Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. When you experience pain in or around the vagina, it’s not just extremely uncomfortable it’s downright scary. It’s also very embarrassing. Most women experience great unease even acknowledging vaginal pain, let alone talking to a doctor about it. This is why many cases of vaginal pain go undiagnosed and untreated for weeks, months and even years. The longer you delay treatment, the worse the pain can get. In addition, the medical condition behind the pain can worsen. So yes, it is weird to talk to your doctor about vaginal pain, but the few moments of embarrassment are well worth the relief you will gain from treatment. Plus, the more you talk to your doctor about it, the less uncomfortable you will feel with the subject. Take a look at some of the symptoms of vaginal pain listed below. If you experience anything like them, see your doctor immediately.
Symptoms of Vaginal Pain
Vaginal pain may not always manifest in a way that is recognizable as ‘pain’ per se. There are several other sensations which should be a warning signal. The intensity of the pain can vary from a dull, almost-imperceptible ache to a sharp, piercing pain like a needle is poking you from within.
- There may be a burning or stinging in the vagina.
- Sometimes, there may only be a discomfort which is heightened during sex or while urinating.
- Severe itching may also occur.
- A throbbing or pulsing sensation may be experienced.
- Your vagina may feel very sore, almost raw.
- Depending on the reason behind vaginal pain, other symptoms may also develop. For example, a sexually transmitted disease called genital herpes can cause vaginal pain, irritation as well as sores around the genital area, anus and thighs.
- You may also feel the above symptoms on your labia, vulva or clitoris.
- Other accompanying symptoms include lower back pain and general pelvic discomfort.
Causes of Vaginal Pain
There could be a number of reasons for vaginal pain which is why it can be hard to pinpoint the exact cause.
- A yeast infection is the most common cause of vaginal pain. It is caused by a fungus which is actually one of the healthy germs that keeps your vagina clean with help from several other bacteria. There needs to be just the right balance of all these germs for your vagina to be healthy. For reasons unknown to doctors, an imbalance occurs and there is suddenly an over-growth of the fungus or a reduction in the other bacteria. This leads to a reaction in the form of a yeast infection and vaginal pain is one of the symptoms.
- Bacterial vaginosis and vaginitis are two other medical conditions caused by an imbalance in healthy vaginal bacteria which leads to vaginal pain.
- A urinary tract infection can also cause vaginal pain.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease or PID is characterized by an inflammation of the reproductive organs which may lead to rather intense vaginal pain. PID can be caused by the formation of scar tissue post-surgery but is more commonly a result of bacteria transmitted via sex which travel into the upper genital tract and infects part of the reproductive system.
- Several STDs have vaginal pain as one of the symptoms. Examples include gonorrhoea, Chlamydia and trichomoniasis.
- An ectopic pregnancy does not generally have any symptoms, but vaginal pain has been known to occur in some cases.
- If the pain is on the outer genitalia and more on the opening of the vagina than deeper within, then it may be caused by vulvodynia. The pain can be unbearable. Even just sitting down for more than ten minutes can be excruciating.
- Not surprisingly, depression has also been known to contribute to vaginal pain. When depression is managed through medication or therapy, the pain automatically subsides and eventually disappears.
- Vaginal pain also occurs post-trauma in victims of sexual abuse.
- The ligaments in the vagina may be damaged or may have gotten weak due to an injury. This too can cause vaginal pain but it is the least likely reason.
- There is a painful condition called endometriosis which is characterized by the growth of the uterine lining outside the uterus. If you experience vaginal pain around the time of your periods only, then this may be the cause of your discomfort. Researchers do not know the cause of endometriosis so it is not possible to prevent it.
- Post-menopause, there are lower levels of estrogen in a woman’s body. One of the side-effects of this is a thinning of the vaginal walls. This can lead to dryness and even inflammation, a condition known as vaginal atrophy, and is one of the potential causes of vaginal pain in menopausal women.
Treatment for Vaginal Pain
Vaginal pain is often misdiagnosed. In many cases, it is not diagnosed at all and only the symptoms are treated rather than the cause. If that is the case, then the vaginal pain will return once the treatment plan ceases. Since effective, permanent treatment primarily depends on an accurate diagnosis, it is crucial that you describe your vaginal pain and accompanying symptoms in detail to your gynaecologist so as to give her all the information she needs to figure out the reason for your problem.
Once the cause of your vaginal pain is discovered, your doctor will formulate a treatment plan that targets the main medical condition in addition to alleviating the pain. For the pain, medication and topical gels or creams may be prescribed. The treatment overall will vary depending on the medical condition causing the vaginal pain.
Possible Prevention of Vaginal Pain
With major diseases, there really is not much you can do to prevent vaginal pain. However, some factors causing vaginal pain are definitely under your control and you should ideally do all you can to protect yourself from developing the condition.
- Even if you are on the Pill or some other form of birth control, use a condom to protect yourself against STDs. Although even condoms are not 100% protection, they are one of the main tools in preventing STDs.
- Be gentle when handling the genital area while washing, masturbation or during sex. Make sure that any injury to the vulva or external genitalia is checked out immediately to prevent it from exacerbating into vaginal pain.
- Psychological problems can and often do manifest as physical pain. If you are going through a hard time either from stress, depression, anger issues, anxiety or any other negative emotion that is getting you down, seek professional help.
- Do not douche or use vaginal deos. They mess with the balance of vaginal bacteria and could also lead to infection.