If you struggle with vulva pain, it can be a sign of vulvodynia, a type of chronic pain. The onset of vulvodynia can occur early in childhood or puberty, or it begins with or after an infection. Sometimes there’s no apparent trigger. Often the pain is limited to a small area, but the entire vulva can also be affected.
There are typical triggers for vulvodynia pain for some women, such as sex, tampon use, wearing tight clothing, or cycling. At Viva Health, Dr. Aleksander Bodnar is a board-certified OB/GYN in Linden and Clifton, New Jersey. Dr. Bodnar can diagnose and help you manage this problem, offering the highest level of care using state-of-the-art technologies to improve your health.
What is Vulvodynia?
Vulvodynia is a type of chronic pain that affects the vulva. It causes pain in the external area of the female genitals, including the vaginal opening, clitoris, and labia. There are two types of vulvodynia.
Also called localized vulvodynia, this condition causes pain only around the opening of the vagina. It happens due to external stimuli, like sexual intercourse, tampon insertion, or even sitting in one place for a prolonged period.
In this case, the pain can occur close to the vaginal opening on the labia and can even go as far as the inner thighs. It doesn’t always have an identifiable trigger, and it can happen spontaneously or be constant. Pressure can make it worse, but it’s not the cause.
Causes and Symptoms of Vulvodynia
Experts don’t know what causes vulvodynia. However, several factors can contribute to it, including:
- Injury or irritation of nerves
- Yeast infection hypersensitivity
- Abnormal vulvar cell response to trauma or infection
- Genetic factors
- Vulvar muscle weakness or spasms
- Changes in hormones
- Overuse of antibiotics
- Sexual abuse history
- Chronic pain
Vulvodynia may be linked to chronic pain conditions, like fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and even temporomandibular disorder. It may also co-occur with mental and emotional triggers, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and abuse.
You may have vulvodynia if you experience the following symptoms in the vaginal or vulvar area:
- Burning or stinging pain
- Aching or rawness
You may experience symptoms when you’re at rest as well as when you exercise or have sexual intercourse. The symptoms may be constant or infrequent, and each person with vulvodynia is different.
Treatment for Vulvodynia
To reach a diagnosis, Dr. Bodnar will perform a pelvic exam and do a cotton swab test to check for painful areas. When it comes to treatment, you may need to make lifestyle changes, like not wearing tight-fitting pants or underwear and avoiding scented pads and tampons. You should be sure to keep the vulva clean, and you may use a sitz bath or heating pads to relieve pain.
The doctor may offer different solutions, like local anesthetics and estrogen cream. Anti-inflammatory medications, SNRIs, and even Botox can also help. Many people see positive results with physical therapy, biofeedback, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).
Your treatment depends on the severity of your condition and your personal needs. If you’re concerned about vulvar pain, contact Dr. Aleksander Bodnar. Call us today or schedule an appointment online.