Vulvodynia is vulvar pain, of at least 3 months duration without a clear identifiable cause. The vulva, refers to the external female genital organs, which includes the labia, clitoris, and vaginal opening.
It is estimated 15%-28% of women worldwide suffer from vulvodynia
The pain can be experienced in very different ways by individuals. It may be localised to one area e.g. clitorodynia (pain at the clitoris) or generalised over the whole vulva. Some patients will have mixed pain, that is localised and generalised.
In some patients the pain will be described as ‘provoked’ when contact causes the pain; in others pain may be spontaneous and occur without an apparent trigger. Some patients will be familiar with both spontaneous and provoked pain. The onset of the pain may have been the first symptom in some patients, which is described as primary; in others the pain will be a secondary symptom perhaps following another illness or event.
The times pain is experienced will also differ between women, in some it may be intermittent in others persistent. In some the pain will be immediate when provoked, in others there may be a delay between provocation and the feeling of pain.
Symptoms of Vulvodynia usually begin suddenly and can last anywhere from months to years. These symptoms can include:
- Burning sensation
- Stinging or rawness
- Painful sex (Dyspareunia)
- Aching, soreness, or throbbing
Although doctors don’t fully know what causes most forms of Vulvodynia, researchers believe that some of the causes could be:
- Nerve injury or irritation
- Abnormal response to an infection or trauma
- Genetic factors
- Hypersensitivity to yeast infections
- Muscle spasms
- Allergies or irritation to chemicals or other substances
- Hormonal changes
- History of sexual abuse
- Frequent antibiotic use
Many health care providers may not be familiar with Vulvodynia. Women suffering from Vulvodynia should look for a doctor, sex therapist or physiotherapist that is knowledgeable about this condition. Although there is no cure, there are treatments that can help bring relief. Use of vaginal dilators or therapeutic aids for massage may be recommended by your physiotherapist or healthcare practitioner which can help women learn to relax vaginal muscles to lessen pain