Women are affected both physically and emotionally when living with vulvodynia. The effects can range from personal discomfort, acute awareness in their body right through to sexual discomfort. Leading to effects in intimacy and relationships. There is help at hand. As an intimacy and relationship coach I work with women and couples to help minimise the effect of the condition. This fact sheet gives an overview of the condition and will answer your questions.
More fact sheets are available at helenzee.com. Topics on Erectile Dysfunction, Infertility, Egg Health Maturation, Sperm Health Maturation, Vaginismus, Premature Ejaculation, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
What is Vulvodynia?
Vulvodynia (said ‘vul-vo-din-ia’) is a condition where there is pain, burning and discomfort in the vulva that cannot be linked to a specific cause. This pain may or may not be triggered by touch and may be felt in one area or across the whole vulva. Women with vulvodynia have a normal-looking vulva. It is a chronic condition that can last for months or years. For some women it can be so uncomfortable that sitting for long periods, using tampons or having sex is difficult or impossible. Vulvodynia can affect women at any age but is most common in young women who have pain during sex and are often unable to have penetrative sex at all (called provoked vestibulodynia).
What is Vulva vestibulitis syndrome?
Vulvar vestibulitis is a very common type of vulvodynia. The term “vestibulitis” is used to describe pain or irritation that occurs in the vestibule, or the area of the female vulva that surrounds the opening of the vagina.
What is vulva pain syndrome?
Lichen sclerosus is a skin disorder that can cause itching, burning, pain during sex, and tears in the skin. The vulvar skin may appear thin, white, and crinkled. White bumps may be present with dark purple coloring. A steroid cream is used to treat lichen sclerosus.
What causes pain in the clitoris?
Pain and discomfort in the vulva (vulvodynia) is a common cause of clitoris pain, as are skin irritations from rashes or household chemicals. Recurring infections or cancer may also cause clitoris pain. Other causes of clitoris pain include vaginal yeast infections and sexually transmitted diseases.
What causes vulvodynia?
The exact cause is unknown. It is not caused by a sexually transmitted or other infection, skin disease, or cancer, although these can also cause pain. Factors that may raise the risk of vulvodynia include: Damage to or irritation of the nerves around the vulva
How is vulvodynia treated?
Lubrications and medications applied to the affected area may provide some relief. Cool packs, heat packs too can provide temporary relief. Physiotherapy can also help to relax the pelvic floor muscles.
In my work, we deal with psychosomatic conditions (psychological factors and body responses) stemming from pain and trauma in the body that have affected the genital area. These conditions may have arisen from sexual trauma, STD’s, miscarriage, abortions.
Vulvodynia treatments focus on relieving symptoms. No one treatment works for every woman, and you may find that a combination of treatments works best for you. It may take weeks or even months for treatment to improve your symptoms noticeably. Treatment options may include:
- Medications. Steroids, tricyclic antidepressants or anticonvulsants may help lessen chronic pain. Antihistamines may reduce itching.
- Biofeedback therapy. This therapy can help reduce pain by teaching you how to control how your body responds to the symptoms. The goal of biofeedback is to help you relax to decrease pain. To cope with vulvodynia, biofeedback can teach you to relax your pelvic muscles, which can contract in anticipation of pain and actually cause chronic pain.
- Local anesthetics. Medications, such as lidocaine ointment, can provide temporary symptom relief. Your doctor may recommend applying lidocaine 30 minutes before sexual intercourse to reduce your discomfort. If you use lidocaine ointment, your partner also may experience temporary numbness after sexual contact.
- Nerve blocks. Women who have long-standing pain that doesn’t respond to other treatments may benefit from local injections of nerve blocks.
- Pelvic floor therapy. Many women with vulvodynia have tension in the muscles of the pelvic floor, which supports the uterus, bladder and bowel. Exercises to relax those muscles may help relieve vulvodynia pain.
- Surgery. In cases of localized vulvodynia or vestibulodynia, surgery to remove the affected skin and tissue (vestibulectomy) relieves pain in some women.