Vulvodynia, characterized by a burning, irritation, or sharp pain near the opening of the vagina, is surprisingly common, say gynecologists from the University of Michigan. The women who participated in the University's new vulvodynia survey say that sometimes, vulvar pain is so severe it makes intercourse, and even sitting for long periods of time, painful, if not impossible.
For some, vulvar pain may be caused by activities like biking, tampon use, or intercourse, and for others it can be a persisting, spontaneous pain that can persist for decades. Some women say they feel a slight discomfort, while others claim to suffer from knife-like pain. Common treatments, including topical creams, are typically directed towards alleviating symptoms and usually only provide partial pain relief.
The new study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that aside from the 9.2 percent of women who reported that they were currently experiencing vulvodynia, an additional 18 percent of women reported they have experienced symptoms of vulvodynia in the past.
Researcher Barbara D. Reed says she is concerned that many women are misdiagnosed with either yeast infections or estrogen deficiency and the subsequent treatment plans they were recommended did little to alleviate their pain.
The primary goal of the study was to gain insight on the demographics of women with vulvodynia. Based on survey responses, researchers were able to determine the ethnicities and ages of those women with vulvar discomfort, as well as the intensity of the pain they experienced. "Knowing this should make it easier for medical providers to expect to see women with this problem, and will therefore make the diagnosis earlier," Reed says.