11 August 2010

A painful sex secret

An chronic condition called vulvodynia leaves millions of women in pain each year. Here's how you know if you have it, and what you can do to stop it.

Three years ago, Beth* was an otherwise-healthy woman in her mid-20s who wasn't able to ride a bike, have sex or even sit on a chair without excruciating pain. 

After seeing doctor after doctor, Beth was diagnosed with a disorder known as vulvodynia, a condition that affects up to 16 percent of women who often suffer for years without knowing the medical cause. And because many doctors misdiagnose the condition as a vaginal infection or psychological problem at first, it can sometimes take them just as long to find a cure. 

  • Look through the ISSVD site ( to find a doctor in your area. 
  • According to Howard Glazer,  a professor at Cornell University Medical College in New York, patients can treat acute episodes with cold packs or oilated aveeno in a sitz bath. Petroleum jelly or diaper cream is useful to protect the irritated tissue from sweat, urine or chlorinated water.
  • Wear cotton underwear and avoid pantyhose or tight-fitting pants. Unscented toilet paper, sanitary pads and laundry detergent can help you avoid allergic reactions that can spark a flare-up.
  • According to Beth, it's important to "surround yourself with kind, caring, people with good senses of humor, and don't be shy about telling them what you're going through. One of my great, happy surprises was how comfortable it was to talk to my close male friends about vaginal pain."
  • You can contact Lizelle Grindell to set up an appointment by calling 27 (0) 79 179 8949 or e-mailing

*name changed to protect patient privacy




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