DO I HAVE VULVODYNIA?

WHEN LOVE HURTS’ UNDERSTANDING OF VULVODYNIA

Vulvodynia is understood as a condition where your nerves are hypersensitive, overactive, and numerous, sending you a bunch of pain messages whenever triggered. Some women with vulvodynia can hardly stand the slightest touch – the nerves in the outer skin are extremely sensitive. Others will feel pain after pressure. The pain might also be constant, without triggers. Pain is situated on the vulva. You will mostly find it between 3 and 9 o’clock. Clitoris being 12 o’clock and maybe even a little inside the vagina. 

CAUSE

There is still a lot not known about vulvodynia. Therefore, many women will not know if or why they have it. Some have had it all their lives, while others get it later in life.  It can appear briefly or for a long period.

Women with vulvodynia might earlier have experienced: 

  • Injury, compression, or irritation of vulvar nerves
  • High sensitivity to yeast infections or harsh treatments  
  • Intense reaction to infections or treatments
  • Allergies or irritation caused by chemicals or other substances.
  • Hormonal changes like entering menopause, taking birth control pills, or hormone treatments might be an issue. At least it is known that going off the pill might help some.
  • Muscle tightness 
  • Raised level of unmyelinated nerves (C-fibers)

DIAGNOSIS

You must see your doctor and get at diagnosis. No one specific test can definitively determine if you have vulvodynia. One test often used is a Q-tip test. The doctor will press a moistened cotton Q-tip at the vagina entrance and just around it. In cases of vulvodynia, the area will become red, and it will itch, and burn to varying degrees. Often the redness will appear in a horseshoe shape near the back of the entrance to the vagina, towards the anus. A gynaecologist will usually do an exam of the vulva area to locate pain, observe what the skin looks like, and how you respond to touch or pressure. The doctor will probably also run tests to rule out other gynaecological problems. 

SYMPTOMS

  • Burning, pain in the genital area over a more extended period
  • Pain for at least three month
  • Pain can be localised in the vulva area or be in a specific area
  • Range of pain from mild discomfort to severe, constant pain
  • Pain related to sexual intercourse, or application of a tampon, finger or instrument

DOCTOR

Women often suspect they have vulvodynia from their symptoms. A medical confirmation can be challenging to get. No definitive medical test exists for the diagnosis. Some physicians are unfamiliar with vulvodynia, so part of the process is merely finding a physician that is knowledgeable about the condition and its variations.  

TOOLKIT FOR TALKING TO DOCTORS

Be specific when talking to your doctors. Their job is to help you and the more information you can give them, the better. Read Vulva & Vaginal profile.

The doctors will probably want to do a gynaecological exam. If you can have an examination, just relax as much as possible. Let the doctor know if you are not able to have an examination due to your vulvodynia. You might be able to get a little bit of a topical numbing agent to ensure that it doesn’t hurt too much. Read Seeing the Doctor 

TREATMENT

There is no one treatment for vulvodynia that works for all women; you may need to try a combination of treatments for the best results. And it is your doctor who will guide you.

Self-care is essential when dealing with vulvodynia. You can take steps to relieve pain by changing some small things: There are a few things you can do parallel to your treatment. But of course, talk it through with your doctor first.

  • Know your triggers. What causes or worsens your vulvar pain?
  • Manage your pain: Pain will come. How can you react to it?
  • Avoid irritants like certain soaps, clothing, and other things that can bother the vulvar area.
  • Ease pressure on the area by using lubricants during sex, sitting on a foam doughnut pad, and avoid high-pressure activities like horseback riding and bicycling.
  • Desensitizeuse a dilator to make the nerves custom to touch and stretch the mucosa. Massage the vulva area at the back end of the vagina entrance and on each side of the urethra 
  • Focus on appropriate Care of Pelvic Muscles. Make sure you can relax your muscles – so they are not to tight. Breathing 

Find inspiration in Manage.

THINGS TO REMEMBER:

Believing in your treatment and efforts is key to your improvement. Treating vulvodynia is a roller coaster ride. You will have good days and bad days, but the most important part is that you do not give up. It could take two weeks or two years to cure. Patience and dedication are essential.

Read: I have vulvodynia