Vulvodynia refers to pain that occurs in vulvar region. Vulvar pain can either be provoked, unprovoked or both. The most common type is provoked vestibulodynia or (PVD). “It has been estimated (that vestibulodynia) effects 12% of premenopausal women in the general population. It is characterized by severe burning/sharp pain that occurs in response to pressure localized to the vulvar vestibule.” This quote is from a book by Andrew Goldstein, called Female Sexual Disorders, Evaluation and Management of Pain. Twelve percent is actually fairly high when you consider that most women do not get treated for the pain and generally suffer in silence.
At the Center we see many, many cases of vulvodynia. For the most part these women can be successfully treated with a combination of physical therapy, systemic medications and topical treatments. Some women require, in a minority of cases, a surgical procedure called a vestibulectomy. The number of women requiring this procedure is so small that I could not find statistics on how many cases of vulvodynia actually result in the procedure. Only a minority of women get the surgery because it is a fairly serious and requires a long time for recovery. The good news is that a high percentage of the women who require it get good results afterwards. For more information on the condition and its treatment you can go specifically to Andrew Goldstein’s web site.
Some women develop vulvodynia from being on the birth control pill. The pill can draw necessary hormones out of the vaginal tissue causing dryness and irritation. Being on an oral contraceptive can also cause low desire. At the Center we generally recommend that individuals get off oral contraceptive pills particularly if there is another form of birth control that might work for them. The pill can be wonderful and easy if one is not predisposed to any of these issues but if you are, it can make all these issues worse.
In Goldstein’s book, he states that, “as many as 14 million women in the United States may experience chronic vulvar pain during their lifetime. Thus, even if only a small percentage of these women have vulvodynia, the number of women with the problem is enormous. Unfortunately, at least 30% will suffer without seeking medical care.” This is the part that concerns me the most. Many women at the Center say that it took them months or years before they came in for treatment. If you or someone you know is suffering with vulvar pain, come in and see us. There is a lot we can do and no one should suffer with this condition alone.