Vulvodynia is a chronic pain syndrome that affects the female sexual organs. It is a catchall disease, referring to any pain in the vulva that cannot be explained by infection or skin disease. Vulvodynia symptoms include any symptom that indicate discomfort or pain in the vulvar region. Vulvodynia symptoms include burning and stinging as well as irritation and rawness.
There are two major types of vulvodynia: Dysesthetic Vulvodynia and Vulvar Vestibulitis Syndrome. Dysesthetic Vulvodynia symptoms are a pain that diffuses throughout the vulvar region. This pain can affect the clitoris and the perineum, as well as the mons pubis and the inner thighs. This pain can be either constant or intermittent, but is dependent on any touching or pressure. This type of vulvodynia symptoms may also include inflamed tissue, but it is not always present.
Vulvar Vestibulitis Syndrome is characterized by pain whenever the vaginal opening is touched, or has pressure applied to it. Women who have Vulvar Vestibulitis Syndrome may experience intense pain during sexual intercourse, while using tampons, or while wearing tight clothing. Riding horses, bikes or motorcycles may also be painful for women who suffer from this type of vulvodynia. Their vaginal openings will most often be reddened or inflamed.
The causes of vulvodynia are unknown. Some researchers think that the vulvodynia is caused by an injury, irritation, or damage to the vulvar nerves. It may also be caused by a heightened sensitivity to the yeast that occur naturally in the vulva, or an allergic response to other irritants. There is no evidence that vulvodynia is a sexually transmitted disease or the cause of an infection.
Since vulvodynia is a catchall condition, medical professionals diagnose it by ruling out other common conditions. The doctor will review the patient’s medical history and perform a complete vaginal and vulvar examination. The patient will be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, infection, and skin disorders. The patient may also undergo a biopsy of any suspicious looking skin, or a colposcopy, a procedure where the doctor obtains magnified images of the vaginal system.
Vulvodynia treatment varies with each patient, but without knowledge of the cause - very few patients are cured. Therefore, treatment is focused on relieving vulvodynia symptoms, as opposed to curing the condition. Pharmaceutical treatment options include antihistamines, local anesthetics, or anti-inflammatories. Interferon injections, antidepressants, and anti-convulsants can also be recommended to vulvodynia patients. Patients with Vulvar Vestibulitis Syndrome may even be treated with some surgical options.