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Vaginal Dryness and Poor Sexual Response

Written by: Becki Murray

Updated by: Becki Murray

Last Updated: 1 February 2024

Navigating the intricacies of intimate health is a conversation often conducted in hushed tones, but it shouldn’t be – and it’s actually an integral aspect of our overall wellbeing and health as women. Vaginal dryness and poor sexual response in particular is an especially common concern, especially as you age and reach life stages like the menopause. However, that doesn’t mean you have to accept reduced enjoyment of your sex life, or day-to-day discomfort as you get older. Read our FAQs to discover the reasons behind vaginal dryness and associated poor sexual response, and, most importantly, the topical products, medications and tweakments that can really help. Just make sure to visit your doctor for advice should you need it, and head to a specially trained practitioner for intimate rejuvenation to ensure you get the safe and effective treatment you deserve.

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What is vaginal dryness?

Vaginal dryness refers to when your vagina lacks proper lubrication – something that can lead to discomfort and potential irritation, as well as dissatisfaction during sex. It is a condition primarily associated with a decrease in the natural moisture levels of the vaginal tissues, which can be influenced by various factors.

What does vaginal dryness feel like?

Symptoms of a dry vagina extend beyond simple dryness – although of course that’s a prime example of it. You may experience itching or burning sensations around the vaginal area, as well as general discomfort caused by the vaginal tissues being more sensitive. Tenderness and perhaps some light bleeding can occur too, as dry vaginal tissues are more prone to small tears and abrasions.

In some cases, vaginal dryness can be associated with a frequent urge to urinate or pain during urination, and many women with the condition also report pain during intercourse. This is triggered by an increase in friction, caused by decreased lubrication, and it can affect your ability to orgasm too. Importantly, some individuals may experience only mild discomfort from a drier vagina, while others find the symptoms much more troubling.

 

 

 

What causes vaginal dryness?

One of the most common causes of vaginal dryness is female hormone changes, such as those that occur during menopause (as part of the natural ageing process), childbirth and breastfeeding. These cause changes in hormonal balance and the reduced oestrogen levels, in particular, can affect the thickness and elasticity of the vaginal lining, contributing to dryness. Surgical procedures, such as hysterectomy or removal of the ovaries, and cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and pelvic radiation therapy, can have a negative effect on vaginal lubrication as well.

Other factors that can influence sexual arousal and vaginal lubrication include emotional matters, such as stress, anxiety, and infrequent sexual activity. Certain medications, including antihistamines, decongestants, hormonal treatments and some antidepressants can cause a dry vagina as a side effect too, as can medical conditions such as Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that affects moisture-producing glands, alongside allergies and certain skin conditions.

What constitutes poor sexual response?

Poor sexual response refers to difficulties in experiencing sexual pleasure and satisfaction. It can affect both men and women, with the causes potentially encompassing physical, psychological, interpersonal, and hormonal factors.

For women, common indicators of poor sexual response can frequently be associated with vaginal dryness. That includes pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse; female sexual arousal disorder, which is linked to inadequate lubrication during sexual stimulation; and anorgasmia – difficulty reaching orgasm despite adequate sexual stimulation.

Another sign of poor sexual response is sexual avoidance, including low libido, aka a diminished interest in sexual activity, and sexual aversion disorder, where sexual contact is actively avoided. These conditions can be exacerbated by emotional concerns, such as feeling unfulfilled during sex, or difficulty communicating with a partner about your desires. Significantly, it’s normal for your sexual response to vary occasionally, but persistent or distressing difficulties should be discussed with your doctor.

 

 

How can I treat vaginal dryness?

If you are concerned about vaginal dryness, it’s important to speak to your doctor to determine the causes behind it, and then the appropriate course of action for you. Luckily, there are a wide range of ways it can be treated. Below are some common strategies for dealing with the condition, depending on its severity.

Can topical products help with vaginal dryness?

Topical moisturisers for the vaginal area or prescription creams are widely available, and can be used to help maintain and enhance vaginal moisture, aiding with mild dryness with frequent and sustained use. If your main concern is dryness during sex, you can also use water-based lubricant to reduce friction and discomfort.

Can medication help with vaginal dryness?

If your vaginal dryness is linked to the menopause, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which involves oestrogen supplementation, can be effective in relieving vaginal dryness and other symptoms. You can discuss its benefits and side effects with your doctor.

Prescription medications, such as ospemifene, may also be recommended for postmenopausal women to alleviate symptoms of vaginal dryness. Another option is vaginal oestrogen therapy, where creams, rings or tablets containing oestrogen are applied directly to the vaginal area to help restore moisture and improve tissue health.

What tweakments are available for vaginal dryness and poor sexual response?

There are an increasing number of tweakments focused on improve poor sexual response and the feel of your vagina, which is a great thing for helping you find a solution for your concern. However, all the below treatments should be performed by a highly qualified practitioner with specific training in gynaecological issues to ensure you get the right advice as well as safe and effective results.

  1. Laser therapy for vaginal rejuvenation: Laser treatments, such as CO2 or Erbium YAG lasers, can stimulate collagen production and improve the health of the vaginal tissues. These treatments aim to address concerns like vaginal dryness and may promote overall vaginal rejuvenation.
  2. Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy: PRP therapy involves your practitioner extracting platelets from your own blood using a special machine, and then injecting them into your vaginal tissues. This is thought to stimulate cell regeneration and improve blood flow, potentially enhancing sexual response, including lubrication.
  3. Dermal fillers: In the right, highly-skilled hands, hyaluronic acid-based fillers may be injected into the vaginal tissues to improve hydration and elasticity. This aims to address dryness, while also providing a subtle improvement in the appearance and feel of the vaginal area.
  4. Radiofrequency (RF) Therapy: RF therapy delivers controlled heat to the vaginal tissues, promoting collagen production and tightening. It is a non-invasive option for improving vaginal laxity and overall tissue health, which may help with vaginal dryness to some degree.

How much, on average, does treating the concern cost?

For mild vaginal dryness, topical products can be fairly affordable and available through your doctor, while lifestyle shifts can be quickly applied, alongside psychological supports, such as therapy, should you need it for poor sexual response. Tweakments are likely to be more expensive, ranging from £500 for laser treatments and PRP; £300 for dermal filler, and £350 for radiofrequency. Surgical intervention are likely to be even more costly.

Can I improve the condition through changing my lifestyle?

To some extent yes. Avoiding irritants such as harsh soaps that can disrupt the natural balance of the vaginal environment may help with mild symptoms of a dry vagina, as can reducing potential triggers such as stress or certain medications. If anxiety or other psychological factors are potentially playing a role, don’t rule out counselling either to combat poor sexual response.

Pelvic floor exercises, such as Kegel exercises, may help improve blood circulation to the vagina as well, promoting better overall health in the area. Another suggestion is to increase your regular sexual activity as this can promote natural lubrication, although any pain should be reported to your doctor as an indication of more severe dryness or another condition.

Are there surgical treatments for treating vaginal dryness and poor sexual response?

Surgical treatments are generally not the primary approach for addressing vaginal dryness and poor sexual response, especially due to their potential risks and necessary recovery periods. Most surgical options are therefore reserved for when other treatments have been ineffective, or when the condition is associated with anatomical factors that require correction.

Vaginoplasty: a surgical procedure designed to tighten the vaginal canal. It is often considered for women who experience vaginal laxity after childbirth, which can contribute to poor sexual response and functional changes.

Labiaplasty: the surgical reshaping of the labia minora or majora. While primarily a cosmetic procedure, it may be performed in conjunction with other treatments to enhance comfort and function.

Clitoral Hood Reduction: In some cases, surgical reduction of the clitoral hood may be performed to address anatomical concerns and improve sexual function.

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