| Caroline Knight
Vulvodynia is awful– there are no two ways about it! This painful condition leaves women feeling awful for various reasons; physically, it causes discomfort sometimes even just sitting or walking, and it can certainly disrupt your sex life since even touch is often painful. Vulvodynia pain occurs in and around the vulva, hence the condition is inconvenient, uncomfortable and worrying… we know.
Vulvodynia is characterized by symptoms such as throbbing, burning, stinging or aching pains in the vulva region. It may also cause feelings of rawness, soreness and irritation, and in some instances there actually signs of swelling or inflammation – though that is rare. The thing about vulvodynia is that attributing a cause is difficult if not impossible. Experts think that it could be due to damaged nerve endings in the urethra and vaginal areas, resulting in hypersensitivity. Another possibility is repeated bouts of thrush or similar infections.
Can vulvodynia go away? No doubt that’s a familiar question. The answer may not be a straight one, but it can be a positive one.
Vulvodynia pain manifests in different ways
Vulvodynia doesn’t feel the same for every woman. Since it seems to be nerve-related, feelings of extreme sensitivity and sharp, stinging or burning pains are common… but where exactly the vulvodynia pain manifests can vary. There is more than one type of vulvodynia, and the pain feels different depending on the type you have:
Generalized vulvodynia causes pain in different areas of the vulva, and it can fluctuate. You may not feel vulvodynia pain consistently in one place; instead it can move from spot to spot, quite unpredictably and intermittently. It may seem to flare up out of nowhere. For some, touch might set it off, and for others it might not. One commonality is that the pain tends to worsen when pressure is applied.
If you have the localized type, your vulvodynia pain will manifest in one specific place around the vulva. The pain (or the typical variants of it) feels just the same as type 1, so touch or pressure of any kind can trigger it – even sitting down for too long might.
Then there is a related condition, provoked vestibulodynia. Its symptoms are pretty much identical to vulvodynia pain, and may affect women of all ages. However, it is most common in younger women who experience painful sex (dyspareunia); they often can’t manage to have penetrative sex at all.
Vulvodynia symptoms can come on seemingly out of nowhere, which can be quite alarming. Unfortunately, vulvodynia pain can go on for many months at a time, and for some women it goes on for years. The good news is that vulvodynia can and often does go away by itself, so it’s unlikely that you will have to deal with vulvodynia pain for your whole life. If your vulvodynia is sticking around, there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms.
Lubrications and topical medications are popular, and sometimes a course of pelvic floor physical therapy can help, since it encourages your pelvic floor muscles to relax. In severe and persistent cases, a Doctor might recommend a surgical procedure to remove the painful area. This is unusual, so there’s no need to worry about it. Finally, bear in mind that not every Doctor understands vulvodynia pain, so if anyone tells you it’s all in your head make sure you check in with a gynecological specialist instead!