Vulvodynia...a modern mistery

Vulvodynia, a condition that has been reported by women for centuries, but only recently has been classified as a real disorder. As it is a health concern affecting women, with multiple implications, the need to find suitable treatment is imperious. What is it and how can it be treated? Let’s find out!

The International Society for Study of Vulvovaginal Disease defines vulvodynia as “vulvar discomfort, most often described as burning pain without relevant visible findings or a specific, clinically identifiable, neurologic disorder.”

Symptoms of this condition can be: sensation of burning, irritating, stinging and soreness usually lasting for more than 3 months, limiting or preventing intercourse. The pain can appear either after the first episode of intercourse or after a period of pain free activities.

Vulvodynia can be classified in two categories:

1. Generalized (pain spread all over the vulva)

  • Provoked: sexual, non-sexual or both

  • Unprovoked

  • Mixed: provoked and unprovoked

2. Localized: vestibulodynia (pain at the entrance of the vagina), clitorodynia (clitoral pain), hemi vulvodynia (vulvar pain on a part of the vulva)

  • Provoked : sexual, nonsexual or both

  • Unprovoked

  • Mixed: provoked and unprovoked

Studies show that vulvodynia is very common. It affects up to 28% of women in reproductive years. Therefore, it represents a significant challenge for society, the healthcare system, the affected woman and her intimate partner (if there is one), and her family. It has been estimated that in the US alone, l $31-72 billions are spent annually due to vulvodynia, as the suffering women may consult different doctors (general practitioners, gynecologists, dermatologists, urologists and alternative practitioners). All these actions result in a delay of diagnosis and management of the condition.

Vulvodynia is a multifactorial disease and the causes of this condition are not entirely elucidated. Researchers suggest multiple factors.

Genetic factors

  • Studies suggest that women with vulvodynia may have a genetic predisposition , due to an inherited increased sensitivity to pain

Muscular factors

  • Changes of the pelvic musculature may induce vulvodynia

  • Pelvic modifications can occur from different factors such as vaginal childbirth, abdominal or pelvic surgery, prolonged sitting, poor posture