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Easing the Pain of Vulvodynia

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Vulvodynia, a chronic pain condition of the vulva, affects up to 15 percent of women at some point in their lives. For some women, it resolves itself with treatment or gradually improves over time, but a lot of women have it permanently.

Symptoms include:
• Pain at the vulva (the opening to the vagina) and the surrounding areas.
• A specific sore area on the vulva that is more painful than other areas. If you imagine a clock face over the vulva, this sore area is usually at the 5 o clock point

• A constant or intermittent burning pain in the skin of the vulva.
• Shooting or stabbing pains in the vulva.
• Pain when wearing tight clothing, such as jeans.
• Contact pain (pain when cycling, sitting on hard chairs, trying to insert tampons)
• Pain when attempting sexual intercourse.
• Sore, dry skin.
• Feeling as if the area is swollen even when there is no visible sign.
• Redness when there is no infection or other cause.
• Itching, irritation.

If the usual treatment of anti-depressants to alter nerve function is not having an effect on you, there are other ways to ease the pain of vulvodynia and get your life back.

Get Tested for Infection

A lot of vulvodynia sufferers test positive for E-coli and candida bacteria. Some have repeated infections that do not respond to treatment. Some specialists believe that vulvodynia is caused by chronic candida or an over-sensitivity or allergy to candida. If in doubt, ask your gynaecologist for a series of swabs to check for its presence. You can also be tested for candida antibodies that would show whether you are allergic.

Long term treatment with an anti-thrush drug may then be given. This should be in tablet form, rather than topical as the topical creams can actually trigger vulvodynia.

Some women have found that using tea tree cream regularly on the affected areas eases their symptoms. Tea tree and neem pessaries are available from some online stores and natural health shops. They are very antiseptic and can prevent infections and reduce or stop symptoms like burning when urinating.

Get Your Hormone Levels Tested

If you suffer from dry skin, get blood tested to check your hormone levels. If you are low in estrogen, this may cause dry vaginal skin. If you have hormonal contraceptives, consider using a different method as some women get vulvodynia after using the pill. Aqueous cream or a natural gel like aloe vera gel applied daily can help avoid dry skin.

Wear Loose Clothing

Avoid tight jeans, lace underwear, thongs and nylon tights, which can all irritate. If you are in the house and not going out, consider not wearing underwear as this will allow the area to breathe.

Modify your Diet

Cut all yeast products out of your diet and eat foods that are low in oxalates. Oxalates make the urine more acidic which can cause vulval pain. Vulval pain support groups can advise you on which foods are low in oxalates.
Drink plenty of water as this dilutes your urine.

You Don’t Have to Suffer

Lidocaine anaesthetic gel can be applied to the vulva and any other painful areas to stop pain or allow you to have sexual intercourse without pain. Kegel exercises have been shown to reduce pain in some women. Acupuncture has also had some effect at reducing the pain. Remember, you don’t have to suffer in silence and if a doctor tells you there’s nothing they can do, find another doctor or go to a patient advocacy group who can support you.

Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting, in addition to running a charity for people damaged by vaccines or medical mistakes.

Add a Comment6 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I have been dealing with vulvodynia since 2011 - for me it began with chronic yeast infections and painful sex, and hormonal birth control was the root of the problem. I'm in treatment now, both with a specialist MD and physical therapy for my pelvic floor muscles. I'm all for more awareness, but this article is problematic because it suggests you try a suite of things on your own! Instead, go to the experts: Google vulvovaginal disorders, vulvodynia, painful sex, and search for local DOCTORS you can see. It's a complicated set of problems and you need a professional who will hear your whole story and perform the Q-tip test. I also recommend two amazing books: Heal Pelvic Pain by Amy Stein (http://www.amazon.com/Heal-Pelvic-Pain-Strengthening-Incontinence-ebook/dp/B001FA0O96/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1455054176&sr=1-1&keywords=heal+pelvic+pain) and When Sex Hurts by Andrew Goldstein, Caroline Pukall and Irwin Goldstein (http://www.amazon.com/When-Sex-Hurts-Womans-Banishing-ebook/dp/B004JN0FCW/ref=pd_sim_351_3?ie=UTF8&dpID=41DdI-tvbTL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR106%2C160_&refRID=022WNK7C99A9M0P5GFWY).

February 9, 2016 - 2:44pm
EmpowHER Guest

I have had vulvodynia for years and years and years. I had so many issues and finally was referred to a specialist in Milwaukee, WI, 100 mi from where we live. It was my physical savior. She knew right away that I had Lichen Planus of the vulva and vagina. A biopsy confirmed it. I was treated for a year carefully and conservatively but no luck. So she did a vulvarvestibulectomy on me. Removed the Barthelon Glands most women don't know they had. I had 4 inch tumors in some and I didn't even know it. I was on bed rest for 2 wks straight, had to have help for everything. It was a 3 month recovery. She was the most awesome Dr. ever. I have residual pain left from it going untreated for so many years and Dr's not knowing what was wrong with me. I know how to treat myself now but it's affected all areas of my vulva. It's been difficult on intimacy and been married 42 years to a wonderful guy. He's very kind to me. So it could be worse. I googled using essential oils for it as I'm getting into EO's and wondered about using some for that but coconut oil would be wonderful. Probably better than the steroid cream I use once in awhile with Estrace cream. Better days ahead ladies. Just hang in there. Soaks in the tub without any kind of soap is good also for some relief. Good luck.

February 16, 2015 - 10:54am
EmpowHER Guest

You guys, Im 32 and Ive been struggling with this my whole life, it ruined my Love life and relationships. I fight everyday, cuz I want to experience a normal sex life, and Loving relationship before I get too old, and I want another child.
I use coconut oil/with drops of various essential oils rotating them every month or so, every day, sometimes twice a day depending on the pain. I freeze them in elongated sport ice cube trays, and insert them. It has givin me my life back, i feel soo much better. In addition, I take several probiotic multiple strain acidophilus flora supplements, and one specially formulated for women. Ive changed my diet to include greens and more viber, vegetable and fruits. Im healthier than Ive ever been my whole life, but I fight every day to be normal and not in pain. I also have IC, and THAT can be life ruining. Antibiotics are also helpful(strange, I know, and I know many would disagree with me) but I truly believe this is mor etham just candida, its some kind of virulent bacterial infection of the cervix. This is my GUT feeling. Whenever I take antibiotics, my flowers feel better. Essential oils I use, include, tea tree, lavender, rosemary, thyme, lemongrass, eucalyptus,and palmarosa.

July 25, 2012 - 5:02pm
EmpowHER Guest

I have so many of the symptoms, going back to my GYN in a few weeks. I have changed my diet, cut out most of my caffenine intake, take a mulit vitamin, drink plenty of water, cran berry pomegranate juice, take fiber,a nd I read that Fish Oil could help vagainal dryness. Alas, Fish oil didnt agreew ith me, so I started codlive oil pills 2 months ago and they have helped. I still cant; weat jean, or sit down on a chair with oout a pillow. I have no discharge or odor.

June 3, 2011 - 10:30am

Thanks for your comments and hope you will get better.

I too have vulvodynia, hence my interest in writing about this subject. I have had it since 1989 so that's 22 years now :( Although back then it was not diagnosed, I don't think many doctors had even heard of it then. I was diagnosed in 1996 and that was after many mis-diagnoses and one doctor saying it was all in my head. Like you with your fibromyalgia, I also have other problems (hyperacusis and neuralgia, both nerve disorders, same as the vulvodynia). It frustrated me greatly to read in the Townsend Newsletter that women with vulvodynia are normally healthy because there's so many I've heard of who also have other issues and a paper I read that said the immune systems of women with vulvodynia are abnormal in comparison to healthy women, so I think the doctor in the Townsend newsletter was incorrect.

Half the time I am tested I show positive for candida or e-coli, yet aggressive treatments for months with diflucan do nothing (I had a six month course once and still tested positive for candida). The doctors say they don't know what has caused my vulvodynia but I feel it has an infectious root. My symptoms decrease dramatically when I use tea tree cream which is anti-bacterial, so that further makes me suspect a chronic bacterial infection that just won't go away and has damaged my nerves.

Like you, I am just beginning to consider detox as a possible solution (chelating of metals, probiotic and mineral support, epsom salt baths and modification of my diet - I haven't done any of these things yet but am about to embark on them). My gynaecologist is also sending me to an acupuncturist as he says they have had some successes in curing with that - perhaps you could try that too?

I hope your journey through the vulvodynia puzzle is shorter than mine.

Best wishes and good luck to you,


April 19, 2011 - 3:28pm

I was diagnosed with Vulvodynia in 2002. Fortunately, it only took the third doctor I saw to make the diagnosis. The first few years were nearly unbearable and there were times when I questioned whether I could continue to live with the pain. The worst part was not knowing why this condition existed and accepting the fact that there was not a cure.

I had to give up wearing pants, shorts, and even stockings. Even certain types of panties would trigger an episode. My sex life with my husband became a place of disappointment and anger. Any action that caused arousal would trigger the pain! There were many times when I was intimate with my husband because I did not want to give up that part of our life. I would suffer for days afterward and my husband would feel awful.

Nine years later and every non-invasive "cure" explored, my pain is manageable most days. I am in the process of identifying and eliminating possible trigger foods as well as reducing the amount of yeast that I ingest.

I also have fibromyalgia which can be co-morbid with vulvodynia. In the years since I was diagnosed, there have been some amazing breakthroughs but there is no "one size fits all".

If you are reading this, please know that you are not alone and it will get better! Try EVERYTHING to find out if something works for you and find a doctor who is willing to work with you.

May all beings be happy!

April 19, 2011 - 2:31pm
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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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