Over the next couple of blog posts I will be discussing someof the other illnesses that can commonly affect people with endometriosis.Please note that you do not have to have endometriosis to suffer from any ofthese conditions, and this list is not exhaustive. There are many otherconditions that can be experienced alongside endometriosis, however I couldn’tcover all of them this month. If there is a specific condition that I have notcovered, but you would like a blog post on please let me know either by leavinga comment below or by sending me a message. Today’s blog post is aboutvulvodynia.
Until very recently I hadn’t heard of vulvodynia, this wasuntil one of my followers on instagram asked me questions during my weeklyQ&A session on my stories, with the main question being is there a linkbetween vulvodynia and endo? From my research, I have not been able toestablish a definite link, but I did found out that it is a condition thataffects quite a few people with endometriosis.
So, what exactly is Vulvodynia?
Vulvodynia is persistent, unexplained pain in the vulva(skin surrounding the entrance to the vagina), and can be a long-term problemthat is quite distressing to live with at times. It can affect women of allages, and often occurs in women who are otherwise healthy. However, there aremany things that can be done to relieve the pain.
The main symptom is pain, and it comes in many forms. Manyexperience a burning or stinging sensation and the pain can be triggered bytouch such as sex or the insertion of a tampon, it can also many doctorsexaminations very painful. The pain is constantly in the background and can bemade significantly worse when sitting, and is usually limited to one area ofthe vulva but there are cases where the pain is more widespread and can reachthe buttocks and inner thighs.
Alongside vulvodynia, some other problems reported are painfulperiods, irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis (a painful bladdercondition) and vaginismus – which is where the muscles around the vaginatighten involuntarily.
There are a number of options for treatment includingphysiotherapy, prescription medications, over the counter gels and lubricants,therapy and counselling, self care and surgery. The one on this list that seemsoddest to me is self care, and after looking into it a bit more I feel thatit’s a bit of a misleading name. Self care is a number of lifestyle changesthat could help to ease the pain and discomfort from vulvodynia, includingwearing 100% cotton underwear and loose fitting skirts and trousers. Avoidingscented hygiene products such as feminine wipes, bubble bath and soap, andapply petroleum jelly before swimming to provide protection from the clorine inthe water. There are many other options for treatment and details can be foundon the NHS page.
As with many other gynaecological conditions, the exact cause of vulvodynia is unknown (don’t you just get so frustrated with reading that sentence), but there are several theories. These include:
Problems with the nerves supplying the vulva
Damage from previous surgeries or childbirth
History of severe vaginal thrush
Previous surgeries or childbirth
History of severe vaginal thrush
Sensitivity to soaps, bubble baths and medicated creams – this could be irritant contact dermatitis
Reduction in estrogen which can cause dryness, particularly during menopause
Skin conditions such as lichen sclerosus or lichen planus
Behcet’s disesase which is a condition of blood vessels that can cause genital ulcers
Much about vulvodynia is still very unknown, and this can cause a lot of condition from those who have it (understandably!), the details above are a concise version of the information I found during my research. But hopefully with time and awareness, more information, advice and help will become available.