Around 16 percent of the female population suffers silently with vulvar pain, yet there are some treatment options that provide efficacy and relief. A challenge of treating vulvar pain or vulvodynia is that patients are embarrassed to report their issue to providers — and it may also be difficult to convey and track symptoms of sporadic, intermittent episodes that are an indicator of this medical condition.
Talk to your provider or practitioner today, and get answers to common questions surrounding vulvar pain:
Vulvodynia is classified as chronic vulvar pain with no obvious cause, and only recently has it been identified as a chronic pain syndrome. Vulvodynia strikes women of all ages, with no predisposition for any race or ethnicity. There are basically two different types of vulvodynia, localized which impacts a specific area and generalized which may be indicated by roaming or inconsistent pain.
Vulvodynia can be difficult to talk about, but there are options available from providers. Vulvodynia pain impacts the external female genitals, the vulva, including the labia, vaginal opening, and clitoris. Pain may target a specific spot, or as mentioned, could affect the entire vulva at different times, frequency and severity. The pain of vulvodynia has been described as burning or stabbing, which can make it difficult to diagnose.
The defining difference between chronic vulvodynia and other genital pain is the underlying cause: vulvodynia is a condition that lacks a concrete cause or reason. Women of all ages are at risk, and a genetic link has not yet been established. It is difficult to estimate the exact number of women impacted by chronic vulvar pain due to the sensitivity of the topic and reticence for many afflicted to seek treatment, however, it ranges from at least 200,000 to millions of women affected.
While there is no known cause for vulvodynia, there are some factors that can increase or aggravate the condition. These risk factors make you more at risk of contracting chronic vulvar pain and that could increase the severity of vulvodynia symptoms during an outbreak. Some things that contribute to developing vulvodynia include trauma or injury to the vulvar, weak pelvic-floor muscles, nerve abnormalities or injury or a genetic predisposition that affects the body’s response to inflammation. Some other conditions that seem to correlate with chronic vulvar pain and vulvodynia include muscle spasms, frequent use of antibiotics, allergies, hormones or a history of sexual abuse.
While treatment may not “cure” you of vulvodynia, it may reduce the frequency of symptoms and decrease the severity of the discomfort. Some recommended interventions include physical therapy, and potentially nerve injections, in some instances related to cases of nerve injury or physical trauma. Some other effective approaches to treatment include holistic methods like stress-reduction, meditation, and acupuncture. Some effective ways to reduce discomfort are to avoid irritants (hygiene products, tight clothing), relieve pressure (limit sitting, use cushions, loose-fitting underwear), and manage your pain, with medications or homeopathic options.
Severe cases of vulvodynia merit ultrasounds by your hip and pelvis specialist. They may also utilize trigger-point injections to reduce inflammation, reduce pain, and treat your vulvar pain.
Chronic pain can impact your mood, cause depression and deteriorate your overall quality of life; why suffer from vulvar pain any longer? Talk to your provider about treatment options for vulvodynia or seek the specialized attention and expertise in Pelvic Rehabilitation Medicine.