Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"What is vulvodynia?"
I'm a woman in my late 20s and I've had a lot of trouble with my vagina - a lot of pain that has made it really unpleasant to have sex sometimes. For a long time I thought I was just very sensitive, but the more I read the more I think I have vulvodynia. What causes this, and is there a cure for it?
Vaginal pain with sex, or dyspareunia, is a common condition in women. Vulvodynia is a somewhat more rare condition that can also cause pain with sex or any vaginal pressure. I encourage you to see your ob/gyn as this pain can sometimes indicate a serious condition as well as can often be treated. To answer your question, vulvodynia refers to pain at the vulva (or external female genitalia). By definition, it is a chronic pain that lasts greater than three months. The definition also requires an evaluation to rule out skin conditions or vaginal infections that are causing the symptoms. Vulvodynia is essentially when someone has the symptoms chronic vaginal pain that cannot otherwise be diagnosed. Therefore it is a diagnosis of exclusion. We in the medical community unfortunately do not understand what causes this pain. It is often associated with depression, although this is not universal. So the first step will be to rule out other possible causes of vulvar pain prior to giving yourself the diagnosis of vulvodynia. See your ob/gyn. Some things to rule out would be infections (vaginitis infections, skin infections, sexually transmitted disease like herpes), cancers of the vagina, or skin inflammation. If all of this (plus more) is ruled out--then vulvodynia may be your diagnosis. If you get the diagnosis, there can be some ways to treat this. Skin care, lubrication, physical therapy for biofeedback, nerve injections and even surgery can be used. Please see your ob/gyn.
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