What is Vulvar and Vaginal Pain?
Chronic pain conditions associated with the vulva and vagina are common yet under-reported and under-treated. Research studies show that as many as 16% of women in the United States suffer from vulvodynia at some point in their lives. The highest incidence of symptom onset is between the ages of 18-25. Types of pains conditions associated with the vulva include:
Vulvodynia: A broad term used to describe any chronic pain, itching, or burning in the vulvar area that lasts for at least three months. The term encompasses a variety of conditions with similar symptoms.
Dyspareunia: Pain during intercourse due to any cause. This may occur at the opening during attempted penetration or with deep penetration, which is most often associated with other issues such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and bladder or bowel hypersensitivity.
Dysesthetic Vulvodynia: The word dysesthesia means “altered sensation”. Symptoms include chronic or intermittent burning, stinging, itching, rawness and irritation to the vulva. The discomfort varies and can occur without being touched in the area.
Vulvar Vestibulitis: Pain located only in the vulvar vestibule, which is the shiny mucous tissue surrounding the vaginal opening often felt in a U-shaped area at the base of the vaginal opening. Symptoms are generally described as a sharp stabbing or cutting sensation. Pain is always worse with provocation, such as with intercourse, tampon insertion, or wearing tight clothing. Some may experience post-intercourse burning pain, which can last from 1 to 24 hours.
Vaginismus: Involuntary muscle contraction of the outer third of the vagina that interferes with penile insertion and intercourse. It is often caused by a combination of physical and non-physical triggers that cause the body to anticipate pain. Reacting to the anticipation of pain, the body automatically tightens the vaginal muscles, bracing to protect itself from harm.