Our #TalkingPeriods campaign wouldn’t be complete without our resident gynaecologist getting involved! Here Ms Anne Henderson talks all about vulval pain.
One of the (many) negatives that comes with not discussing periods or our vaginas in general, is the educational element. We can tolerate or ignore pains/discomfort because we are essentially conditioned to keep quiet about these things. The reality is, we can avoid a lot of these pains or discomfort by talking about them. We are kick-starting the conversation with the help of our resident gynaecologist. Discover 10 things you need to know about vulval pain.
Vulvodynia is the name given by doctors to persistent vulval pain or pain in the area around the entrance to the vagina, which they can’t find an explanation for. This is after doctors have excluded other potential causes such as infection or trauma.
Vulvodynia can affect women of all ages regardless of their general health. It can affect women regardless of whether they have had children or any other gynaecological problems.
Symptoms can be very varied. They include generalised aching and burning; with deterioration during certain activities. These activities can be sitting for extended periods of time or intercourse. The pain can also spread to involve the lower pelvic area, buttocks and thighs. The severity can vary. But, triggers such as intercourse can result in significant levels of pain.
Vulvodynia can be associated with other medical conditions. These including IBS, painful bladder syndrome/interstitial cystitis, vaginismus, depression and anxiety.
The exact cause of the vulval pain is never found in the vast majority of cases. Although some women may have a trigger such as trauma at childbirth or a significant vaginal/pelvic infection. In some cases a “trigger event” may not relate to the genital area. This could be psychological trauma or acute stress.
One of the problems with vulvodynia is the length of time taken to reach a diagnosis and seek specialist help. If your GP seems uncertain about the diagnosis, it is advisable to ask for a referral to either a GUM clinic or a gynaecologist specialising in vulval disorders.
Help is available in various forms, including prescribed medications and self-help. The Vulval Pain Society have an excellent website which sufferers should access for further advice. Specialists will offer advice about the best products to use for washing, sanitary wear (ideally organic cotton products) and topical emollients/treatment. If necessary, they will offer advice on systemic treatments. These can include pain-modulating medications in severe cases.
Talking therapies such as CBT and psycho-sexual therapy have been shown to be of benefit in some women. Your specialist will be able to advise further about this.
Surgery is very rarely required, and can actually cause the condition to deteriorate. A new laser treatment called the MonaLisa Touch has been shown to be of great benefit in some women. But, this is only available through trained specialists on a private basis.
In most cases, it is unrealistic to expect a cure as vulvodynia is recognised to be a chronic, relapsing condition. But, with appropriate treatment, many women find the condition can be managed. Thus there is minimal impact on their quality of life.
Are you someone who has vulvodynia? Or have you experienced these symptoms and not confronted them? We want to hear what you have to say! Remember to get involved in our campaign and talk all things period using the hashtag #TalkingPeriods. Leave a comment below or tweet us @totmorganic! You can also follow the campaign over on our Instagram @totmorganic.