Vulvodynia and How to Treat the Painful Symptoms
Vulvodynia means "pain in the vulva," but why is the pain in the vulva there?
Persistent, unexplained, and painful. These are the words that are often linked to vulvodynia, a chronic pain condition of the vulva that lasts more than three months without an identifiable cause.
Despite not having a clear origin, vulvodynia can easily affect the quality of life of women, causing them sexual dysfunction and bringing a sensation of burning, stinging, itching, or rawness to their private parts.
The symptoms associated with vulvodynia make normal activities, from sitting for long periods to having sex, unbearable and uncomfortable. While some experience constant pain, others only deal with occasional attacks.
THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
An estimated 200,000 to 6 million women, including teenagers, deal with the signs and symptoms. WebMD reported that it was once thought that vulvodynia only affects white females, yet its common problems are also found among African American and Hispanic women.
Symptoms of vulvodynia, which suddenly happen, usually last from months to years. The most common of them include:
- Burning, stinging, or rawness
- Aching, soreness, or throbbing
These symptoms usually appear constantly or seldom during activities such as walking, exercising, sex, resting, bicycling, inserting tampons, or casually sitting. However, according to the National Vulvodynia Association (NVA), there are two main subtypes of the condition: localized and generalized.
Most women have pain at only one vulvar site. If the pain is in the vestibule, the tissue surrounding the vaginal opening, the diagnosis is vestibulodynia. The majority of women with localized vulvodynia have Provoked Vestibulodynia (PVD), in which pain occurs during or after pressure has been applied to the vestibule through:
- Sexual intercourse
- Tampon insertion
- Gynecologic examination
- Long periods of sitting
- Wearing fitted pants.
For women with generalized vulvodynia, pain attacks at different times in different areas of the vulva. They may constantly happen once in a while, where touching or pressure may make the pain worse. Activities that apply pressure to the vulva, like prolonged sitting or sexual intercourse, may worsen the symptoms.
Through their continued research efforts, the NVA emphasized that vulvodynia is not caused by an active infection or a sexually transmitted disease. According to them, researchers speculate that one or more of the following may cause or contribute to vulvodynia:
- Infection causes
- Previous surgeries
- Neuropathic problems
- Hormonal factors
- Musculoskeletal problems
- Inherited factors
- Pelvic floor muscle weakness, spasm, or instability
The Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center explained that 90 percent of women with vulvar pain symptoms also have pelvic floor dysfunction. “This can contribute to irritating the vulvar tissues as well as being a source of pain by itself,” the PHRC stated in an educational video.
Often, women with vulvodynia also deal with other common pain syndromes like:
- Painful bladder syndrome
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Temporomandibular disorder
While the symptoms of vulvodynia aren't life-threatening, they can still take a toll on the daily activities and emotional health of women. The symptoms, which are often painful and frustrating, cause both emotional and physical problems—making it difficult for women to exercise, socialize, or work.
- Sleep disturbances
- Sexual dysfunction
- Altered body image
- Relationship problems
- Decreased quality of life
Just like every skin condition, every treatment plan for vulvodynia is different. Trying one treatment may also not be effective for all women since there are many causes of vulvodynia.
While most treatment plans center on appropriate medical management, cognitive behavioral therapy, and pelvic floor physical therapy, the NVA lists self-help tips for vulvar pain. Here are the 6 coping measures to relieve symptoms and prevent further irritation.
USE GEL PACKS FOR PAIN RELIEF
According to Vuvatech, cool gel packs are a natural home vulvodynia treatment that can be applied to soothe the pain in one's vulva after physical activities like sexual intercourse, horseback riding, or even sitting for long periods.
"Find a quiet place and lay them directly on your vulva and vestibule to alleviate pain, itching, and inflammation," said Vuvatech in an article.
Women may also use a cold compress to alleviate the pain and inflammation and apply it to the vulva for 15 minutes to relieve burning after intercourse. Just make sure to use a white and 100% organic cotton towel when doing so to prevent irritating the vulva.
PRACTICE PROPER HYGIENE
Personal hygiene, above all, plays an important part in relieving oneself from the symptoms of vulvodynia. To reduce the pain and inflammation, women should consider taking a cool or lukewarm sitz bath, a shallow bath that cleanses the perineum and promotes healing of the anal fissure. Doing so helps relieve stress and increases blood flow in the vulva and perineum.
The NVA also urged women with vulvodynia to use soft, white, and unscented toilet paper. Some of their hygiene tips include:
- Avoid getting shampoo on the vulvar area.
- Do not use bubble baths, feminine hygiene products, or any perfumed creams or soaps.
- Wash the vulva with cool to lukewarm water only.
- Rinse the vulva with water after urination.
- Avoid the use of hot tubs.
- Don’t swim in highly chlorinated pools.
LESSEN PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES
As doctors say, prevention is still better than cure. Veer away from physical activities that put direct pressure on the vulva, such as bicycle riding, strenuous exercises, and horseback riding.
Always remember that the goal is to limit activities that create a lot of friction in the sensitive area. If low-intensity exercises are not your cup of tea, try to enroll in an exercise class like yoga to learn stretching and relaxation exercises.
MAKE DIETARY CHANGES
MedicineNet reported that treatment options for pelvic pain include choosing foods that won't make your urine more stringent. You may want to avoid eating beans, berries, nuts, and chocolate. Also, the Vulval Pain Society suggests a low-oxalate diet, but there’s no sufficient research to back the recommendation.
On top of these, add fiber to your diet and drink at least 8 glasses of water daily. Preventing constipation is crucial to not triggering vulva pain.
CHOOSE LOOSE, COTTON CLOTHES
The NVA recommends that women with vulvodynia should wear all-white cotton underwear to prevent irritation. Anything that touches the vulva may make or break your comfort, so make sure to choose undergarments that are soft, comfortable, and friction-free.
Also, if you like wearing skinny jeans or tight shorts, this is the right time to set them aside. It's better to wear loose-fitting pants or skirts to free your private parts from frequent friction and unbearable pressure.
TAKEAWAY: While these tips are easy to follow, nothing beats the comfortable experience that our allergy-free organic cotton collections provide.
If you want to make sure that your vulva remains safe from constant chafing, harmful chemicals, and toxic materials, why not invest in allergy-free clothes made from 100% organic cotton?
As the Authority in Allergy-Free Clothing, we have always informed our customers that wearing the wrong clothing can trigger skin conditions and irritations. Luckily, our 100% organic cotton undergarments and clothes remain safe from allergens, irritants, preservatives, dyes, detergents, fragrances, parabens, and other harmful chemicals, protecting the wearer best against skin allergies.
For uncompromising prevention of severe allergies and multiple chemical sensitivities, visit our Allergic Contact Dermatitis collection. To find out more information about vulvodynia, check out this informative resource from NVA.
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