubricants and/or moisturizing creams which can be purchased without a prescription. Performing Kegel exercises on a regular basis may also prove helpful and could even help prevent urinary problems. Should the problem persist, consult your physician to determine the cause of the problem. If it is related to menopause, you may benefit from hormone treatment that replaces hormones that the body no longer produces. They can be administered locally or orally. This type of treatment requires medical follow-up.