Vulvodynia is a silent and painful disease that impacts the quality of life of women. The general population and the medical establishment have historically stigmatized and rejected this heath condition. This medical condition refers to chronic vulvar pain but gets usually treated as an exclusively psychosomatic problem.
Vulvodynia is a highly complex pathology and is part of a group of painful syndromes known as “dysfunctional”syndromes. It means that different parts of the body experience pain that is unrelated to a visible lesion, making it hard for doctors to frame the symptoms.
An estimate shows that Vulvodynia affects 8-10% of women of all ages. The physical and psychological limitations in daily activities caused by it can be significantly debilitating for women. The pain can be constant or occasional, ranging from burning, soreness, painful intercourse, and throbbing or itching. It also brings out feelings of shame, body disaffection, and low self-esteem for not being able to live normally.
Another reason for the considerable impact on a female life is that it is something “rarely understood by her spouse or partner, or by her closest relatives, nor by the doctors of health professionals to whom they consult” (Torres-Cueco & Nohales-Alfonso, 2021). In Europe, only 10-25% of patients get a correct diagnosis, and 45 to 65 % of gynecologists have no diagnostic knowledge about it.
The exact cause of this is unknown as there is no standard therapeutic protocol, and treatments do not guarantee instant and effective results. Therefore, creating stigma and judgment toward women who are afraid to seek help and tend to silence their pain. “You’re overreacting, these are just painful periods”, “all women suffer from period pains, but they do not complain as much as you do,” and “it's psychosomatic, you just have to relax” (statements from vulvodynia. org) are just a few examples of the stigmatization that women with this disease endure.
Significant improvements in the understanding of Vulvodynia are required so that women do not get subjected to inadequate treatments based on the assumptions of the health professional treating them. The problem does not lie in the treatment of pain but in the broken societal vision of what pain is.
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