Vulvodynia is classified as chronic pain or discomfort, which includes burning, stinging, irritation or rawness of the female genitalia, specifically of the vulva. The word "vulvodynia" actually means "painful vulva." This condition can severely impact the quality of life for affected women and may prohibit participation in sexual activity, physical exercise and even social activities. The condition is believed to be underreported because of its lack of visible symptoms and often a woman's reluctance to talk about her symptoms. As many as one in six women may be affected by vulvodynia at some point in their life.
Causes of Vulvodynia
Vulvodynia does not have one set cause, but several factors can contribute to the development of chronic vulvar pain. A history of recurring vaginitis or vaginal yeast infections, as well as allergies, lupus, eczema or injury can be the cause of this condition. It can be tested by a "touch test," touching the tiny gland openings at the entrance to the vagina with a cotton-tipped applicator. If the patient suffers from vulvodynia, the area will be extremely sensitive.
Types of Vulvodynia
There are several different types of vulvodynia. They are as follows:
Dysesthetic vulvodynia or generalized vulvodynia, where symptoms occur throughout the vulvar anatomy and can occur constantly or intermittently. Patients have reported pain in the labia majora, labia minora, vestibule, clitoris and/or inner thighs. Pressure to the vulva can trigger these symptoms but is not the only cause.
Vestibulodynia or vulvar vestibulitis syndrome, where pain occurs only in the vestibule and occurs only after touch or pressure to the area. Burning sensations are the most common symptom.
Vulvovaginitis, or cyclic vulvodynia, occurs at the same stage of the menstrual cycle.
Vulvar DermatosesVulvar dermatoses is typically caused by dermatologic conditions and often presents in the form of itching and burning, are also conditions associated with chronic vulvar pain. These conditions can coexist with vulvodynia.
Treatment for Vulvodynia
Treatment for vulvodynia does not cure the condition, but it does help to relieve symptoms.
Trigger point injections can be used to insert a steroid medication as well as a numbing agent into the exact points where pain is felt.
Topical agents, such as estrogen, can be applied daily to reduce pain.
Physical therapy or biofeedback treatments teach muscle control and allow patients to counteract pelvic muscle spasms.
Pelvic nerve block may be inserted to numb the nerves in the pelvic area.