Vulvodynia – A Silent Struggle
Vulvodynia is one of the most annoying, chronic, discomforting pain in the vulva (around the opening of the vagina) in females. There is no specific age group, and females of all age categories can suffer from Vulvodynia. It affects almost 10% to 28% of the reproductive-aged females in the general population. Chronic burning and stinging pain in the vulvar area along with the irritation can hinder your daily routine. Given this, if you are experiencing consistent pain for more than 3 months, do not resist getting yourself examined and take timely medical advice to experience relief.
Risk Factors of Vulvodynia:
Females with the following conditions are at higher risk of experiencing vulvodynia:
- A history of sexual abuse
- (PTSD) – Post-traumatic stress disorder
Triggering factors of Vulvodynia:
The trigger factors of vulvodynia include:
- A slight touch to the vulva
- During sexual intercourse
- Using tampons or sanitary napkins touch
- During pelvic examination
- Wearing tight underpants
- Sitting for a long duration in one position.
- Strenuous exercise or bicycling for long periods.
Causes of Vulvodynia:
Vulvodynia may not always have one specific cause, but it could be a
combination of multiple factors to cause pain in the vulva.
- Past vaginal infections in reaction causing pain
- Injury or nerve damage in the vulvar area
- Inflammation in the pelvic floor muscles
- Allergies to certain food or chemicals
- Sensitive skin
- Hormonal changes
- Additional nerve fibers in the vulva area
- Overreaction in the vulva tissues to the nerve infection or injury
- Weak pelvic floor muscles
- Genetic factors increase the sensitivity and make the pain threshold less.
Symptoms of Vulvodynia:
- Constant, chronic pain in the female genitalia (vulva and around the vaginal opening)
- Burning/stinging pain.
- The raw feeling could be throbbing pain too at times.
- The vulva is always sore.
- Sexual intercourse is extremely painful (Dyspareunia).
- Swelling of the vulva
- Involuntary spasm of the genital muscles causing vaginismus
- Unable to sit for a long duration
Less common symptoms of vulvodynia:
- The spread to adjacent areas affecting the entire genital area, anus, and bladder
- Frequent interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome)
- Painful menstruation (Dysmenorrhea)
This condition does not necessarily have an exact cause but it does affect a women’s health negatively not only physically but also mentally. Chronic vulva pain can reduce your libido, affect relationships, lead to mood swings, and cause low feelings.
Tips & Suggestions to Manage Vulvodynia:
Certain alterations in lifestyle practices can help in the prevention of vulvodynia triggers and aid in reducing symptoms. They include:
- Replace all synthetic underpants with cotton underwear.
- Avoid using fabric softener on underwear.
- Avoid tight pants/bottoms.
- Use cloth detergent that is suitable for sensitive skin and triple rinse the underpants.
- Avoid using soaps, douches, and oils that are likely to trigger inflammation in the vulva.
- Avoid biking, bicycling, riding horses, or any activity that is likely to put pressure on the vulva.
- Reduce hot showers or stay in the hot tub for a long time.
- Opt for using soft toilet tissues to wipe and clean your vulva with cold water post urination.
- While having intercourse, make use of water-based lubricant.
- Urinate immediately after having sex to reduce the chances of developing UTI and clean the genitalia with cold water.
- Avoid using tampons, use cotton pads or cotton tampons instead.
- A cold compress on your vulva relieves pain after activities such as exercising and sexual intercourse.
- To sit for long hours, make sure that you use good cushion support for your bottoms using “donut-shaped pillows” that would reduce the pressure from the pelvic floor and the vulva.
- Meditate, relax, have adequate sleep, and manage your stress levels.
Diagnosis of Vulvodynia:
The diagnosis of Vulvodynia can be attained by primarily understanding your medical history (location of the pain, nature, and extent), sexual history, and surgical history if any. Followed by which your healthcare provider might conduct the following tests for diagnosis:
A) Pelvic Examination: The external female genitalia and vagina are carefully examined to check for any signs of infection or any other causative agents. Once the visual examination is done, samples from the vagina are taken of the cells to check for infections such as “yeast infections” or “bacterial vaginosis.
B) Cotton Swab Test: While conducting this test, the provider will apply local gentle pressure to different areas on the vulva and ask you to rate the pain by touching the cotton swab.
Treatment Options for Vulvodynia:
Management of Vulvodynia generally takes a lot of time as the exact cause is not identified in many cases. Hence, a combination of treatment options is done
To Provide Relief:
- Oral medications: Analgesics, Anticonvulsants, and antidepressants are given.
To Address Pain:
- Topical applications: Lidocaine ointment and estrogen-based cream may
- Nerve blocks: For women with a long duration of pain who don’t respond to any other treatment, nerve block injections might help.
- Biofeedback: It helps in reducing pain through pelvic floor muscles exercises
- Relaxation and meditation also help.
- Ultrasound or electrical stimulation to help ease the pain can help.
- Dietary modifications by reducing food rich in oxalates such as spinach,
- peanuts, beetroots, and chocolates may help.
- Surgery: In localized vulvodynia, surgery to remove the affected skin and tissue (vestibulectomy) can provide a reduction in pain in a few women.
- Counseling: This provides a holistic approach to affecting sexual
- relationships, self-confidence, and overall improving quality of life.
Homeopathy Treatment for Vulvodynia:
Vulvodynia conditions can be treated to a great extent with homeopathy. Homeopathic medicines for vulvodynia work by reducing the pain and burning sensation around the vulva and the vagina areas. The relief from the itching and sensitivity of that area can be improved greatly with homeopathic medicines. Women suffering not only from vulvodynia but also from associated conditions, such as depression, mood swings, and irritation, can be benefited from homeopathic therapy in totality. The frequency and intensity of the pain can be reduced to a great extent with non-interrupted homeopathic treatment for a couple of months. Needless to say, a holistic approach, such as dietary changes, meditation, and homeopathic medicines, can minimize vulvodynia considerably. The common remedies that work for vulvodynia are Platina, Sepia Officinalis, Thuja Occidentalis, Kreosote, Helonias, and Natrum Muriaticum.
Let Homeopathy be the hope for treatment for vulvodynia. So, if you are suffering from vulvodynia anytime, opt for homeopathy without a second thought to obtain relief naturally.
- Written by Dr. Samreen Syed, Associate doctor to Dr. Rajesh Shah
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