Airing Pain 87: Vulvodynia
From diagnosis difficulties to defining gender: the effects of Vulvodynia on women today
Vulvodynia is a nerve-based pain, often described as a burning or stinging sensation, which affects the vulva. 1 in 7 seven women are estimated to experience Vulvodynia at some stage during their life and the condition can be very distressing to live with, impacting on everything from clothing choices to relationships.
Dr Winston de Mello explains why many women with Vulvodynia experience difficulties on the path to diagnosis and why GPs under pressure create a “postcode lottery” for those in pain without any visible symptoms.
Dr Rebekah Shallcross describes what she found in her research into women’s experiences of Vulvodynia, including instances of sexism on the part of some healthcare professionals, a lack of awareness of the condition within the medical community and the stigma associated with genital pain.
The role played by penetrative sex in social constructions of female identity can create complex feelings of guilt in patients with Vulvodynia where physical intimacy is problematised by pain, feelings which Dr Shallcross links with historical gender inequality and patriarchal attitudes towards sex.
Gynaecology consultant Dr David Nunns discusses the importance of the “four Ps” in patient treatment and improving the lives of those with Vulvodynia: patient education, pain modification, physiotherapy and psychological support. Plus the importance of discourse in raising awareness and reducing pain and associated stress.
- Dr Winston de Mello, Consultant in Anaesthesia and Pain Medicine, University Hospital of South Manchester
- Dr Rebekah Shallcross, trainee clinical psychologist and a research associate at the University of Manchester
- Dr David Nunns, gynaecology consultant at Nottingham City Hospital. He is a trustee of the Vulval Pain Society.
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