An overview of common gynaecological conditions
Click below to learn more about each gynaecological condition.
Vulvar pain is diagnosed if it lasts more than three months and doesn’t have an identifiable cause, such as an infection.
The pain associated with vulvodynia can have a significant impact upon your quality of life. Sexual intercourse can be very painful, which may lead to sexual dysfunction. In some cases, the pain can make sitting for long periods uncomfortable.
Many women find it hard to talk about the problem with their doctor, so it is difficult to know how widespread vulvodynia is. But it is thought to be the leading cause of painful sex among women who haven’t gone through the menopause.
The condition is not contagious, so women with vulvodynia can’t spread it to other people. It also has nothing to do with personal hygiene and is not a sign that you have cancer.
Other theories on what causes vulvodynia include:
It should be noted that pain in the vulva is not always vulvodynia. There are several other causes of pain in the genital area that can cause pain. These include:
Your doctor may want to rule out these conditions before treating you for vulvodynia.
If you are experiencing symptoms of vulvodynia then your doctor will first rule out other possible causes, such as a yeast or bacterial infection, which are more easily treatable.
Once the doctor has taken note of your medical history, they will conduct a pelvic examination, which may include touching the vulva area with a cotton swab to find out the precise location and intensity of the pain.
After the initial examination, you may be referred for other tests. These include:
Vaginal lubricants and aqueous cream may soothe the area and help moisturise the vulva if it’s dry. You can also use an anaesthetic gel, such as lidocaine. This can be applied regularly throughout the day or overnight. It can also be applied prior to having sexual intercourse. Conventional over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol, do not usually relieve the pain of vulvodynia.
These include antidepressants and anticonvulsants, which act to reduce nerve pain. You may need to take this for several months for it to be effective.
These are used only for temporary pain relief and work by injecting a local anaesthetic and steroids into a nerve located near the pain.
This can help by relaxing the muscles around your vagina, which can help to reduce pain. A physiotherapist will show you how to do exercises for your pelvic floor muscles. Another technique to relax and desensitise the vagina involves using a vaginal trainer, which you can use in the privacy of your own home. These are smooth cones of gradually increasing size that can be inserted into your vagina.
This includes cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which can help women cope with the impact that vulvodynia has on their life. Psychosexual counselling is usually recommended due to the impact that it can have on sexual relationship, self-esteem and quality of life.
Women's Health Matters 2021 provides a comprehensive analysis of ten of the most common gynaecological conditions misdiagnosed or misunderstood for years at a time. Infertility, debilitating chronic pain, the onset of associated conditions and severe depression are common effects of living with a gynaecological condition without access to the right care. Yet despite this, education and awareness around women’s health is lacking.
Millions of women in the UK continue to suffer in silence while waiting for a diagnosis, unsure of how best to manage their pain or seek help.
The aim of this Women's Health Matters is to tackle taboos in women's health by sharing the hard-hitting stories of other women living with these conditions, as well as:
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