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What is it?
Vulvodynia is the presence of ongoing pain in the vulva (the female genital area). There is often no visible signs and no known cause for the pain. It is described as either provoked (pain upon touch) or spontaneous (no trigger) and also primary (no known cause) or secondary (following trauma).
Burning, soreness and irritation are indications of Vulvodynia.
Vestibulodynia is pain arising from the entrance to the vagina and urethra. Pain is present upon touch, pressure or friction. Both these conditions are commonly linked and many women experiencing one may experience the other. Neither are infectious, related to cancer, or spread to other parts of your body and you will not pass it on to your partner.
What Does It Feel Like?
Pain experienced by these conditions are described as stinging, throbbing, irritating and burning. Sexual intercourse or self-pleasure can be extremely difficult to enjoy due to the painful sensitivity.
In addition to pain these can lead to mental health issues due to being unable to participate in sexual activities or day to day activities as the hypersensitivity limits movement.
Fear, depression and anxiety can develop and can impact a woman deeply, affecting her relationships and attitudes towards sex.
How Is It Diagnosed?
A process of elimination. If you feel you may suffer from Vulvodynia or Vestibulodynia its best to talk to your GP about these concerns. Prepare a plan with them to rule out other conditions and once exhausted ask to be referred to a specialist gynaecologist, dermatologist or a genitourinary (GUM) physician.
What Treatments Are Available?
There is a variety of options available to try but you must first speak with your GP before going ahead with any treatment. Local anaesthetic creams or gels may aid relief, especially before intercourse. Vaginal dilators and pelvic floor muscle physiotherapy may help relax the tense muscles often associated with these conditions due to the pain experienced.
If you feel either condition is having an impact on your mental health it would be advisable to see a counsellor or in the case of relationship support, a psychosexual counsellor.
Surgery – vestibulectomy – is the very last option available and shouldn’t be taken lightly, as any surgery shouldn’t.
What is it like for you to live with Vulvodynia?
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PRODUCED JANUARY 2018 UPDATED JULY 2018,
REVIEW DATE JANUARY 2019