Many women spend years seeking treatment for vulvodynia. While you may experience vaginal pain, burning, and rawness, gynecologists may tell you that your tissues look healthy and they see no signs of a medical condition. The search for answers can cause frustration and stress, but a vulvovaginal specialist can put an end to your discomfort.
What are the Symptoms of Vulvodynia?
The primary symptom of vulvodynia is a pain in the vulva. This pain can take many different forms, and it may or may not come with vaginal discharge, odor, or other issues. Women often describe their pain as:
- Sharp pain
This pain can severely affect your quality of life. Some women even find wearing clothes painfully uncomfortable. If vulvodynia has affected your life, seek a specialist in vulvovaginal issues like Fowler GYN International. Most gynecologists lack experience with these issues, so they lack the knowledge to diagnose and treat them.
What Causes Vulvodynia?
Most cases of vulvodynia occur as a result of Altered Vaginal Microflora (AVMF). The healthy vaginal has an active population of lactobacilli. These “good” bacteria feed on shed squamous cells from the vaginal lining. Their lactic acid keeps the vaginal pH between 3.5 and 4. This acidity hinders the growth of many other microorganisms.
When the balance between lactobacilli and other microorganisms falls apart, the vaginal secretions can change and become irritating and painful to the vulvar tissues. The imbalance may come from the squamous cells that form the vaginal lining. Estrogen triggers the growth and maturation of these cells, so if you do not have enough estrogen to stimulate healthy growth, the lactobacilli lack their preferred food supply.
Types of Vulvodynia
While vulvodynia simply means pain in the vulva, there are several subtypes that you may have. Talk to your specialist about your symptoms during your consultation. When and how your symptoms occur can provide them with valuable information.
At the entrance to the vagina, inside the vulva, you will find the vestibule. This highly sensitive area of tissue can become painfully irritated by altered vaginal secretions. This type of vulvodynia affects the vestibule, often causing pain during intercourse or even inserting a tampon. This condition affects pre-menopausal women more often than other types, although women of all ages can experience any of them.
If the pain in your vulva occurs whenever something touches the area, this is called provoked vulvodynia. “Provoked” means that the pain happens due to a physical trigger like touch or intercourse. Even clothing that touches the area can trigger a pain response.
If your pain happens suddenly without any physical stimulation, this is called unprovoked vulvodynia. It means that the pain occurs without a known trigger. It can feel just as severe and debilitating as other types since pain can hit you without warning.
This type of pain is often constant and ongoing. It often feels like a continuous aching, throbbing, or burning. This chronic pain can reach out through nerve signals to involve nearby areas. This form often happens in postmenopausal women, although it can affect anyone.
How is Vulvodynia Treated?
Many gynecologists will only see a few patients in a year with these conditions, so they lack the experience or testing facilities to find out and treat the root cause of the problem. A vulvovaginal specialist can identify the imbalance causing your issues and assign you to a customized treatment protocol.
Hormone treatments may form a key part of this treatment plan if your tests show that you do not have enough healthy, mature squamous cells. When these cells do not mature all the way, or there are not enough of them, the lactobacilli do not have enough to eat, and their numbers decrease.
Take the Next Step
The experts in vaginal health at Fowler GYN International (FGI) Phoenix, AZ, can diagnose and treat all types of vulvodynia. The team at FGI is led by Dr. R. Stuart Fowler. Dr. Fowler is an Emeritus Mayo Clinic board-certified gynecologist.
You can reach FGI at https://www.fowlergyninternational.com/, or by calling (480) 420-4001.