Chronic vulvodynia describes any condition in which pain affecting the vulva lasts for six months or more. As many as one in six women in the United States may experience vulva pain at some point in their lives. It can occur at any age but is most common among young women between the ages of 18 and 25. The experience of pain from vulvodynia can vary from person to person and this disorder may stem from a number of different root causes, but it can often be treated to allow patients to have a better quality of life with less pain and dysfunction.
Vulvar pain can be caused by one or a combination of several different factors. Potential causes include:
The symptoms of vulvodynia may vary in several ways depending on the root cause of pain. Vulvodynia can cause sensations like itching, burning, stinging, or throbbing pain, either throughout or in specific parts of the vulva. The area may feel raw and sensitive to touch. In the case of an allergic reaction or infection there may be unusual redness or a rash. Some patients will experience symptoms constantly while others will have pain flare-ups that occur on an intermittent basis.
In some cases, vulvodynia symptoms are only present or become worse when the area is touched or irritated. Activities such as sexual intercourse or just sitting for a long period of time may cause vulva pain flare-ups.
It can be difficult to pin down what exactly puts individuals at a higher risk of experiencing vulvar pain. Some allergies can cause vulvodynia, and there may also be a genetic factor which causes an abnormal response or higher sensitivity to certain injuries or infections. Pelvic floor muscle dysfunction can be contributed to by mental factors such as stress, anxiety, depression, or emotional trauma. Vulvodynia can sometimes be tied to other pelvic pain disorders like interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome).
Your doctor will review your symptoms and medical history, including any allergies, injuries, or past surgeries, and perform a physical examination of the pelvic area to try and establish the exact nature of the issue. They may try applying gentle pressure to specific areas to determine whether the pain is localized in any part of the vulva. If a rash or sores are present, further testing may be needed to determine whether infection is present.
We take an interdisciplinary approach to treating all causes of pelvic pain, and a wide array of treatments may be applied to alleviate vulvodynia symptoms. Our ultrasound-guided trigger point injection series may help to release trigger points in the muscles of the pelvic floor, improving blood flow, and alleviating tightness, spasticity, and dysfunction. You may be able to reduce pain by doing certain stretches or exercises and adopting an anti-inflammatory diet. Behavioral health approaches may also prove useful in addressing stress and other mental factors affecting pelvic pain.
There is no surefire prevention for vulvodynia because it can arise from many factors, not all of which are under your control. However, it’s important to be aware of symptoms when they do occur and discuss them with a pelvic pain specialist. We understand that vulva pain is a sensitive subject that is not always easy to talk about, but it can often be treated. At Pelvic Rehabilitation Medicine, we believe everybody deserves to live free from chronic pelvic pain.
Chronic pain can make it a challenge just to get through a regular day. It can impact your ability to sleep, do your job, and participate in activities that you enjoy. Unaddressed vulvodynia can also cause pain during intercourse which can cause anxiety and place strain on relationships. Depending on its cause, vulva pain may grow worse over time if it is not treated.
Vulvodynia may be related to other pelvic pain conditions such as interstitial cystitis (IC), also known as painful bladder syndrome.
Vulvodynia is pain which occurs either throughout or in part of the vulva. There are several different factors which can cause vulva pain, and the pain itself can range in sensation, severity, and frequency. Pain may be constant or emerge during specific activities, a couple of the most common being prolonged sitting and sexual intercourse. The best solution depends on the root cause of pain, but pain levels can often be improved through a multifaceted approach incorporating treatments such as trigger point injections as well as lifestyle modifications such as stretches, exercises, and dietary changes.