Vulvodynia, the most frequent cause of painful sex

PAINFUL SEX. It's a secret that millions of women live with in embarrassment and isolation. Until now. . .

On August 7th, Dr. Timothy Johnson, ABC's Chief Medical Editor, started a conversation on 20/20 about vulvodynia, the most frequent cause of painful sex. Three young women discussed its crippling effect on their lives, describing how it feels as "unbearable burning" or "sandpaper being rubbed on an open wound." (To view the segment, visit: http://abcnews.go.com/2020)

Unfortunately, unlike male sexual dysfunction, armed with champion Bob Dole and constant television ads, vulvodynia has yet to become an acceptable topic for mainstream media.

So the National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) applauds ABC for taking this critical first step to bring this private, rarely-discussed condition out of the shadows. "It's time we started discussing the impact of vulvodynia openly. Until we do, millions of women will remain undiagnosed and left without hope," says Christin Veasley, NVA's Executive Director, whose own vulvodynia went undiagnosed for one year.

Vulvodynia is a complicated pain condition of unknown cause(s) and one television segment couldn't present everything women need to know.

Among the aspects not discussed on 20/20, here are a few worth knowing:

  • Vulvodynia does not discriminate. Six million American women of all ages and ethnic backgrounds suffer, although it most often strikes between 18 and 25. New studies find that adolescent girls may be equally affected. Girls who have pain with first tampon use appear more likely to develop vulvodynia.
  • Vulvodynia's impact reaches far beyond the bedroom. Many women suffer 24/7, which makes sitting or wearing pants painful. Some cannot work. Young women fear they won't be able to have children. Many marriages end in divorce.
  • In addition to physical therapy and surgery, new effective treatments are available, including nerve blocks, topical creams and oral "pain-blocking" medications such as antidepressants (Cymbalta) or anticonvulsants (Lyrica). (

Courageous affected women and medical experts are speaking out to increase awareness and promote research. Please help NVA tell their stories.

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