UPDATES: nomenclature updates
Vulvodynia, simply put, is chronic vulvar pain without an identifiable cause. Inflammatory Vestibulodynia is cellular level inflammation of the vestibule and sometimes the surrounding labia, not to be mistaken with swelling such as with a sprained ankle or swollen lip that you can see.
The location, consistency, and level of severity can vary among sufferers and has typically been described as irritation or mild stinging, especially after the area has been touched for example after tampon insertion, wiping, towel drying, sex/masturbation, etc. Some feel a constant stinging/pain or itching like they have a perpetual or recurrent infection when, in fact, they do not. Some have described the feeling as a knife-like pain to the point they are unable to hold employment!
Awareness of Vulvodynia/vestibulodynia/inflammatory vestibulodynia is gaining ground in the medical community. While it is not yet fully understood, it is up to us as vagina owners to talk openly about what we are experiencing and feeling with each other and to help educate our health care providers about this condition, motivating them to learn what they can about this subject in order to help their patients-especially those practitioners in the gynecological/sexual health specialty departments as these are the professionals we seek out hoping that they will have the knowledge necessary to help us, yet so many of them still don’t (don’t get me started…..)
A major theory right now among researchers and medical professionals regarding the cause of these conditions is an injury, irritation, or inflammation of the nerves that transmit pain from the vulva to the spinal cord/brain, and then the failure of this transmission to cease once the injury has healed. Inflammation causes pain of varying degrees depending on the the type of injury, and from person to person. Cellular inflammation, the type you cannot see, can also cause pain that is perceived by the spinal cord and nerves and sometimes the signal can continue even though the injury is no longer present. This irritation or pain could have come from a fall, penile or tampon penetration that was irritating, rough sex, a BV or yeast infection, contact allergy…..SO many things can upset the little princess!
Sometimes something just goes wonky and our body stays in this perpetual state of pain or cellular inflammation and this can happen at any point in life, thankfully researchers are doing their best to find a reset to the problem causer.
Warning: Stuff gets sciencey below!
There are these anti-inflammatory molecules that play a vital role in reducing excessive tissue injury and chronic inflammation and they are called Specialized Pro-resolving Mediators or SPM’s, and they are being studied as a possible treatment for the inflammation and associated pain experienced by LPV sufferers. These molecules are made from Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids obtained from fish oil and they tell the body to stop the inflammation process, they remove the inflammatory stimuli, and signal to the body that the injury is no longer present. Then they clean up the mess and return help return the body to normal. These molecules are naturally produced by the body simply by ingestion and metabolism of Omega-3, Omega-6 and DHA from fish oil.
Several of these Specialized Pro-resolving Mediators are already being studied and used for other medical diseases and inflammatory illnesses. Researchers are starting to look at them to see if they can break the cycle of chronic vulvar inflammation and pain! Hopefully the researchers can find that ingesting a certain amount of Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids will provide vulvodyina/inflammatory vestibulodynia sufferers with some desperately needed relief from what can be a terribly painful condition on a very sensitive area of the body. Suffering with this condition can sometimes cause depression and anxiety, and sexual intimacy avoidance in many vagina owners.
As trials are just beginning there isn’t much information on the subject other than the exciting news that medical professionals and researchers are creating momentum in finding the cause and cure for this troublesome and distressing condition. I will keep watch for developments!