Your vagina may be depressed
From sexually transmitted infections to childbirth and unpleasant infections, surely your lady garden has enough to face?
But the idea of having a “depressed” va-jay-jay isn’t just something you see on the small screen (yes, Charlotte in Sex And The City complained to her gal pals of the very same thing).
It’s a real and very painful thing, known by its medical name vulvodynia, and it can affect women of all ages.
It causes a burning sensation down there, a stinging pain despite there being no sign of infection or skin condition.
The slightest touch, during sex or even when putting a tampon in, can cause a surge of pain.
And, for the women who suffer this long-term condition, it can prove so painful sex is firmly off the cards.
Dr Vanessa Mackay, a spokeswoman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, told The Sun Online antidepressants have been shown to ease the condition.
Hence, where the idea of a “depressed” vagina comes from, she reveals.
Dr Mackay explained: “Vulvodynia is an unexplained pain in the vulva, the skin surrounding the entrance to the vagina.
“The exact cause of this condition is unknown, however, it’s thought to be the result of a problem with the nerves supplying the vulva.”
What are the signs to watch out for?
First and foremost, if you’re suffering vulvodynia, you will notice a persistent pain down there, around your vagina.
The skin surrounding it, your vulva, will appear normal – unlike with some STIs where there are visible signs, such as lumps or sores.
The NHS notes the pain can be:
- a burning, stinging or sore sensation
- triggered by touch, such as during sex or when you’re putting a tampon in
- constantly there, in the background
- worse when sitting down
- limited to a part of the vulva, the opening of the vagina, for example
- more widespread, affecting the buttocks and inner thighs
Dr Mackay said: “The discomfort can come and go without warning and last from weeks to months.
“Often the pain goes away as quickly as it begins.”
But, she warned the condition is typically difficult to diagnose, because there can be a number of other conditions that cause vulval pain, including vaginismus that causes a tightening of the vagina muscles.
How common is it?
Perhaps due to the fact it can be difficult to diagnose, experts at the Vulval Pain Society told The Sun Online there are no official figures on the number of UK sufferers.
But, in the US research shows more than one in four women will experience vulvodynia at some point in their lives.
More than eight per cent will suffer it at any one moment, they estimated.
A spokeswoman for the Vulval Pain Society, added: “It affects women of all ages, including the elderly and even sometimes little girls.”
What treatments are available?
When it comes to treatments, there are several options that can relieve the pain.
Simple tricks, such as changing your underwear to 100 per cent cotton, and wearing loose-fitting skirts and trousers can help.
And it’s important to avoid scented hygiene products such as feminine wipes, intimate washes, bubble bath and soap.
The NHS warns avoiding sex and touching your vulva completely can actually make the pain worse, making it more sensitive.
Changing positions can help, and it’s always worth seeing a GP or gynaecologist for more advice.
Dr Mackay explained there are also gels and lubricants, as well as medication that can ease the condition.
And physiotherapy, therapy and counselling and in rare cases, surgery to remove part of the vulva are also options.
“Living with a long-term, painful condition such as vulvodynia can be frustrating and stressful,” she told The Sun Online.
“Antidepressants have been shown to be beneficial, not only for depression, but for the treatment of nerve pain.
“Furthermore, simply receiving a diagnosis can help ease symptoms for women who have struggled for years with failed tests and treatments and feel like they cannot be helped.”
Where women suffer persistent vulval pain, it is really important they see their GP and possibly a specialists, to rule out other conditions including vulval cancer.