For some women with fibromyalgia, pain strikes the vulva and produces a condition known as vulvodynia. The vulva is the external female genitalia, which includes the tissue at the base of your abdomen, the labia, the clitoris, and the opening of your vagina. Vulvodynia may cause burning, stinging, rawness, and overall soreness. You may also feel itchy and uncomfortable. Upon examination, however, there is no apparent problem. Still, the painful sensations continue — sometimes occurring intermittently, other times lasting for longer periods. Vulvodynia can make it impossible for you to have sex, which can affect your relationship. It can also bring on depression, especially if the suffering begins to interfere with daily functioning.
A study by researchers at the University of Michigan found that women with vulvodynia don't just have more pain in their genitals. They also experience more pain in the shin, thumbnail, and the deltoid muscle in the shoulder. The findings lend further proof to the idea that vulvodynia is part of a systemic problem with pain, not a sexual disorder or psychosomatic problem.
Treating vulvodynia may involve a tricyclic antidepressant, an anticonvulsant, or an antihistamine, which targets itchiness. Creams that contain estrogen or cortisone can sometimes provide relief, too. In some women, applying an anesthesia cream such as lidocaine can ease the pain. Sometimes a cold compress can help as well. Physical treatments such as myofascial therapy to the pelvic muscles can often be very effective, too. In some cases, you may be able to take steps to prevent vulvodynia or at least lessen the painful symptoms. Avoid soaps, hygiene products, and tight-fitting undergarments. In some cases, exercise can help relieve discomfort.