A Real Pain: Vulvodynia

I don’t remember when I first learned about vulvodynia, but I learned this week that it’s not nearly as rare as I’d thought.  In studies, 3% to 7% of women suffer from vulvodynia – chronic pain or hypersensitivity in or around the vulva with no medically determinable cause – and an estimated 80% of cases are never diagnosed.

Vulvodynia can be classified as “provoked”, i.e. pain on contact, or “unprovoked”, meaning it’s always there, or “mixed”.  The pain can be localized or generalized, and often feels like a burning, stinging or “raw” sensation.  And it can be brought on by sexual activity, or not. Sub-categories include Vulvar Vestibulitis or the newer term, Provoked Vestibulodynia or PVD.  Vulvodynia is a kind of Chronic Pelvic Pain but is much more specific than CPP Syndrome.  Vaginismus is a different condition that can cause painful intercourse (dyspareunia).

Other conditions, such as Interstitial Cystitis (Painful Bladder Syndrome), Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, often accompany Vulvodynia.  Treatment and management options are limited and often include psychotherapy.  For more about Vulvodynia, have a look at the National Vulvodynia Association website.  I’ve joined the NVA to keep myself updated on current research.

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