Sex is supposed to be enjoyable, but for countless women suffering from vulvodynia, thatâ€™s not the case. Characterized by pain or discomfort with sexual intercourse, rawness, stinging, itching and burning in the vagina or vulva, vulvodynia is a common condition, but it is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
Vulvodynia is more prevalent than most health practitioners realize. Roughly 16 percent of women between the ages of 18-64 have experienced chronic vulvar pain for at least three months or more
The cause of vulvodynia is unknown. This is partly because there has been a lack of research on the disorder in recent years. What is known is that vulvodynia is not caused by a sexually transmitted disease. According to the National Vulvodynia Association, potential causes include:
– An injury to, or irritation of, the nerves that innervate the vulva.
– An abnormal response of different cells in the vulva to environmental factors (such as infection or trauma).
– Genetic factors associated with susceptibility to chronic vulvar vestibular inflammation.
– A localized hypersensitivity to yeast.
– Spasms of the muscles that support the pelvic organs.
Currently, there is no cure for vulvodynia, but it is important for women to seek medical attention because the pain can be managed and treated.
Some women find self-care measures to be helpful in alleviating the symptoms of vulvodynia. These include: cold compresses, anti-histamines, the use of lubricants before sexual intercourse and avoiding triggers like hot tubs, tight-fitting undergarments and irritating soaps and detergents. It is highly recommended to work together with a health care provider who can help identify the approach that works best for each individual.