Vaginismus

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Vaginismus is a feeling of pain around the vaginal opening. This occurs because the muscles at the opening to the vagina tighten when something is going to be placed inside the vagina such as a tampon, a “speculum” (a medical device used during a pelvic exam) or with vaginal intercourse. Both adolescents and adult women can have vaginismus.

What causes vaginismus?

Doctors don’t know the exact cause of vaginismus. There is a natural response the body has when touched. This response is similar to blinking your eye when you first learn to insert a contact lens. Some girls and women are able to learn to relax or overcome this response more easily than others. Women who have had an unpleasant experience such as pain while trying to insert a tampon or discomfort with a pelvic exam or an assault, may be more apt to have vaginismus. Vaginal discomfort can also be caused from other conditions such as a yeast infection or a small opening in the hymen.

How is vaginismus diagnosed?

There is no specific test to diagnose vaginismus but your health care provider (HCP) will be able to tell if you have it based on your symptoms and an exam. It’s important to tell your HCP what you feel during the exam. If your HCP can’t insert a small speculum or gloved finger into your vagina, you may have vaginismus, however the cause may be due to another condition. That’s why it is very important to tell your HCP about your symptoms and what seems to make them worse. You should also tell your HCP if you have vaginal discomfort when anything else is being placed in your vagina.

How is vaginismus treated?                    

Treatment often includes more than one approach. For example, if symptoms are connected with an unpleasant or distressing experience, treatment may include talking with a counselor. Your health care provider may suggest “pelvic floor” physical therapy and/or the use of vaginal dilators. Pelvic floor physical therapy is usually done by a physical therapist who has special training in women’s health. Sometimes young and adult women are taught how to use various size vaginal dilators that help to stretch the vaginal tissue.

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