There are many concerns that women have in terms of their vaginal health.
But ever since Charlotte from Sex & The City announced that her vagina was depressed, the now popular term has many women wondering if it actually could be a real thing.
Well, the answer is yes, and it has a proper name Vulvodynia.
What is Vulvodynia?
Causing chronic pain, burning and sensitivity in the vulva, Vulvodynia affects 1 in 50 Australian women. The discomfort experienced can last for weeks or months and can disappear just as suddenly as it can arrive.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of Vulvodynia can mimic that of many other vaginal conditions so it is always recommended that if you experience any of the following, that you make a trip to your local GP:
- Painful intercourse
The pain experienced can be constant or come in waves and could last for weeks, months or even years.
The pain may be felt in your entire vulva area or in just one localised area such as the opening of the vagina. The vagina may look a little red or swollen but more often than not, it appears visually normal.
What causes it?
There is no clear cause of Vulvodynia. However, there are a few factors that may contribute to it including past vaginal infections, injury or irritation of the nerves surrounding the vulva and due to the use of creams or irritable underwear, overuse of antibiotics and allergies or sensitive skin. Hormonal changes due to menopause, breastfeeding or the pill may also be a factor.
Some women who get Vulvodynia have a history of vaginal infections such as thrush. However, it is important to know that Vulvodynia is not a sexually transmitted disease and it is not contagious.
How is it tested for?
Your doctor is likely to ask you a few questions about your medical history as well to try to gauge a better idea as to what you’re experiencing and where. In addition to their questions, your doctor may perform a pelvic examination. This involves your doctor visually examining your external vaginal area for any signs of infection or an explanation for the cause of your symptoms.
Your doctor may also do a quick cotton swab to see if there are any areas of pain around your vulva region as well as take some cell samples to test for vaginal infections such as a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosos.
How is it treated?
No one treatment works for everyone, and some women find that they need a combination of treatments to help relieve the symptoms. There is no cure. Treatment is aimed at helping to relieve the pain and discomfort experienced. Some treatment your doctor may prescribe are topical creams, antidepressants, nerve blocks ad anticonvulsants. There is also a lot you can do at home to help prevent or relieve symptoms:
- Use unscented, soft, white toilet tissue.
- Use dermatologically tested laundry liquid and avoid fabric softener on underwear.
- Avoid perfumed soaps or creams.
- Wear 100% cotton underwear, tampons and pads.
- Try to avoid hot swimming areas such as the bath and spas as well as too much chlorine.
- Wash your vulva with cool, clean water after sex and urination.
- Wear loose fitting pants and skirts and keep the vulva clean and dry.
Remember, although you may be experiencing symptoms of a depressed vagina, it is important to see your doctor and get a definite diagnosis so you can seek the correct treatment.