Something is changing: old taboos are wavering, well-known voices are speaking out in first person to break the veil of silence on a disease that affects 1 in 7 women, but is all too often diagnosed with a delay of up to 4/5 years. A nuisance, or more often a pain, that is chronic and affects women’s quality of life, relationships and social life.
It was the influencer Giorgia Soleri, exactly one year ago, who brought the problem to the attention of the media, openly reporting on the Rai 2 programme ‘Tonica’ hosted by Andrea Delogu that she suffers from vulvodynia and how this disorder has negatively affected her life, depriving her of many opportunities. On 28 March 2022, a bill was filed in the Chamber of Deputies calling for the recognition of vulvodynia and pudendal neuropathy as chronic and disabling diseases and their inclusion in the essential levels of care of the National Health Service.
We ask Dr Andrea Biondo, a gynaecologist specialising in fertility, vulvodynia and menopause in Palermo, to explain what vulvodynia is and what symptoms characterise it.
Vulvodynia is a chronic discomfort (or pain) characterised by persistent burning and/or pain at the entrance to the vagina and stiffness of the pelvic floor muscles that can affect women of all ages, from adolescence to menopause. It presents itself without any visible signs or lesions to justify it. And that is why it is more difficult to diagnose, so much so that it is called an ‘invisible disease’. The most common complaints that I have encountered among my patients suffering from vulvodynia and which may be a first indication for diagnosing it are:
- Vulvar or urethral burning, sometimes preventing the wearing of trousers or tight clothing
- Pin feeling
- Electric shocks or spasms in the vagina
- Generalised dryness, itching, swelling or discomfort
- Pain during the sexual act
- Pain that increases when sitting, perhaps when sitting in the car for a long time
What should be done in the presence of these disorders?
In the presence of one or more of these symptoms, one should first speak to a gynaecologist experienced in this condition, who will arrange for a series of gynaecological check-ups, including a vaginal swab. A delay in diagnosis causes a deterioration in quality of life, sexual relations and, above all, health problems with the intensification of muscle spasms. It is important to recognise the symptoms and intervene early. My way of dealing with this pathology is multimodal, i.e. I use both pharmacological therapies and state-of-the-art devices such as magnetotherapy or fractional laser.
Can you explain in more detail what this is all about?
Depending on the particular situation of each patient, I use customised galenic preparations in which I include drugs to treat pudendal neuropathy combined with the use of innovative devices such as the Dr Arnold electromagnetic field chair and the DuoGlide fractional CO2 laser. Dr Arnold’s new electromagnetic field technology has a decontracting action on the pelvic muscles and is useful for restoring neuromuscular control. The treatment is non-invasive, has no post-treatment recovery time and the patient remains comfortably seated and clothed during the therapy.
The MonalisaGlide treatment, thanks to the fractional CO2 laser, makes it possible to decrease the number of nerve endings that the diseased nerve multiplies pathologically and at the same time to create new collagen in the treated area. Again, this is a minimally invasive procedure, which does not involve any anaesthesia and allows a rapid resumption of daily activities. Patients who follow this course of treatment correctly and for about four months generally have a good remission of their symptoms and are able to live a satisfactory personal and relational life for a long time.