Vulvodynia is the medical term for pain in a woman's vulva, the external genital region. The term is generally reserved for chronic pain in the vulva.
The vulva is a general term for the external part of a woman's genitals. The vulva includes the area of skin directly above the vagina, the clitoris, the inner and outer labia or lips of the vagina, the opening to the vagina, and the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.
Pain in the vulva can be due to many known conditions. These include infection, inflammation, nerve sensitivity, growths, injury, and allergic reactions to medications, soaps, or feminine products. When no specific cause can be found, the problem is called vulvodynia.
Symptoms of this condition include: discomfort in the vulva area. This is often described by affected women as pain, burning, stinging, itching, aching, stretching, throbbing, or irritation.pain only when pressure is applied to the opening of the vagina. This usually only occurs in a subtype of vulvodynia known as vulvar vestibulitis. The vestibule is a term that describes the opening to the vagina. In this subtype, redness from inflammation is often seen in the painful area during flare-ups. Pain may make sexual intercourse impossible, and may even be aggravated by walking, sitting, or riding a bike.depression, often due to chronic pain and the ineffectiveness of most treatments
Though different theories exist as to why this condition occurs, the exact cause is unknown. Vulvodynia occurs most often in middle-aged white women. The most important consequences of this condition are pain, trouble having intercourse, and depression. True vulvodynia does not result in any physical health risks and is not related to cancer.
There are no ways known to effectively prevent this condition.
Before a diagnosis of this condition can be made, treatable causes of pain in the vulva must be ruled out by a careful history and physical exam. The healthcare professional may: take swabs of the vulva to check for infectionssuggest that the person stop using soap, fabric softeners, scented toilet paper, and any feminine products to make sure there is no allergic reaction causing the painprescribe certain medications, such as antibiotic pills or ointments, to treat a possible underlying infectiontake a biopsy of the vulva. This is a procedure to remove a small piece of tissue from the vulva. This tissue can then be looked at with a microscope.
If these tests and procedures do not reveal a cause for the pain, vulvodynia is generally diagnosed.
There are no long-term physical effects from this condition. Affected women may become frustrated or depressed, however, and their relationships may suffer.
There is no risk to others, because this is not a contagious condition.
There is no known cure for this condition. Many different types of treatment may be tried. Different women respond to different treatments, and some women do not respond at all.
Common treatments include: avoidance of soaps and other products that may irritate the areaspecial diets, such as a diet low in oxalate. Oxalate is found in many different foods, such as celery and grapes.local "numbing" creams, which can be used before sex to reduce discomfort in some womenantidepressant drugs, such as amitriptyline or fluoxetine, which work for pain as well as for depressionchronic pain drugs, such as gabapentin, a drug sometimes used to treat seizuresbiofeedback. This is a process by which people learn to control certain body functions of which they are not usually aware. For instance, women can be taught to reduce muscle spasms in the vagina.support groups, which help women deal with their frustration by meeting others with a similar problemsurgery, which is only used for severe cases that do not respond to any other treatments
Treatment must be tailored to each woman. Many women get better eventually, even without treatment.
All medications have possible side effects. These include allergic reactions, stomach upset, and others. Specific side effects depend on the drugs used. Surgery carries a risk of bleeding, infection, scarring and reaction to any pain medicines used.
No treatment is guaranteed to be effective. Many women go through many treatments before they find one that works for them. The course of the condition is unpredictable. Some women have symptoms that come and go, whether treatment is used or not.
Women generally monitor their symptoms at home. They should report any changes to their healthcare professional.
National Vulvodynia Association website: [hyperLink url="http://www.nva.org/" linkTitle="www.nva.org"]www.nva.org[/hyperLink]
Kistner's Gynecology, 1990, Ryan et al.
American Academy of Family Physicians website: [hyperLink url="http://www.aafp.org/" linkTitle="www.aafp.org"]www.aafp.org[/hyperLink]