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Vulvodynia – Chronic Pain of the Genital Area

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Vulvodynia is defined as chronic pain in the area around the opening of the vagina or the vulva. As explained by the Mayo Clinic, the vulva includes the pad of fatty tissue at the base of the abdomen, the labia, clitoris and the opening of the vagina. With some, the pain is so intense that even sitting for long stretches of time is very uncomfortable and enjoying sexual intercourse is not possible to say the least. It’s considered as chronic pain because this condition can go on for months or years (intermittently or constantly) or can totally disappear as suddenly as it started.

Although a common ailment, it is thought to be even more common due to underreporting. It is strongly advised that if you are having the following symptoms to get assistance because there is help to ease this type of pain.

Symptoms are as follows:

Painful intercourse (dyspareunia)

Although the real cause of this condition is not known, there are factors that may put you at risk, such as:

Injury to or irritation of the nerves surrounding your vulvar region
Past vaginal infections
Allergies or a localized hypersensitivity of your skin

In order to get the proper diagnosis, your doctor will do a pelvic exam to take a closer look at your genitals. He/she would want to rule out anything else – like an infection – that may be the cause of your symptoms. Also, a cotton swab test is done to check for any localized areas that are especially painful.

In treating vulvodynia, the emphasis is relieving the symptoms. There are several available options. It is best to work closely with your doctor to see what works best for you.

Options available include:

Medication - to lessen the pain and antihistamines to reduce the itching.

Biofeedback therapy - helps you control specific body responses that may actually cause more chronic pain.

Local anesthetics - which can provide temporary relief. This type of drug (usually in an ointment), is recommended for use 30 minutes before sexual intercourse, but beware, your partner may experience some numbness too.

Surgery - recommended where there is localized pain; doctors can remove the pinpointed area to decrease pain.

Even though medical assistance is certainly needed for treatment, any one with vulodynia needs to adhere to lifestyle changes as well.

Lifestyle Changes

Cool compresses placed directly on the external genital area may help to relieve pain and itching.

Avoid tight pantyhose and nylon underwear.

Hot tubs are another no-no.

Don’t overwash the affected area, use plain water and pat dry.

After bathing, petroleum jelly can be used to create a protective barrier.

Always lubricate before sexual intercourse.

Take an antihistamine at bedtime to assist with itching.

Look for what makes your symptoms worse – it’s different for every woman.

Get plenty of exercise, which eases the pain. But remember, to stay away from exercises that put pressure on the vulva, such as bicycling.

Resource: Mayo Clinic

Dita Faulkner is a freelance writer that loves to assist at-risk families and teens in Tennessee.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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