Wellness 13 May 2024

The close link between vulvodynia and cystitis

My dear friend,

if you have decided to open this article, it is likely that you want to learn more about vulvodynia and understand whether, indeed, there is a correlation between this chronic pain and cystitis.

So let’s get some clarity together by talking about a disorder from which so many women today suffer and about which not enough is said yet. ❤

Vulvodynia and cystitis: everything you need to know

First, what is vulvodynia?

Vulvodynia is chronic pain in the vulva, vagina, or genitals that affects 16% of women.

We know, vulvar and vaginal pain are common symptoms of various conditions, including infections and skin disorders. However, vulvodynia is different: we are talking about constant pain that can even last for months.

But the real ‘bummer’ is that it is not an obvious symptom of a specific condition, and the pain can be so intense that it prevents us from doing the activities we enjoy most.

Yeah, quite a nuisance. 🥺

You should know that there are two types of vulvodynia and that they are classified according to where the pain originates:

  1. the first is localized vulvodynia: in most cases, the pain is isolated to one spot, such as the vulvar vestibule or clitoris. The vulvar vestibule is the skin located between the inner vaginal labia and the opening of the urethra (where one pees) and vagina, while the clitoris is the small organ–like a bead–located at the top of the vulva;
  2. Then there is generalized vulvodynia: in this case, pain may be experienced in different parts of the vulva and/or vagina at different times.

At present, the true causes of vulvodynia are unknown, but research has identified some possible triggers such as:

  • Lesions in the vulvar region;
  • Prior trauma derived from sexual intercourse;
  • allergies;
  • Genetic predisposition to inflammation;
  • Past vaginal infections;
  • Pelvic floor weakness;
  • Vulvo-perineal hypercontractility.

In principle, any gynecologist can observe this widely prevalent problem, but it often risks going undiagnosed for years. The lack of scientific studies and the tendency to underestimate vulvodynia creates so much discomfort for women who suffer from it, who are often told that they are ‘hypochondriacs,’ going so far as to attribute their symptoms to other diseases.

And here we come to us: let’s talk now about the relationship between vulvodynia and cystitis.

Read also: Treating cystitis with baking soda: a sensible choice or a bad idea?

What is the (true) relationship between vulvodynia and cystitis?

The main symptom of vulvodynia is persistent pain in and around the vulva and vagina. This constant, stinging, throbbing pain can be triggered by stimulation, for example, during sexual intercourse or the insertion of tampons.

Pain during sex is one reason why we may tend to rule out any other symptoms and diagnose post-coital cystitis.

Not surprisingly, some symptoms of vulvodynia overlap with those of a typical UTI (urinary tract infection), such as vaginal burning, vaginal pressure, frequency and urgency to urinate.

But it doesn’t end there.

Some women may suffer from other disorders, such as interstitial cystitis (which a recent study compared with vulvodynia, finding many similarities), vaginismus, irritable bowel syndrome, and severe menstrual pain.

It is well understood that, if undiagnosed, vulvodynia can cause serious harm to sufferers, even going as far as:

  • Affect interpersonal relationships;
  • Reduce libido;
  • Feeding the malaise;
  • cause depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances and altered body image.

This silence can also make many women feel even more alone, leading them to believe that ‘it’s all in their head’ and that there is nothing to worry about.

And that is exactly why it is important to talk about it because, remember, you are never alone. ❤️

How is vulvodynia diagnosed?

The treating physician-but also the gynecologist, urologist, obstetrician, or physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor rehabilitation-will diagnose vulvodynia by ruling out other conditions that might cause the pain.

In this case, the specialist will ask about medical, sexual, and surgical history, but also about symptoms, including where the pain is felt, the burning sensation, when the vulva hurts, and its intensity.

Tests and procedures used to diagnose vulvodynia may include:

  • Physical examination: the doctor will inspect the vulva and perform a pelvic examination with a speculum to evaluate the vagina and cervix (the opening between the vagina and uterus). It will also assess the pelvic floor muscles to identify painful areas;
  • the swab test, where the gynecologist will gently swab a cotton swab over parts of the vulva and ask when (and where) the contact is painful. This test is particularly useful for diagnosing localized pain in the vulvar vestibule, which is called vulvovestibular syndrome;
  • swabs for infection: these tests can rule out conditions that can cause vulvar pain, such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), bacterial vaginosis, and yeast infections.

In rare cases, the physician may order a colposcopy or biopsy of the vulva to rule out conditions unrelated to vulvodynia that could be causing the pain.

I hope this article was helpful to you. Remember, if you have any questions, I am here. 🥰

I give you a big hug,

Lorenza

Read also: Why in the presence of diabetes increases the risk of occurrence of cystitis

In this article we talked about…

  • Vulvodynia is chronic pain in the vulva, vagina, or genitals that affects 16% of women. It is a constant pain that can last even months and can prevent you from performing daily activities.
  • There are two types of vulvodynia, localized and generalized, but the causes of the disease are still unknown. However, research has identified some possible triggers such as lesions in the vulvar region, allergies, past vaginal infections, and pelvic floor weakness.
  • Vulvodynia can be easily confused with other disorders, such as cystitis, because of overlapping symptoms. However, vulvodynia can cause serious damage, affecting interpersonal relationships, reducing libido, fueling malaise, causing depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and altered body image.
  • The diagnosis of vulvodynia is based on the exclusion of other conditions that could cause the pain. The specialist may perform a number of tests to diagnose vulvodynia, including physical examination, swabbing, and swab test.
  • It is important to talk about this problem because many women who suffer from it think that “it is all in their head” and that there is nothing to worry about.

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