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Treating Sexual Pain
You don’t have to put up with pain during sex. Read on to learn about possible causes and solutions.
Painful intercourse, described medically as dyspareunia, is not uncommon. An estimated 20 to 50 percent of women experience some form of sexual dysfunction, including pain during sex. “The term ‘dyspareunia’ means pain during sex, and it covers a huge category of symptoms, with a huge range of possible causes. These causes commonly range from easily remedied issues such as allergic reactions or infections, to more complex, psychological issues.
Signs of Sexual Pain
For women, the symptoms of dyspareunia include pain in the vagina during sexual activity, either at the entrance of the vagina or further inside. Some women experience vaginismus, which means that their vaginal muscles involuntarily contract during penetration, making the experience painful. Some women with vaginismus not only have pain during sex, but they may also feel pain during routine gynecological exams.
Causes and Treatment of Sexual Pain
Because there are so many possible causes of dyspareunia and vaginismus, it is difficult to talk generally about treatment options. But finding the source of the issues is more than half the battle. The first step for a doctor in treating dyspareunia is to compile a thorough and complete medical and sexual history of the patient, to identify possible causes. These could include:
Allergic reactions. The skin in the vagina can be irritated if you have an allergic reaction to a soap, detergent, a douche product, or perfumed tampons or maxi pads. Switch to unscented products with fewer ingredients if you suspect allergies may be involved. Douching is not recommended because it can irritate the skin in the vagina.
Vaginal itching. Yeast infections, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and some sexual transmitted diseases cause itching and burning sensations in the vagina. Having sex while you are suffering from one of these conditions can be unpleasant and can cause dyspareunia. UTIs and yeast infections are treatable, and most sexually transmitted diseases can be treated or managed.
Vaginal dryness. As many as 20 percent of women report lubrication difficulties, which can lead to pain during sex. The hormonal changes that accompany menopause can also lead to vaginal dryness. Using water-based lubricants and engaging in more foreplay before sexual intercourse can help with vaginal dryness.
Vaginismus. The involuntary contraction of vaginal muscles during penetration, or vaginismus, can be caused by physical and psychological factors. Identifying the cause of vaginismus is essential for developing a treatment plan.
Other Causes of Sexual Pain
Though dyspareunia is often caused by easily treatable conditions, sometimes it can be a sign of more serious issues.
Health conditions. Sometimes, dyspareunia is a sign of other health conditions, including hemorrhoids or endometriosis, a condition in which the tissue that lines the uterus starts growing in other places in the body. All of these conditions are treatable.
Psychological causes. Psychological factors, such as anxiety and depression, can adversely affect sexuality and bring on dyspareunia. Women who have been sexually abused may find that their relationship to sex has changed dramatically. A sex therapist or counselor can help you address these root psychological causes and work with you to cultivate a healthy and positive sexuality.
Bottom line on sexual pain: Recognise your symptoms and seek advice. If you experience pain during intercourse, talk to your gynecologist. Sexual pain does not have to be part of your life.