Vulvodynia and Hispanics: Why Are You More At Risk?

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Have you ever hurt so much down there that you couldn't have sex, couldn't insert a tampon...couldn't even wear tights pants or sit down without suffering excruciating pain?

For many women, this is an everyday reality associated a condition called vulvodynia. Now, a new study is shedding light on the condition's impact upon Latina women, who are suffering from the disorder at much higher rates than the rest of the population. 

Published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, the study examined the prevalence of the condition, which causes extreme vulvar pain, among over 2,500 women in southeastern Michigan. Over a three-year period, researchers found that about 9.5 out of every 100 Hispanic women had reported symptoms of vulvar pain, and 7.5 out of every 100 reported past symptoms suggesting a history of vulvodynia. Most shockingly, the study found that Latinas are nearly twice as likely to suffer from vulvar pain as non-Hispanic women. 

You may be wondering: what is vulvodynia? We spoke with Dr. Dena Harris, an OB/GYN who focuses on pelvic and vular pain, about the condition. She broke down the basics for us, discussed possible treatments, and stressed the importance of seeking treatment for pain: 

What is vulvodynia?

According to the National Vulvodynia Association, vulvodynia is, quite simply, chronic vulvar pain without an identifiable cause. The pain differs from patient to patient, but is generally characterized as a burning, irritation, or sharp pain near the opening of the vagina. The location, constancy, and severity of the pain vary among women, and for some, vulvar pain may be spurred by activities such as biking, tampon use, or intercourse. For others, it's a lingering, constant pain. 

"Pain runs the gamut of pain with intercourse to pain all the time," Dr. Harris describes, "[The pain] is burning, horrible burning, stabbing pain -- not being able to sit, not being able to have intercourse with their husbands, not being able to wear underpants or any type of clothing, urinating constantly, severe pain when they defecate. Those types of pains, when nobody can figure out what's wrong, there's a good chance that it's [vulvodynia]"

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About this author1

Cristina Arreola, Editorial Assistant

Originally from El Paso, Texas, Cristina Mari Arreola earned her degree at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University before moving to BrooklynNew York. In her downtime, you can usually find her scouring the city for the most authentic Mexican food (still looking...), scaring herself silly watching horror movies, or baking her favorite sweets. You can follow her on Twitter at @c_arreola

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