Vulvodynia: Understanding the Condition
The vulva, which refers to the external female genital area, is a common source of pain among women. Vulvodynia is a condition characterized by persistent pain lasting for at least three months, without any apparent cause such as an infection, skin disorder, or other medical condition.
What are the Symptoms of Vulvodynia?
Vulvodynia is often described as a burning, stinging, raw, or irritated sensation. Some women may also experience aching, soreness, throbbing, or swelling in the vulva. The pain can affect the entire vulva or be limited to a specific area. Symptoms may be continuous or come and go, and they can occur spontaneously or only upon contact with the area.
What are some of the possible causes of Vulvodynia?
Vulvodynia is likely caused by many factors working together. Some of these factors include the following:
- Damage or irritation of the nerves of the vulva
- Inflammation of the vulva
- Long-term reactions to certain infections
- Certain genetic disorders
- Sensitivity to certain foods
- Dysfunction of the muscles of the pelvic floor
- Conditions that affect nearby muscles or bones
How is Vulvodynia evaluated?
If you have vulvar pain, your gynecologist or other health care professional will try to rule out the most common causes of vulvar pain first. You may be asked questions about your symptoms, sexual history, and medical and surgical history. You may be asked when symptoms occur, what treatments you have tried, and whether you have any allergies, chronic infections, or skin problems.
Your gynecologist also will examine the vulva and vagina carefully. A sample of discharge from the vagina may be taken. Your gynecologist may use a cotton swab to touch areas of the vulva. The goal is to find where the pain is and whether it is mild, moderate, or severe. You also may have a biopsy of the vulvar skin.
How is Vulvodynia treated?
Many kinds of treatment are available. No one method works all the time for everyone. It can take a few months before any relief is noticed. Sometimes more than one treatment may be needed. Keeping a pain diary can help you track your symptoms and how they respond to different therapies. In some cases, your gynecologist or other health care professional may refer you to a pain specialist.
What are some steps that I can take to help with my pain?
If you have vulvodynia, gentle care of the vulva is best. Avoid products and other items that may be irritating. The following may be helpful in relieving or reducing symptoms:
- Wear 100% cotton underwear.
- Do not wear underwear while sleeping.
- Avoid douching.
- Avoid irritants, such as perfumes, dyes, shampoos, detergents, and deodorants.
- Clean the vulva with water only.
- Switch to 100% cotton pads if regular pads are irritating.
- Use lubricants during sex, but avoid lubricants with flavour or cooling/warming sensation
- Rinse and pat the vulva dry after urinating.
- After bathing, apply a thin layer of a preservative-free oil or petroleum jelly to hold in moisture and protect the skin.
- Use Magnetic Vaginal Dilators on a regular basis to relax muscles and prevent Vaginismus.
- Use cool gel packs on the vulva.
- Kegel8 Ultra features pain relief programs which can help with the pain of vulvodynia.
Can physical therapy help with Vulvodynia?
Physical therapy is another option for treating Vulvodynia. This type of therapy can relax tissues in the pelvic floor and release tension in muscles and joints. Vaginal Dilator Therapy is a form of pelvic floor physical therapy.