Fibromyalgia and vulvodynia have been shown to be related in several studies. Up to 11% of females suffering from fibromyalgia will also suffer from vulvodynia.
Vulvodynia is chronic pain of the opening of the vagina. According to a February 2007 study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, fibromyalgia and vulvodynia are clearly associated. Vulvodynia is also associated with chronic fatigue syndrome, which has been closely linked to fibromyalgia. It seems that all three conditions have a common cause or at least common exacerbating factors. Specialists in these disorders report an 11% correlation between fibromyalgia and vulvodynia.
What Causes Vulvodynia?
The causes of fibromyalgia and vulvodynia are unknown. Interestingly, both diseases were only “discovered” in the 1980s. It is not the case that the disorders did not exist prior to 1980, but rather that medical science did not recognize either condition as a legitimate disease for a very long time. Vulvodynia is sometimes referred to as genital fibromyalgia.
Thought no one knows what causes vulvodynia, there is speculation that recurrent infection, immune system dysfunction, neurological disease, or allergy may all play a role. Many women who suffer from vulvodynia have long histories of repeated vaginal and bladder infections. It is thought that repeated infections may cause damage to the nerve endings in the region and lead to chronic pain. It is also though that these repeat infections may be indicative of an underlying immune system dysfunction that causes heightened sensitivity to normal stimuli.
While the cause of vulvodynia may not be clearly understood, the symptoms are well known. Mild cases are defined by burning or stinging during intercourse, when tampons are inserted, or during urination. These patients will fell pain when the genital area is touched with a cotton swab. There is often redness, swelling, and inflammation in the area as well.
In severe cases, the pain can be so severe that simply putting on clothing or even walking is unbearable. The pain is often accompanied by constant itching and stinging and the slightest touch, even to scratch, is excruciating. These patients even complain of pain when light contact is made with genital hair. Symptoms may also extend to the rectal area and pain may shoot into the abdomen.
Fibromyalgia and vulvodynia are treated in much the same way. Antidepressants, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and Lyrica are effective in both conditions. Vulvodynia can also be treated with topical anesthetics, vaginal dilators, steroid creams and sex therapy.
Home remedies include the avoidance of dairy products and anything that contains oxalate like spinach, tea, beer, berry juices, etc. Application of hot tea bags to the genital area is recommended along with sitz baths in which tea bags have been soaked.
Fibromyalgia and vulvodynia seem to share an underlying pathophysiology. Both conditions fall under the heading of chronic pain syndromes and neither condition has a demonstrable cause. Treatment of one condition is often effective in treating though other, though vulvodynia is often more responsive to treatment. Fibromyalgia and vulvodynia should be treated by specialists in both conditions as there is as much art as science involved.