Vulvodynia: There is No Need to Suffer

Vulvodynia is a painful condition that is difficult to diagnose and treat. In fact, many women go undiagnosed for years. UT Health Austin physician assistant Teresa Reed discusses the nature of the condition and what women can do to diagnose and treat vulvodynia.

Explaining the condition

Vulvodynia is a big, fancy word for “vulva,” meaning external genitals (the vagina is on the inside, vulva on the outside), and “dynia,” meaning pain. It’s pain on the external genitals.

Teresa says, “You know women don’t often come in saying, I have pain. They say things like, “ I have burning, irritation, pain during sex at times, pins and needles feeling.” “When they come in, we rule out all those other things that can cause those conditions. By definition, vulvodynia is the absence of physical findings, it is a musculoskeletal, neuropathic condition.”

Can women live with vulvodynia their whole life?

Yes, vulvodynia may last a lifetime and can be severe or mild. Women suffer with the simple activities like sitting for prolonged periods or struggle with more complex issues like having pain with sex or in between periods. Pain can be intermittent or can be chronic and can affect a women’s mental as well as her physical health.

Teresa wants women to know that vulvodynia is something that is very treatable. “If they will just come in, and confide in us then we can help them.”

What can women do to treat vulvodynia symptoms?

For some patients, lifestyle adjustments such as avoiding tight, fitting synthetic clothing and switching to cotton or using personal hygiene products with no perfumes or dyes can help. In some cases, your provider may recommend a topical medication. However, some patients may benefit from a more interdisciplinary approach such as talking to a social worker or psychiatrist to work through relationship issues with a partner or a dietitian for food advice or pelvic floor physical therapist. (Avoid these vulvar irritants for symptomatic relief.)

At Women’s Health, a clinical partnership between UT Health Austin and Ascension Seton, we take a multidisciplinary approach to patient care. Our care team is made up of physical therapists, dietitians, mental health providers, and medical providers, and we put women in the center of that care and give her all those modalities and support to get better. We also ask about her goals, we ask her to be a part of her healthcare team, and we are seeing success.

What do you recommend for someone living with vulvodynia?

“We want women to know, there is help. It is treatable and they shouldn’t suffer in silence.”

For more information or make an appointment with Women’s Health, visit here or call 1-833-UT-CARES (1-833-882-2737).

About the Partnership Between UT Health Austin and Ascension Seton

The collaboration between UT Health Austin and Ascension Seton brings together medical professionals, medical school learners, and researchers who are all part of the integrated mission of transforming healthcare delivery and redesigning the academic health environment to better serve society. This collaboration allows highly specialized providers who are at the forefront of the latest research, diagnostic, and technological developments to build an integrated system of care that is a collaborative resource for clinicians and their patients.

About UT Health Austin

UT Health Austin is the clinical practice of the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. We collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to provide patients with an unparalleled quality of care. Our experienced healthcare professionals deliver personalized, whole-person care of uncompromising quality and treat each patient as an individual with unique circumstances, priorities, and beliefs. Working directly with you, your care team creates an individualized care plan to help you reach the goals that matter most to you — in the care room and beyond. For more information, call us at 1-833-UT-CARES or request an appointment here.