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14 Facts About Vulvodynia You Need To Know

There's no instant cure, but there are treatments that can help.

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If you have chronic, unexplained pain around the opening of your vagina, there's a chance it might be vulvodynia.

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People who have vulvodynia may experience pain that lasts at least three months or longer. And while it's not completely understood by medical providers, here are a few things to know about this medical condition:

1. It can happen to anyone, at any age.

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There isn't a wide consensus on what causes vulvodynia, but neither age nor race are known to be influential factors.

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2. There are two main types of vulvodynia.

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People who experience pain at only one vulvar site have localized vulvodynia, where the pain is triggered by things like inserting a tampon or undergoing a gyno exam. For people with generalized vulvodynia, pain is pretty much constant.

5. There's no surefire cure for it.

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But there are a few treatments that can help alleviate the pain, including surgery, topical medications, pelvic floor muscle therapy, neurostimulation and pain medication. Talk to your doctor and gynecologist for what would work best for you.

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7. In addition to pain, you may experience burning, itching, soreness, throbbing or stinging sensations, too.

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People with vulvodynia have reported their pain as something that feels like having "acid being poured on my skin" and "constant knife-like pain."

8. Possible causes include nerve injury, an increase in nerve fibers in the vulva and elevated levels of inflammatory substances in the vulva.

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Another cause may be the abnormal response of different types of vulvar cells to environmental factors, like infection or trauma.

9. Before diagnosing vulvodynia, your doctor may conduct a pelvic exam.

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Your vagina will get a once-over to look for any other cause for your symptoms, and your doctor may take a sample of cells to test for yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis. You may also undergo a cotton swab test, which is when your doctor will gently check for specific areas of pain in your vulvar region.

10. And you might end up seeing several specialists, not just a gynecologist.

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Vulvodynia treatment may involve visiting a vulvovaginal specialist, dermatologist, neurologist, pain management specialist, urogynecologist and/or a physical therapist. Your doctor might also recommend seeing a couples or sex therapist since vulvodynia can wreak havoc on your sex life and relationships.

11. There are a few home remedies you can also try.

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To manage your vulvodynia symptoms, you might try cold compresses or a sitz bath to help with the pain. Avoid hot tubs, tight-fitting pantyhose and underwear, and activities that put pressure on your vulva (like biking or horseback riding).

13. People who have vulvodynia are often too embarrassed to seek help.

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Don't let the absence of visible symptoms or embarrassment keep you suffering in silence — the condition can last for months to years, so talk to a doctor ASAP if you think you might have it.

14. There's a community out there for people who have it.

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On Instagram for example, @peacewithpain is a platform based in Mexico to support women who have vulvodynia.

Remember, this post isn't meant to be a replacement for professional treatment. Be sure to work with a professional to find the right diagnosis and best treatment for you.

This post was translated from Spanish.

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