Vaginismus v. Vulvodynia
January 25, 2012 at 10:25 pm #8413
Hi ladies. There have been several posts of late on the need to educate physicians and clinicians concerning the condition of vaginismus. Prior to finding Dr. P, I remember visiting several different ob/gyn doctors. I would describe my symptoms of increased pain with intercourse and they continuously diagnosed me with vulvodynia. I asked them if I had vaginismus as I had researched the condition and my presenting symptoms and they continuously brushed this off and returned to the diagnosis of vulvodynia. For those ladies reading this post, how many of you were also misdiagnosed with vulvodynia? Also, Dr. P, can you give us the clinical difference between vaginismus and vulvodynia. How many of your patients treated also had vulvodynia in addition to vaginismus?January 27, 2012 at 5:11 am #9614
Currently, the default diagnosis of sexual pain is vulvodynia. That means that when a physician is faced with a patient who is unable to have intercourse because of pain, the diagnosis is automatically vulvodynia or “vestibulitis” Very few clinicians think of asking about vaginismus and therefore most of my patients have been misdiagnosed as suffering from vulvodynia, when in actual fact the correct diagnosis was vaginismus. This is doubly unfortunate because not only is there a misdiagnosis, but also failure to treat. Of the many conditions responsible for sexual pain, vaginismus is the easiest to treat.
The word ODYNE means pain. Therefore vulvodynia is pain anywhere in the vulva. Vestibule means room and refers to the area just before entry into the vagina, inside the labia. This potential space (just prior to entry) is called the vestibule. Pain here is vestibulodynia, and the old term is vulvar vestibulitis syndrome, or vestibulitis for short.
When I test my patients with a cotton tipped applicator, “Q-tip test”, about 1/2 test positive for either or vulvodynia and/or vestibulodynia, These are mostly “false positive ” tests in that the woman does not have this condition, but rather it is a manifestation of fear and anxiety to penetration. It is “too close for comfort”. Many of my more severe vaginismus patients are unable to differentiate between pain and anxiety when tested and have a marked aversion to be touched in these areas. To date I know of only one patient who had true associated vulvodynia and she is the one whose article appeared in the November 2011 issue of Cosmo. I would love to hear from others who were misdiagnosed. I have enough data that this would make an excellent scientific presentation. Let me know if you were falsely diagnosed with either or both of vulvodynia and/or vestibulodynia.January 28, 2012 at 11:12 pm #9620lesocParticipant
I was diagnosed with “vulvar vestibulitis,” “vulvodynia,” “vulvar pain syndrome”… you name it. To be fair, at least those are somewhat in the ballpark compared to “Just relax and connect with your partner” (yes, actual quote). We have already gone over my history between the two of us, Dr. Pacik, but I’d be happy to discuss my experiences here or wherever. I’ve got 8 or 9 GYNs under my belt Heather, I feel your pain 🙂January 29, 2012 at 6:07 pm #9622
@ Lauren, thank you so much for your post. Wow, 8 or 9 GYNs … isn’t it so incredibly frustrating to receive all of the wrong diagnoses and I can’t believe the comment “just relax and connect with your partner.” If it were just that easy, right? So frustrating! I sincerely appreciate you sharing this and hope that by everyone sharing their stories, we can all work together to educate physicians about the condition of vaginismus (the correct diagnosis). Have you had your treatment with Dr. P yet? He’s an amazing doctor and truly one of a kind. I’d love to hear more from you soon. Take care, HJanuary 30, 2012 at 3:05 pm #9626lesocParticipant
I have not been able to see Dr. P yet. I’m a bit bummed because I had BCBS through my previous employer, but I quit to go back to school full-time (again, sigh). The insurance I have now doesn’t seem to cover much, so I’m biding my time until I can hopefully find a job after I graduate in May (again, haha). In any case, it’s been a pretty long road–not as long as some, of course, but I sought treatment almost right away, when I was 17. I think that is why I got a lot of the “just relax” comments. “It’s impossible to have painful sex if you’re just a teenager right?! LOLZ SILLY GIRL.” Another problem that was not entirely the doctors’ fault was I did not tell them about the muscles clenching on the inside–because I didn’t know. My partner now was the only one who observed it. Whatever was going on in regards to that, I thought was just normal. While I have not tried every single “conservative” treatment that exists, I’ve tried most of them, I’d say. (Even had a vulvar biopsy; I do not recommend that…) Not once did anyone ever mention vaginismus. The 8 or 9 figure is counting both drs I specifically sought treatment from and drs to whom I brought up the pain, and they either dismissed it, or did something almost equally helpful, like throw packets of lube at me or tell me to massage and stretch the vestibule “like pregnant women do.” Ugh, memories. :]January 30, 2012 at 9:09 pm #9627
Hi Lauren. Wow, just the word vulvar biopsy sounds frightening to me. I can’t believe the way some doctors, who truly don’t understand vaginismus, can treat patients. This is why I think it’s so, so important to spread the word about the condition and Dr. P’s treatment program. I’ve found great docs post-procedure (thank God) and have given all of them Dr. P’s pamphlet which describes vaginismus in detail. I even struck up a conversation with one of the docs and we pulled up Dr. P’s website and she said she was going to advice one of her patients on the treatment program and the pure romance dilator set. I love the fact that you sought treatment very early and know that you will overcome vaginismus! We’re all here for you!!!August 10, 2012 at 8:55 am #10111nadia72Participant
Hello, I am very new here. I was diagnosed with vulvadynia almost 3 years ago. no one or nothing has helped my condition. At time I got extremely frustated and felt less then a woman. I have given up hope and chose to not even think about it anymore. I have noticed how my husband and I are living as if there is nothing wrong (maybe to not deal with a problem neither one of us can change) My question is, Can botox work on patients with vulvadynia? Thank youAugust 10, 2012 at 12:15 pm #10113
Hi nadia. Welcome to the forum and thank you for your post. I know that Dr. Pacik can write more on the specifics of the Botox treatment for vulvodynia. I believe he has treated patients for this condition as well and there is also an excellent article in Cosmopolitan about one patient’s journey.August 11, 2012 at 6:30 am #10115aroseParticipant
What Dr P said about pain in his examining room rung true for me – I remember reacting uncontrolably in a way I did not expect (the thought of what was going to happen made me feel queezy, but I thought I would be able to tolerate it) – I remember feeling a lot of stinging pain when he was examining me which I had never felt before (I’ve never had a gyn exam), but I think my reaction to my perceived pain (struggling, crying) was very much out of proportion to how I would normally deal with pain… I’ve never considered myself to have vulvodynia or vestibulodynia, but I can see how this pain (which was purely down to anxiety) could be misinterpreted if a doctor did a gyn exam. Whilst I was self-diagnosed, I did mention my vaginismus to a nurse once and she thought I was talking about vulvodynia or vestibulodynia (I can’t remember which) and seemed unaware of vaginismus. She suggested I saw the nurse practitioner who could give me some numbing cream (I didn’t go to get this as I had a feeling it wouldn’t do much!). On another occasion I saw my doctor to ask if there was anything she could do or a specialist she could send me to regarding my vaginismus. I told her I was already working with dilators, although I had been working with them for about 4 years at the time and had not made sufficient progress… she said that as I was already doing that there was nothing else she could think of. It therefore took us (after a year or so of deliberating and saving) to take a trip over to the states from the UK to have a shot at proper treatment. Despite the nhs in the UK, we still had to take out a loan for the treatment, which we had to find by ourselves. Thank goodness we could and did!August 11, 2012 at 8:37 pm #10124
There is so much confusion about vulvodynia and vestibulodynia (old term vestibulitis). Testing is done with a cotton tipped applicator (Q tip test).If the patient has any reaction to this testing it is scored as a positive test. Patients who have severe vaginismus, usually have difficulty differentiating between pain and anxiety to testing. For most the testing is “too close for comfort”. The aversion to being touched in the pelvic area makes proper testing all but impossible because of the high anxiety levels associated with this testing, especially in the vestibule just outside the vagina. These are then “false positive” tests and mean nothing.
Associated vulvodynia or what is called (provoked) vestibulodynia is actually RARELY associated with vaginismus and is just one more misdiagnosis in the workup for sexual pain.August 11, 2012 at 10:08 pm #10125
Nadia, it is important to be sure you have vulvodynia. Testing positive is not necessarily the diagnosis, but if clothing causes pain in the vulva then the diagnosis of vulvodynia is more likely. Rarely vulvodynia is associated with vaginismus and this would be important to determine. The Botox program appears to work better for the vaginismus, and though patients do get benefit from injections in the vulva, I’m not sure how long the benefit lasts. This is in contrast to the treatment for vaginismus which appears to last a long time. Hope this helps.August 13, 2012 at 7:40 am #10145
Hi. Dr. Pacik. This is actually exactly what happened to me. In 2008, a couple of years after our 10/06 wedding and still unable to achieve intercourse, I went to see a gynecologist. When she attempted to examine me, I felt excruciating pain at even the outside area. She immediately stopped the exam, diagnosed me with vulvodynia, and said I would have to visit a physical therapist before she would ever try to examine me again. I had brought research about vaginismus to the appointment and showed it to her plus explained all of the symptoms that I had and she would not even read it and just dismissed it saying that I had vulvodynia. I did, in fact, have vaginismus and was one of these patients who couldn’t differentiate between pain and anxiety with testing and I was cured within 1 week of receiving this treatment for VAGINISMUS.
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