Vulvodynia is a debilitating condition with no cure. This condition causes unexplained and horrendous pain in the opening of the vaginal area or vulva. But the effects are much more than just pain. Let’s take a closer look at this condition and hear from a few individuals that live with it firsthand.
What is Vulvodynia?
Defined as chronic vulvar pain without identifiable cause Vulvodynia is commonly diagnosed as vestibulodynia, formerly known as VVS or vulvar vestibulitis syndrome. The pain is felt throughout the area for many women, while some only experience pain in one specific location in the vulva. While most women describe the pain as a burning sensation, others have described it as being similar to acid being poured on their skin or like a constant knife-like stabbing pain in the area.
There are two main subtypes of Vulvodynia, including generalized and localized, which sometimes may coexist. Localized Vulvodynia is when the pain occurs during or after pressure has been applied to the area, such as during intercourse, tampon insertion, or wearing tight-fitting pants.
In this case, these women typically also suffer from provoked or simply PVD. Another form of localized Vulvodynia is known as clitorodynia, which is pain, specifically in the clitoris.
Generalized Vulvodynia is when the pain is very spontaneous but constant with minimal periods of symptom relief. Those with generalized Vulvodynia will experience pain without provocation; however, things such as sexual intercourse or prolonged sitting can exacerbate the symptoms.
Causes of Vulvodynia
While little is known about the origin of most forms of Vulvodynia, researchers are looking at various aspects that may be the underlying cause. Some of these include things such as a history of sexual abuse, abnormal responses by vulva cells to infection, frequent antibiotic use, and even genetic factors are being reviewed.
Aside from experiencing pain, there are many other ways that this condition affects your overall quality of life. For Vulvodynia suffers sexual intercourse is typically very painful and, in some cases, even impossible. For this reason, it can cause issues within relationships breaking up loving marriages and even preventing young women from dating because they are embarrassed. Many sufferers are also unable to wear pants and, in some severe cases, even underwear.
Seeing how sitting for long periods can cause detrimental pain for many Vulvodynia sufferers, the option of working in a job where they must remain seated for prolonged periods is out of the question. So not only does this affect you physically, but it can also cause issues with your career and personal relationships. This Molotov cocktail of effects from Vulvodynia also causes many women to suffer from depression and anxiety.
According to the National Vulvodynia Association, women of all ages and from all races and ethnic backgrounds suffer from this condition. It was estimated in 2016 that as many as 16% of women in the US would suffer from Vulvodynia at some point in their life with the highest symptom onset occurring between the ages of 18 and 25.
Current Treatments, Therapies and Side Effects
Some of the most common medications prescribed to address Vulvodynia include topical estrogen creams, local anesthetics such as lidocaine, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, neurostimulation, spinal infusion pumps, Botox, and medicines that offer anti-inflammatory effects such as mast cell inhibitors are just a few. Seeing how this condition can affect many aspects of your life and your relationships, many women often also take antidepressants and anxiety medications.
Other therapies include exercises to strengthen pelvic muscles, and a newer treatment for Vulvodynia is known as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation which has been successfully used to improve pain in many other chronic pain conditions. In some severe cases for those that suffer from localized Vulvodynia, and more specifically for provoked vestibulodynia or PVD, it may be suggested to have surgery to remove the painful tissue if other treatment options have not brought relief.
Why Many are Turning to Alternatives for Relief
Unfortunately, many of the medicines prescribed to women to treat this condition come with a long list of potential debilitating side effects including severe nausea, dizziness, fatigue, constipation and other GI issues, lack of sexual drive, depression, and even death. This is why many women are turning to other alternatives such as holistic herbs and remedies.
Natural options such as herbal remedies that include CBD are highly sought-after by Vulvodynia patients. This is because research has proven time and time again that CBD offers anti-inflammatory and potential pain-relieving properties. While many CBD products must be ingested, they may not provide immediate benefits for those suffering from this condition.
However, topical applications of CBD, show great hope. From personal lubricants that include CBD that can be used during sexual intercourse to CBD bath bombs that can be added to a bath to help calm and relax vaginal muscles, many CBD products may offer substantial benefits for those suffering from Vulvodynia.
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