What Causes Vulvodynia?

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We are going to have a brief frank conversation today, about sex, but sex when it hurts. Imagine your life, if sex would so painful, you'd do anything to avoid it. This is the reality for millions of women and today, we are blowing a lid off a condition called Vulvodynia. You may be suffering from it right now without realizing it's the name for what is happening to you.

Take a look ,your sex life may never be the same. Right now, six million American women are suffering with chronic and debilitating pain in their vulvas. It is a condition known as Vulvodynia. The pain can be constant, not just during intercourse and unbearable. Some women describe it as acid being poured on there skin, or as constant knife-like pain.

It can affect a woman's ability to lead a normal life. To seek to work, to be intimate, it can crush her self image and leave the feelings of isolation and hopelessness. Alarmingly, almost 16% of all women in the US, will experience Vulvodynia at some point in their lives, and 90% of them suffer with constant pain for many years.

Vulvodynia is a medical mystery, it isn't the result of an infection or a disease. But there is treatment and relief if you get the proper diagnosis. Today we're firmly in the no embarrassment zone and nothing and I mean nothing is off limits. We're going to open this up to the entire audience.

I've brought in Dr. Jennifer Ashton, she's a gynecologist in the CBS medical correspondent, to join with me in this conversation because you deal with this condition. Everyday. So walk me through the symptoms.Right, a lot of women will say it feels like acid is burning them and this is something that can come out of the blues.

It doesn't mean you have to be born with it, it can pop up, one day you can be fine the next day you can have it, it's a huge problem. So let's start up with defining, what Vulvodynia really is, because most of you probably aren't familiar with that term, I'm I right? So look at this traffic light, I think it's going to be a good metaphor and imagine you're sitting on the gynecologist table and we'e going to use the anatomy from this perspective.

So, the green light is the anus. The vaginal opening is the yellow light, and the urethral where the urine comes out is the red light. The traffic light itself the metal parts, the circles, all of the squares, all of those things that are metal, that's the vulva. So Vulvodynia is pain in that area.

Does that make sense? So at least know what we're talking about in terms of what the symptoms looks like. Now, is there a test to figure out if you've got Vulvodynia? There's no definitive test but usually what a gynecologist will do when a woman complains of pain or what they should do, is something very simple.

It's called Q-tip test. Nothing sophisticated, nothing invasive, nothing expensive, we take a Q-tip and we go around the entire area and we will ask the woman does this hurt, how much and that's usually enough to give us a clue that Vulvodynia is going on. The worst thing though amendment is that a lot of doctors aren't on the look out for it and a lot of women when they complain to their doctor that they're having these symptoms, a doctor if they don't see anything obvious, will dismiss it or worse still they'll say this is in your head, I don't see anything there and that is probably the worst thing of all that only adds to the problem, what we need to do in gynecology and as doctors, is help find a solution.

I'll be really clear about this. What Jen has said is an embarrassment for me, it's a position I want to apologise for my brother about this. We're unfortunately often caught saying, hey, you know what, we don't know the answer therefore it's got to be in your head, there are a number of reasons why you might have the problem, but is not your head, this is a real physical problem, it isn't a psychological issue.

And what we're trying to do today is explain why it's a physical problem which you can do physically, to get around it. We're on the same page on this? Yes. Alright. So let's go.