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For many women, vulvar pain can be difficult to talk about, or even to define. This kind of pain can be life-altering, making the thought of intimacy or even simply sitting down for long periods unbearable. Although it has such a profound impact on the lives of at least 16% of women, vulvodynia is chronically underdiagnosed.
Too many women have described vulvodynia as a secret pain, something that is dismissed by their gynecologists or outright viewed as a myth. But at the Endometriosis Treatment Center of America, we’re here to listen to your story. We have a range of multi-modal vulvodynia treatments, and we hope to provide answers for women who are suffering in silence in Michigan and across the nation.
Vulvodynia is chronic pain or discomfort that occurs around the opening of your vagina (vulva). Women often describe the pain as burning, stabbing, or throbbing. It can last for months or years, be intermittent or constant, and occur in only one area of the vulva or multiple areas.
Types of Vulvodynia
There are two main categories of vulvodynia: localized and generalized. Sometimes, both types occur together.
Localized vulvodynia is pain in one area of the vulva. Pain may occur in the tissue immediately surrounding the vaginal opening or, less commonly, in the clitoris. With generalized vulvodynia, the pain may occur in multiple areas. The pain may occur spontaneously, but it tends to be relatively constant with minor periods of relief.
Many women with either type of vulvodynia experience pain when pressure is applied to the area, including situations such as:
- Sexual intercourse
- Inserting a tampon
- Having a pelvic exam
- Sitting for long periods of time
- Wearing tight clothing
What Causes Vulvodynia
Vulvodynia occurs when the vulvar tissue becomes highly sensitive. Unfortunately, this condition is still defined as “unexplained” chronic vulvar pain. We don’t know exactly what makes some women experience this sensitivity. We do know that it is not caused by active infections, such as a yeast infection, and that it is not a sexually transmitted disease.
Many women who are diagnosed with endometriosis also experience vulvodynia. When women experience pelvic pain over long periods of time, they may develop pelvic floor muscle spasms and nerve sensitivities.
Other possible causes include nerve injuries or irritations, high numbers of pain-sensing nerves in the vulva, allergies or sensitive skin, and hormonal changes.
Signs and Symptoms of Vulvodynia
The main symptom of vulvodynia is chronic vulvar pain—pain that lasts for 3 months or more. This pain can be debilitating and interfere with your day-to-day life. Other symptoms include:
- Vaginal burning
- Pain with intercourse
- Vaginal throbbing
- Vaginal itching and irritation
- A feeling of rawness around the vagina
Getting a diagnosis for vulvodynia means finding a compassionate women’s health specialist who will perform a comprehensive evaluation. In a 2003 study, 60% of women who sought treatment for this condition visited 3 or more doctors for their symptoms, and many could not get a diagnosis. At Endometriosis Treatment Center of America, we can provide effective, multi-modal treatment for vulvodynia.
Treatment may include one or more of the following:
- Lifestyle change support: we help you identify what causes vulvodynia to flare up, such as perfumed toiletries, non-breathable fabrics, or other chemical irritants.
- Oral pain relief medicines: in addition to anticonvulsants and opioids, certain antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications may help.
- Topical medicines: we may recommend hormonal creams, anesthetics like lidocaine, or compounded formulations.
- Botox Injections: these nerve blocks prevent or help manage pain caused by misfiring or overly sensitive nerves and prevent pelvic floor muscle spasms.
- Pelvic Floor Muscle Therapy: we use principles of physical therapy to recondition pelvic floor muscles.
Together, we’ll develop a care plan that gives you back the ability to enjoy everything life has to offer.
Getting Help for Vulvar Pain
Too many women suffer vulvodynia in silence. If you’re not sure how to talk to your doctor about vulvar pain, or if you’ve had your symptoms dismissed in the past, come see the specialists at the Endometriosis Treatment Center of America. We won’t stop until you receive safe, effective care to improve your quality of life.
When it comes to vulvar pain, you’re not alone! To start your journey to pain relief, request an appointment with us today. For our Lake Orion location, call (248) 609-6040. For our Birmingham location, call (248) 731-2155.
Endometriosis Treatment Center of America: Compassionate Women’s Health in Michigan and Beyond
At the Endometriosis Treatment Center of America, our commitment is to provide comprehensive care for all. Our expert team is here to provide the highest level of care from our state-of-the-art facilities in Lake Orion and Birmingham, MI. Whether you reside in Michigan or are seeking answers from out of state, you deserve to be heard. Start your journey to a pain-free life by requesting an appointment today!