Experience pain during sex? You may have what is called vulvodynia, or chronic pain at the vaginal opening. A new study reveals, though, that many women rarely seek treatment for it.
Who exactly can get vulvodynia? Women, even teens, can already have it. There are no conclusive findings to confirm its prevalence, but estimates range from 200,000 to 6 million women.
How does vulvodynia affect women? Aside from painful intercourse, it can also manifest as pain during long periods of sitting down. It can even affect her ability to exercise, socialize or work.
What causes vulvodynia? Because it occurs in so many forms, researchers can’t exactly pinpoint just yet the specific triggers for it. But wearing tampons and pressure from bicycling are some of the things believed to worsen symptoms. Below are some of the possible causes: • Nerve injury • Muscle spasms • Hormonal changes • History of sexual abuse • Genetics
According to the study, approximately eight percent of women exhibited symptoms of vulvodynia, and 25 percent of the study’s participants experienced it at some point in their lifetime.
Only 50 percent of the women in the study looked for treatment, even if they had been experiencing vaginal pain for around 12 and a half years. Most women probably disregard it as something normal and just bear the pain, surmise the researchers. Says Dr. Barbara Reed, professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, "A lot of women think this is just [how] they are, and that it's to be expected and nothing can be done.”
200 among the 2,269 research participants met the criteria for vulvodynia and the average age upon its onset was 30 years old. Most of the women who had it were aged 18 to 70, after which the symptoms died down. Having vulvodynia didn’t discourage them from having sex.
Among those positive for vulvodynia, only 2 percent had been properly diagnosed with the condition. Usually doctors dismiss the vaginal pain as due to a yeast infection or estrogen deficiency.
Says Reese, “If they don’t get better when you treat those diagnoses, you have to suspect something else is going on.”
Although the study was just performed in southeastern Michigan, the researchers believe it commonly occurs across the whole United States.
Worried that you may have vulvodynia? Here are some signs to watch out for: • Burning, stinging sensation • Aching, throbbing or soreness • Itching
Further research will be conducted on the factors associated with vulvodynia.
Sources: • September 19, 2011. Rachael Rettner. “Sufferers of Vaginal Pain Rarely Seek Treatment” livescience.com • “Vulvodynia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments (Vaginal, Genital Pain)” medicinenet.com • “Vulvodynia: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments” women.webmd.com