Vulvodynia is a painful, life-altering condition that can affect a woman’s overall quality of life. Many women with vulvodynia endure months or years of pain because they cannot get a correct diagnosis despite going to multiple physicians. This leaves them frustrated and anxious to find out what options are available for treating the disorder.
What Is Vulvodynia?
Vulvodynia is chronic pain or discomfort in the vulva (the area around the opening of the vagina), which lasts for at least three months and does not have an identifiable cause. The disorder can affect women of all ages and may come on suddenly or progress gradually over time.
Pain is the primary symptom of vulvodynia and can be overwhelming for some women so it’s often described as burning, searing, or stabbing. Other symptoms of vulvodynia include irritation, rawness, stinging, and discharge.
Vulvodynia can be generalized or localized. Generalized vulvodynia may affect the entire vulva, whereas localized vulvodynia tends to affect a specific spot. Localized vulvodynia is usually provoked by touch or pressure to the area, as occurs during intercourse or when inserting a tampon.
Vulvodynia Treatment – What Are My Options?
Before considering treatment options for vulvodynia, it is crucial to get an accurate diagnosis.
The vaginal ecosystem consists of a combination of both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria. The good bacteria known as lactobacilli protect against invading microorganisms, and maintain the health of the vaginal mucosa.
An altered vaginal microflora pattern occurs when there is a shift in the balance of bacteria in the vagina, which causes bad bacteria to multiply. The subsequent vaginal secretions irritate the vestibular tissue and cause various symptoms such as irritation, burning, urinary urgency, and pain.
It is possible to detect an altered vaginal microflora pattern using the vaginal fluid analysis (VFA) test. The VFA test was developed by board-certified gynecologist Dr. R. Stuart Fowler of Fowler GYN International.
The VFA test evaluates the vaginal fluid using a quantitative technique to determine if an altered vaginal microflora pattern is present. It is an innovative diagnostic approach that requires advanced training and expertise.
Treatment For Vulvodynia
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for vulvodynia. If an altered vaginal microflora state is confirmed, a customized treatment protocol is formulated, which involves a combination of medication and hypocontactant skincare products.
Skincare products are a necessary part of treatment because many women with vulvodynia also have sensitive external genital tissues. Therefore, patients are advised to stop using hygiene products such as douches, soaps, and bubble baths that contain irritants and replace them with hypocontactant skincare products. These products are free of irritants that can aggravate the vaginal tissues and trigger symptoms of vulvodynia.
How Soon Will You See Results?
The treatment plan for vulvodynia focuses on restoring balance to the vaginal microflora. Most patients get some relief after 3-4 months on the treatment protocol, but it can take anywhere from 8-12 months for the symptoms to resolve fully.
Response times differ for each patient based on the characteristics of their microflora. Patients should, therefore, understand that improvement will be gradual, but it is essential to carefully follow the prescribed treatment protocol.
Once the vaginal microflora is brought back into balance, the pain and other symptoms of vulvodynia will resolve.
Vulvodynia has not been widely researched, and most doctors are not familiar with the disorder, which explains why some women go for years without a diagnosis. If you are experiencing vulvodynia symptoms be sure to consult with a vulvovaginal specialist who has experience treating the condition.
Take the Next Step
The experts in vaginal health at Fowler GYN International (FGI) Phoenix, AZ regularly diagnose and treat vulvodynia. You can reach them at https://www.fowlergyninternational.com/, or by calling (480) 420-4001.