The term vulvodynia is derived from the words vulva-- the visible parts of the female genitalia and odynia--pain. The pain of vulvodynia is not always accompanied by visible skin changes. Symptoms may include burning, dry, raw, or tight skin, and may range from mild to severe. Vulvodynia may have periods of activity (flare) and quiescence (remission). Pain may be induced by the following: external touch, sexual intercourse, tampons, tight pants, biking and horseback riding. Sometimes pain occurs in the absence of external pressure. The pain can sometimes be on the basis of irritated or inflamed nerves. At other times, the pain can triggered by yeast overgrowth. The underlying cause of vulvodynia is uncertain, but theories suggest infection, allergic reaction, an autoimmune response, elevated levels of oxalate in the urine, pelvic floor muscle spasm, and nerve irritation as possible culprits. There are numerous treatments that may afford some degree of symptomatic relief. Medications including antihistamines (Vistaril), tricyclic antidepressants (Elavil) , and anticonvulsants (Neurontin) may provide help. A program of pelvic floor muscle training to strengthen the pelvic muscles may help relieve pelvic spasms. A low oxalate diet may provide relief by minimizing the irritating potential of oxalate present in the urine.
National Vulvodynia Association
The National Vulvar Pain Foundation
Andrew L. Siegel
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Maywood, NJ 07607
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