What is Vulvodynia?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Vulvodynia is a gynecological condition characterized by the presence of pelvic pain, especially around the vulva, with no known cause. This condition can be very painful for women, and women are sometimes reluctant to seek treatment, although there are a number of treatment options available. Untreated vulvodynia can contribute to a decline in quality of life, in addition to causing sexual dysfunction, as many women find intercourse very painful when they have this condition.

Woman with a headache
Woman with a headache

The causes of vulvodynia are not understood. Many women who seek treatment have a history of gynecological infections, which suggests that it could be related to previous infections and injuries. Others have no such history, suggesting that the condition may also be involved with hormonal changes, muscle spasms, or even acute allergic reactions. When a patient complains of pelvic pain, a gynecologist will conduct a thorough examination to determine the cause, and if no cause can be identified, the diagnosis will be vulvodynia. Like other chronic pain conditions, diagnosis can be tricky and patients may need to be persistent, ensuring that their doctors understand that the pain is protracted and very real.

Symptoms of vulvodynia include pain, itching, irritation, burning, and soreness. In vulvar vestibulitis, one form of this condition, the pain occurs around the opening to the vagina, in response to pressure. Generalized vulvodynia causes pain all over the pelvic area, and the pain is not linked to any particular stimuli. It is possible for a woman to experience both forms of the condition. Other issues such as vaginismus can also be linked with vulvodynia, which can complicate treatment.

Some medications can help women manage vulvodynia. Biofeedback techniques have also proved effective in some women, as has physical therapy to address the pain. Women with vulvodynia may also be advised to make some lifestyle changes, such as avoiding hot tubs and making other adjustments to control or reduce the pain. Because the causes of this condition are a bit nebulous, addressing the condition may require some experimentation with various medications and lifestyle changes to help the patient resolve the issue.

Vulvar pain definitely requires medical attention. Even if vulvodynia is benign, there's no reason to suffer when treatments are available. Furthermore, pain could be a sign of a medical problem such as cancer or a serious infection, in which case the attention of a gynecologist is critical to receive the proper treatment. While some women may feel embarrassed about seeking treatment for gynecological pain, gynecologists are non-judgmental and they take issues such as pelvic pain very seriously.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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