What is Vulvodynia and What Are The Symptoms To Look Out For?

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Vulvodynia, you might not have heard of this one before, it’s a little under the radar despite being quite a common issue.

In the U.S it is estimated that 14 million people with vulvas suffer from vulvodynia at some point in their lifetime! That’s a lot of people for a condition that is not talked about all that much. 

Vulvodynia can have saddening effects on relationships, sex drive, moods and even cause depression. Some people who suffer from vulvodynia feel shy about the topic and as it is not something many know about. It can often be an isolating condition. 

We are shining a light on vulvodynia today, here is everything you need to know about the condition and how it can be treated. 

So what exactly is Vulvodynia?

Vulvodynia is a persistent, unexplained pain in the vulva. The Vulva is the word used to describe the female genital area including the skin that surrounds the opening of the vagina. 

Vulvodynia feels like sharp, knife-like pains in the vulva. This pain can range from mild- severe and can be agonising for women experiencing it. If you are experiencing Vulvodynia, don’t worry you don’t have to carry on in pain, there is actually a lot that can be done to fix the issue.

What are the symptoms to look out for? 

There are a few symptoms that are typically associated with vulvodynia. If you have severe pain in the vulva than more than likely it is vulvodynia but the pain can be differ depending on the person. These are common types of pain, typically described by those suffering from Vulvodynia:

  • Pain that is burning, stinging, throbbing or sore.
  • Sensitive genital area that is triggered by touch or insertion of a tampon
  • Constant pain (always there to some degree)
  • Becomes worse when you sit down 
  • The pain can either be limited to the vulva or spread outwards to the whole genital area and anus. 

What causes Vulvodynia?

It is thought that vulvodynia is caused by a problem with the nerves supplying the vulva. The Nerve damage can be caused by anything from trapped nerves, to a history of vaginal thrush. Sometimes it is unknown exactly what is causing the issue. Talking to your doctor can help identify the cause and this can be helpful with choosing the best treatment for you. 

I think I have Vulvodynia, what should I do?

At the moment there is no cure for vulvodynia but there are many things you can do to help the condition and majorly improve your quality of life. It is important to note that pain in the vulva isn’t necessarily vulvodynia but a visit to your GP will help uncover what the issue you are having is. 

If you identify with the symptoms on the list above, take a trip to your GP to discuss your symptoms. Your GP will discuss some treatments options for you and may even prescribe you some medication to help 

Some treatment options that are worth a try

  • Vulvodynia can make your genitals sore to touch. Try avoid tight fitting clothes for this reason and maybe even opt for cotton underwear.
  • Scented sanitary products can also irritate your genitals so opt for fragrance free options. 
  • Apply cool packs to the area to help with the pain.
  • If you find you are in pain when sitting, use a doughnut shaped cushion to help the pain. 
  • Over-the counter gel and lubricants: There are aesthetic lubricants available such as lidocaine that can be very helpful if you find sex painful because of your vulvodynia. They also may work to relieve pain temporarily when you have a flare up. 

The Take-Home 

Vulvodynia is defined as persistent, unexplained pain in the vulva. It can be a difficult condition ( a bit like PCOS and Endometriosis) to live with but there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel. It is a case of finding out what is causing your pain and getting the best treatment so you can get back to living your life the way you would like!

Had you heard of vulvodynia before? 

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