What Is Vulvodynia? Do You Have It?

Do you experience pain during intercourse? If so, you may be one of the many women suffering from a condition known as vulvodynia.

What is vulvodynia?

Vulvodynia is characterized by the presence of vulvar pain. There is no obvious reason for the pain, such as a cut or tear, and some women find that the location of the pain varies. It's unknown what causes vulvodynia, but it's theorized that it could be related to nerve damage, hormones, or even past yeast infections.

What are the symptoms?

The primary symptom of vulvodynia is vulvar pain, although patients with generalized vulvodynia may experience pain in nearby areas, such as the inner thigh. The other type of vulvodynia, vulvar vestibulitis syndrome, involves pain that is limited to the vulva.

Vulvodynia pain may be constant, or it may only occur when provoked. Sexual intercourse, tampons, riding a bike, and tight clothing can cause severe pain. However, discomfort is not necessarily present every time a potentially hurtful activity is performed.

How is vulvodynia diagnosed?

To diagnose vulvodynia, your doctor will first need to rule out other causes for pain, including infection, cuts, and STDs. Next, a Q-tip may be used to apply pressure to different areas around the vulva. As the Q-tip is very gently touched to the skin, your doctor will ask if you experience any pain. They may also have you rate your level of discomfort.

If you do feel pain during the Q-tip test, that is indicative of vulvodynia. Although there is some evidence that women with vulvodynia have abnormal amounts of different enzymes and proteins, there is no simple blood test to diagnose the condition.

Can vulvodynia be treated?

You may have to try several different treatment methods before finding relief from vulvodynia. Small doses of  tricyclic anti-depressants may help, though depending on the medication prescribed, you may experience various side effects, including weight gain and constipation.

Biofeedback, where the patient controls a light, a noise, or another stimulus by making physiological changes to their own body, may also be effective. Those suffering from vulvodynia usually have tight pelvic floor muscles, and biofeedback not only helps the recipient learn to relax the muscle, but it also builds pelvic floor strength.

In severe cases of vulvodynia, surgery to remove the painful tissue may be necessary.

Treating vulvodynia takes persistence

For many women, vulvodynia takes time to treat. You may find that you have to work closely with your doctor in order to find an effective treatment option. While there is not yet a solution that works for everyone, professionals such as Ogeechee OB-GYN can help uncover what works best for you.