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Vulvodynia

IntroductionOPT_womens_health

Vulvodynia is chronic pain in the vulva that can be present in one or more areas and there is no known cause.

Anatomy

Vulvodynia can be present in the labia majora and/or labia minora.  Sometimes it affects the clitoris, perineum, mons pubis or inner thigh.  The pain may come and go, or may be a constant discomfort.  It does not necessarily happen due to touch or pressure to the vulva, and in some instances the vulvar tissue may appear to be inflamed.

Causes

The exact cause of vulvodynia is not known, but there are some factors that may help contribute to the presence of this disorder.  Chronic yeast infections, sexually transmitted diseases, chemical irritation due to soaps or feminine hygiene products, diabetes, and cancerous conditions of the cervix are just some of the causes of this condition.  Also, any sort of physical activity such as sexual intercourse, bike riding, horseback riding, or activities that put pressure on the vulvar area may be the cause of vulvodynia.

Symptoms

Pain is the most notable symptom of vulvodynia, and that can be characterized as burning, stinging, irritation, or sharp pain that occurs on or around the vulvar area.  This may be a constant pain or may be intermittent, happening only when the vulva is touched.

Diagnosis

There is not one definitive test to conclude a diagnosis of vulvodynia, but rather a physican will most likely do a pelvic exam and tests to check for bacteria or yeast.  Other testing such as a colonoscopy or biopsy may also be ordered to rule out other possible diagnoses.  These tests, combined with a thorough medical history, will generally lead to a diagnosis of vulvodynia.

Treatment

Physical therapy is a common treatment for vulvodynia.  Treatment will usually consist of internal pelvic floor massage because usually these muscles are tight or in spasm.  Using special massage techniques can help release the tightness and decrease the pain.  Physical therapy may also include exercises for core strengthening and hip, back, and leg flexibility.

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