Read on to find out more about this unusual condition.
Vulvodynia: the symptoms
Generalized vulvodynia covers the whole vulvar area, which includes the labia, the vestibule (opening around your vagina) and the clitoris. Localized vulvodynia is limited to one area of the vulva. The pain experienced can be constant or can come and go. Some women experience vulvodynia for a relatively short amount of time like a few months, while the pain can last for years for other women.
Soreness, burning, swelling and stinging, as well as throbbing, just plain pain and itching are the main symptoms. Sexual intercourse can be painful for women who suffer from vulvodynia as well.
Many women are too embarrassed about their symptoms to see their doctor or gynecologist about it. Indeed, a painful vulva may sound rather ridiculous to some insensitive people reading this post. (Young teen boys, for instance ) Unfortunately, vulvodynia can be a very serious problem and it is not all that uncommon. You may even get depressed, which is a possible side effect of any form of chronic pain.
Do see your doctor if you experience vulvar pain and think you may have vulvodynia; sometimes treatment is available. Possible causes of vulvar pain include infections, allergies to chemicals you have used in skin care, injury that caused nerve damage, and the overuse of topical medications on the vulvar area. Hormonal changes, muscle spasms and genetic factors may be responsible as well.
The most tragic cause of chronic vulvar pain is sexual abuse; please seek help from a women's advocacy organization to improve your situation if you recognize yourself in this. You can get out!
Diagnosis and treatment
How is vulvodynia diagnosed? First, you obviously have to see your family doctor or OBGYN. Diagnosis may start with questions about the pain you have been experiencing its frequency, locations, and when it started. A thorough physical examination is inevitable during the diagnostic process.
If you feel really anxious about this, do discuss that with your healthcare provider. You can request to be seen by a woman, and you should always mention that you are really scared of the examination if you feel that way. Samples may be taken from your vaginal discharge to test for infections, and your doctor will suggest a biopsy if they notice any unusual occurrences on the skin.
After the cause of your vulvar pain has been examined, your healthcare provider and you will discuss treatment or management options. Depending on the cause, these treatment options could include:
- Steering clear of aggressive cosmetic products on your vulvar and vaginal area, or actually any cosmetic products at all. You do not need to use douches, creams, or deodorants on your genitals. Some tampons include chemicals or perfumes that could be linked to your vulvodynia as well.
- Wearing underwear that is made out of natural materials like cotton, and that does not fit too tightly. Both tight-fitting underwear and synthetic materials restrict the airflow and creates a wonderful environment for bacteria, as well as possibly being the direct cause of the pain all in themselves.
- Avoid activities that could make your symptoms worse, like sex and bicycling.
- Steroids, hormonal therapies, and even some types of antidepressants are some of the medical options for long-ish term relief.
- Local anesthetics in several forms can provide temporary relief. The most natural of these is an ice pack. Your doctor may also be able to prescribe you creams that numb the area more seriously.
- Some types of vulvodynia can be remedied with surgery in some cases. Discuss this with your healthcare provider. It should never be the first step, and you should always clearly try less invasive treatment options before resorting to an operation. Surgery may be a great option for you if your vulvodynia is caused by specifically diagnosed damage (this can be childbirth related, for instance).
Do you have any personal experience with vulvodynia? If you are brave enough to speak up about it, I am absolutely sure that you will help another woman who is suffering from the same thing and wondering what step to take next.