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Female Sexual Dysfunction Guide

Rosa Cabrera RN

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Vulvodynia – a Genital Fibromyalgia?

By Joanna Karpasea-Jones
 
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Your vulva hurts to touch. Sex is painful, if not impossible. It hurts you to urinate and you itch constantly. If you try to be intimate, insert a tampon or even ride a bike, your genitals feel like they are on fire. You think perhaps it's thrush so you go to the doctor who prescribes an anti-thrush cream that makes you feel worse. Months later, they finally admit it isn’t thrush. You have something called vulvodynia, a pain disorder of the vulva that may or may not be permanent.

Very little is known about the disorder, which was only "discovered" in 1988, but some doctors believe it is a type of fibromyalgia that affects only the genitals.

Women experience a burning of the vulval tissue that is constant but worsens on contact and they may get stabbing pains up the vagina or even referred pain in the legs and feet that actually originates from the vulva. This is similar to the stabbing and burning felt in the muscles of fibromyalgia sufferers.

What Causes Vulvodynia?

No one knows for certain what causes vulvodynia, but there are several contributing factors:

Recurrent Infection – A lot of sufferers have a history of repeated vaginal and bladder infections prior to their diagnosis. It is thought that chronic infection damages the nerves so that any touch is interpreted as pain. Topical anti-thrush creams can also trigger long-term burning and pain if they are used frequently.

Immune System Fault – Some studies have shown that women with vulvodynia have a weaker immune system than healthy women and it is thought it may be an auto-immune problem. Many women with vulvodynia also suffer from other hypersensitivity conditions such as hyperacusis, asthma or eczema.

Neurological Disease – Since sensation is interpreted incorrectly, some doctors believe it is a problem with the brain, rather than the genitals.

Allergic Reaction – some cases of vulvodynia have occurred after taking medications. For instance, the contraceptive pill is known to trigger vulvodynia.

Musculoskeletal Fault – If there is a structural problem with the woman’s body, for instance, if she has a hip problem, this can cause referred pain in her vulva.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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