Vulvodynia is a female-related disorder characterized by chronic pain in the vulva that includes the external genital organs viz. labia, clitoris and vaginal opening. It causes terrible discomfort and an early diagnosis without any hesitation can bring about the much-needed cure.
Types of Vulvodynia:
Vulvodynia is basically of 2 types:
1.Vulvar vestibulitis syndrome: In this case, pain is experienced in the opening of the vagina (also known as the vestibule) on touch and pressure.
2.General vulvodynia: It’s a generalized pain in the vulvar region and is not completely specific to sensory touch and pressure, rather it can happen anytime.
Symptoms of Vulvodynia
Pain happens in the genital area characterized by the following symptoms:
- Soreness, tenderness and throbbing
- Burning, rawness and itching
- Inflammation and swelling
The pain aggravates while performing activities that tense the vulvar region. They could be walking, biking, cycling, horse riding, and even during intercourse or while urinating.
Causes of Vulvodynia
There’s no as such identifiable cause behind vulvodynia, however, the pain can result from the following situations:
- Hormonal changes especially in menopausal women
- Infection and allergy in the vulvar cells due to use of chemicals or could be yeast infections
- Injury of nerves in the vulvar cells
- Vaginal infections, STDs
- Poor response of the vulva due to infection
- History of sexual abuse
- Formation of polyps and tumors in the vagina
Diagnosis of Vulvodynia
1.Cotton Swab Test: This test is done to diagnose localized pain in the vulvar region with the help of a moist cotton swab. The vagina is examined thoroughly, followed by a series of tests like vaginal pH, gram staining, fungal culture, wet mount, etc.
2.Pelvic Exam: A pelvic exam is a holistic study of the pelvis wherein the external genitals are diagnosed to rule out the cause of the pain. Sample cells may be scrapped from the vagina to check for yeast infections and STDs.
Treatment of Vulvodynia
The pain and infection can definitely be treated with a wide range of medications. Other than that there are several self–care and self-relaxation techniques also that offer considerable relief. Have a look at them.
Pain Relief Techniques
- Local anesthetics like lidocaine ointment is a pain reliever while antidepressants or anticonvulsants are meant for pain, throbbing, swelling, tenderness and similar other conditions. Antihistamines alleviate allergy and infections.
- Secondly, long term pain is usually treated with nerve blocks which are localized injections given in the affected area.
- Pelvic floor therapy is an excellent exercise to strengthen those muscles that trigger vulvar pain. There are several other relaxation techniques suggested by your doctor that help in relieving pain and improve the response of vulvar muscles also.
Surgery may also be advised by your doctor as the last option for curing pain in the hymeneal ring or for removing infected skin and tissue, the technique is known as vestibulectomy.
How to Prepare for the Tests?
At the outset, you must remember that there’s nothing to feel embarrassing about. Be frank with your doctor and explain him/her the details of everything that you are experiencing. Your doctor will let you know if any pre-preparations are needed for the clinical tests and ask you several questions about your medical history, probable health disorders and ongoing medicines. Lastly, carry your medical documents on the day of appointment.
What to Expect?
Vulvodynia is completely treatable once the cause has been diagnosed. You will be restricted from several strenuous physical activities that might put pressure on your vulva.
Apart from that your doctor will give you many self-care tips that will ensure hygiene of that region and relieve you from pain. Some of these include- cleaning your private parts after urinating and sexual act, avoiding use of scented toilet papers, creams, lotions, tampoons, using protection while having intercourse, etc.
Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 05, 2015