How is vulvodynia treated?
The treatment depends on the cause of your vulvodynia. Some types of vulvar pain get better with creams or pills made to treat yeast infections. Sometimes the pain goes away if you use creams that contain estrogen or cortisone, but cortisone cream isn't good to use for long periods of time. Some antidepressant medicines can help nerve pain and irritation. Other treatments that may help include interferon injections, laser therapy or surgery.
Muscle spasms in your pelvic area can also make vulvar pain worse. Physical therapy or biofeedback treatments (treatments that help you strengthen and relax your pelvic muscles) may help ease the spasms. If you decide to try one of these treatments, look for a therapist trained in women's health. With practice, you can learn to relax your pelvic muscles with exercises you do at home.
What else can I do to help my symptoms?
Some of the following steps may help ease your symptoms. If they help, keep doing them. If they don't help, stop and talk with your doctor about other possible treatments.
- Try to avoid using soap in the genital area. Just wash with water. Don't use creams, petroleum jelly, bubble baths, bath oils or feminine deodorant sprays.
- Wash your genital area frequently with plain water to wash away any vaginal secretions that may cause irritation. Rinse with clear water from a squeeze bottle after urinating.
- Wear only all-cotton underwear and loose clothing. Avoid wearing pantyhose or other close-fitting synthetic clothing.
- Use only white, unbleached toilet tissue and 100% cotton unscented sanitary products (tampons and pads).
- Report any increased discharge and irritation to your doctor so that yeast and bacterial infections can be treated right away.
- Try to avoid using contraceptive devices and contraceptive creams that might irritate your genital area. Talk with your doctor about other methods of birth control.
- Wash new underwear before wearing. Always rinse underwear thoroughly after washing to remove soap residue.
- Don't sit around in a wet swimsuit for a long period of time. Doing so can cause an excess of bacteria and yeast in the genital area.
Vulvodynia and Vulvar Vestibulitis: Challenges in Diagnosis and Management by Julius F. Metts, M.D. (American Family Physician March 15, 1999, http://www.aafp.org/afp/990315ap/1547.html)
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff