Medications That Cause Vaginal Dryness

woman with birth control pill pack
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If you're experiencing vaginal dryness, check your medicine cabinet. While female dryness can be caused by things like low estrogen, menopause, or certain cancer treatments, it can also be a surprising side effect of a number of medications.

Vaginal tissues have a thin layer of protective, lubricating fluid and are highly susceptible to hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, which are responsible for blood flow to the vagina. Even slight fluctuations in hormone levels (for instance, the result of taking a new medication) may affect blood flow, ultimately leading to dryness.

If you're experiencing vaginal itching, irritation, burning, and/or pain during sex, one of these medications may be to blame.

Birth Control Pills

Hormonal birth control pills can cause fluctuations in hormones and an imbalance of your estrogen/progesterone ratio that may lead to vaginal dryness in some women.

Yaz (drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol), Lo Ovral (norgestrel and ethinyl estradiol), and Ortho-Cyclen (ethinyl estradiol and norgestimate) are three brands that have been found to cause dryness in particular.

Specifically, hormonal birth control can cause an increase in sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), a protein created in the liver that's responsible for binding up excess estrogen and testosterone, taking it out of the bloodstream. With less estrogen in circulation, this may cause vaginal dryness.

Birth Control Shot

As with birth control pills, hormonal changes from birth control shots, such as Depo-Provera (medroxyprogesterone acetate), can suppress women's hormones to mimic menopausal levels, resulting in reduced vaginal fluids and dryness.

Sedatives

Sedative drugs used for insomnia such as Halcion (triazolam), benzodiazepine medications used for anxiety and panic disorder such as Xanax (alprazolam), and drugs used to prevent seizures such as Ativan (lorazepam) have all been linked to vaginal dryness in some women.

This class of medications affects serotonin, which is closely linked to estrogen function. In fact, research shows that estrogen's actions may be mediated by serotonin.

Cold and Allergy Medications

Both prescription and over-the-counter cold and allergy medications, such as Flonase (fluticasone) and Atarax or Vistaril (hydroxyzine), have been found to cause dryness in some women. That's because antihistamines and decongestants narrow blood vessels in order to lower moisture levels and reduce mucus throughout the body, including the vagina.

Your natural levels of lubrication should return when you stop using the medication.

Blood Pressure and Heart Medications

Both calcium channel blockers and beta blockers have been tied to vaginal dryness in some women.

Calcium channel blockers, which prevent calcium from entering the cells of the heart and blood vessel walls, are used to lower blood pressure. They're used to treat conditions such as high blood pressure, migraines, and Raynaud's disease.

Beta blockers slow the heart rate and reduce the force of heart contractions, stress on the vascular system, and the amount of oxygen the heart needs to do its work. They're commonly prescribed for people with hypertension, angina, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, history of heart attacks, and migraine headaches. Beta blockers have been shown to affect blood flow to the sexual organs, resulting in reduced vaginal lubrication.

Estrogen Modulators

Tamoxifen and Evista, both estrogen modulators used in cancer treatment, function by blocking estrogen receptors in vaginal tissue, causing lower levels of lubrication. Chemotherapy may also result in dryness as it can cut off estrogen release, directly decreasing estrogen production.

A Word From Verywell

Medications are just one reason you may experience vaginal dryness at some point in your life. Some other causes of vaginal dryness include childbirth, breastfeeding, perimenopause, menopause, nicotine dependence, surgical removal of the ovaries, and douching. If you're experiencing vaginal dryness, talk to your gynecologist. She'll be able to suggest treatments that can work with the root cause of your dryness and make sex more pleasurable again.

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