Vulvodynia

What is Vulvodynia?

This is a condition where women experience vulval burning and soreness in the absence of any obvious skin condition or infection. It may be there all the time (“unprovoked” vulvodynia) or there when the vulva is touched (during sex or when the woman tries to insert a tampon- “provoked” vulvodynia)

It is a very complex condition due to hypersensitivity of the nerve fibres in the vulval skin and for which, in most, the cause of the underlying nerve irritation is unknown.

This is known as an idiopathic condition.

A condition causing pain but without anything to see..

Clinics exist to see women with this issue

Avoiding soaps and other irritants helps

A specialist will assess and manage this

What are the symptoms?

The pain is often of a burning, aching nature. The intensity of pain can vary from mild discomfort to a severe constant pain.

The pain is usually continuous and can interfere with sleep. As with long-term pain there are good days and bad days.

Itching is not usually a feature of the condition.

The pain in unprovoked vulvodynia is not always restricted to the genitals. Other areas that may be affected are the inside of the thighs, upper legs and even around the anus (back passage) and urethra (where you pass urine).

Some women also have pain when they empty their bowels. Unprovoked vulvodynia can have an effect on sexual activity and is associated with pain during foreplay and penetration.

How is it diagnosed?

There is no one diagnostic test for this condition.

Patients are often misdiagnosed as having thrush or other conditions and have tried lots of treatments before the correct diagnosis is made by a doctor who specialises in this condition or who has seen a lot of patients with this problem before.

It is not infectious.

What is the treatment?

Sometimes knowing what this condition is helps with the symptoms – knowing you are being listened to, understood and helped.

Avoiding washing with soaps, shower gels is important

Avoiding putting anything irritant onto the skin- you are more sensitive to these products than most women.

Vaginal lubricants can help during sex.

There are treatments to help the nerve pain- these are prescribed by a specialist doctor at a sexual health clinic. They can help with the burning symptoms ( some are lower dose antidepressants, other are lower dose anti epileptic medications) but they all can have side effects which need to be discussed with you.

Useful information

To find out more visit the Vulval Pain Society.