Vaginal dryness is a common condition in older women, but it can happen at any age.

Causes and Risk Factors of Vaginal Dryness

A number of factors may contribute to vaginal or genital dryness.

Low Estrogen Vaginal dryness is most often caused by a decrease in estrogen levels. Estrogen is a hormone that helps keep the tissues of your vagina lubricated and healthy. Many factors can cause estrogen depletion: (1)

  • Menopause or perimenopause
  • Childbirth
  • Breastfeeding
  • Smoking
  • Surgical removal of the ovaries
  • Chemotherapy and radiation in the pelvic area
  • Anti-estrogen medications
  • Cancer therapy
  • Severe depression and stress

Douching and Other Irritants Certain soaps, lotions, perfumes, and douches can disrupt the natural balance of chemicals in your vagina, leading to dryness. Also, some tampons and condoms can cause irritations. (2)

Other Medications Allergy, cold, and asthma medicines that contain antihistamines can have a drying effect on the body and contribute to reduced vaginal lubrication. (2) Certain antidepressants may also lead to a reduction in vaginal secretions. (3)

Sjogren's Syndrome This autoimmune disease can cause dryness in the eyes, mouth, and vagina. (4)

How Is Vaginal Dryness Diagnosed?

Visit your doctor if you have symptoms of vaginal dryness that are severe or don't go away. Your healthcare provider will ask about symptoms and medications you take, and may perform the following tests: (5)

  • Pelvic exam to determine whether the walls of your vagina are thin, pale, or red
  • Blood test to check hormone levels and for other issues that might be a cause
  • Test of vaginal discharge to check for other causes of dryness

Prognosis of Vaginal Dryness

Vaginal dryness is often undertreated because so many women are too embarrassed to address the issue with their healthcare provider. Only a quarter of women with the issue actually seek treatment. If not addressed, vaginal dryness can severely impact quality of life. However, the issue is easily corrected with proper treatment. (6)

Duration of Vaginal Dryness

Vaginal dryness will continue until it is treated.

Complications of Vaginal Dryness

Vaginal dryness can lead to:

  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Low sexual desire
  • Bacterial or yeast infections

Research and Statistics: Who Experiences Vaginal Dryness?

Here are the numbers:

  • 50 percent of menopausal women experience vaginal dryness. (11)
  • 90 percent of menopausal women who experience the symptom don’t seek medical help. (11)
  • Between 17 and 45 percent of menopausal women say they find sex painful due to vaginal dryness and thinning of vaginal tissue. (12)
  • Approximately 17 percent of women ages 18 to 50 have problems with vaginal dryness during sex, even before menopause occurs. (6)

Resources We Love

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

The premier professional membership organization for board-certified obstetrician–gynecologists, the organization also provides educational information to the public.

North American Menopause Society

The organization describes itself as “devoted to promoting women’s health at midlife and beyond.” It can provide lots of information on vaginal dryness and help you find an appropriate healthcare provider.

Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

  1. Vaginal Dryness: Causes. Mayo Clinic. November 27, 2018.
  2. Vaginal Dryness. MedlinePlus. September 16, 2020.
  3. Lorenz T, Rullo J, Faubion S. Antidepressant-Induced Female Sexual Dysfunction. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. September 2016.
  4. Subramanium V. Tips for Dealing With Vaginal Dryness in Sjogren’s Syndrome. Sjogren Syndrome News. February 6, 2020.
  5. Vaginal Dryness: Care and Treatment. Cleveland Clinic. December 9, 2018.
  6. Vaginal Dryness. Women’s Health Concern. September 2020.
  7. NAMS Position Statement: The 2020 Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause Position Statement of the North American Menopause Society. Menopause. September 2020.
  8. Vaginal Dryness After Menopause: How to Treat It? Mayo Clinic. July 11, 2020.
  9. What’s Best for Vaginal Dryness — Including Natural Options? Cleveland Clinic. February 15, 2017.
  10. Vaginal Dryness During Sex: Why It Happens to You. Cleveland Clinic. July 14, 2017.
  11. Don’t Ignore Vaginal Dryness and Pain. Harvard Health Publishing. March 2019.
  12. Pain with Penetration. North American Menopause Society.


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