The Injured Clam

The Injured Clam

Dear Dategirl,

About a year and a half ago, I began having problems with painful sex. It got substantially worse after a bad UTI, so my doctor and I figured it had to do with that. She referred me to a urologist, who administered numerous expensive tests. He couldn’t figure it out either. Frustrated with my inability to have intercourse (imagine having a burning poker shoved up your cooch), I broke up with my boyfriend and sadly resigned myself to never again having sex. I mentioned it to my gynecologist, who immediately told me what the problem was and that he could fix it.

The syndrome is called vulvodynia. No one knows what causes it, but it’s basically an inflammation of your vaginal opening area. I thought I was the only person cursed with this, yet the doc says he does several of these operations a week!

I had the surgery two weeks ago, and am now on the mend. Hopefully I’ll be able to have sex again in another month or so. Since I lied to everyone about this, I assume other women are also lying, and that’s why nobody has heard of it. I’m writing so you can get the news out to other women who have permanently given up on sex due to this condition.

—Sore but Hopeful

Oddly enough, Sore, I was having dinner with a friend the other night, and she confessed to having the same problem. My pal told me she’d been to a bunch of different doctors and faced all sorts of skepticism from so-called “experts.” She’d even been told it was all in her head, and was advised to purchase a $250 vadge-dilator they’d nicknamed the “bride widener.” Yowie.

I gave Dr. Stephen Slack a call to get his take on the issue. Like any semi-responsible journalist, I’d been doing my research and had read that vulvodynia is caused by urinary tract infections, a diet high in oxalates (found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and, most tragically, chocolate), candida, strep, and/or about a billion other things. I asked the good doctor what he thought caused the hurty vagina.

“Whenever there are a lot of different theories on what causes something, it shows how little we know,” he sighed. “We call it vulvar vestibulitis to make it seem like we know something about what causes it. But we really don’t.”

He explained that the problem was two-fold. First, you have physical pain in the area found around the opening of the vagina. When women contract the problem, penis-vagina intercourse becomes wildly painful. It can get so bad that even sitting down can hurt. To remedy this, the doctor says he first tries a bunch of non-surgical remedies, like steroid creams or lidocaine.

Often the condition disappears on its own, but in some cases surgery is the only solution. “We remove a strip of skin that’s about a quarter-inch wide—a two-inch-long horseshoe shape around the vaginal opening.”

“A lot of family doctors and even some gynecologists have never dealt with vulvodynia. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s hard to detect,” he adds. “You can look at it under the microscope and you don’t see any sores or anything bad.”

The second problem is that many women develop another problem called vaginismus, which is kind of like your ladybits slamming themselves shut—the way a person who’s been punched a few times flinches when they detect a fist-shaped missile headed their way. “People with this problem often develop some spasm of their pelvic floor muscles,” explains the doctor. He recommends a course of treatment with a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic-floor issues.

Next week, wounded willies!

dategirl@seattleweekly.com


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

More in News & Comment

t
Peter Rogoff to step down as Sound Transit CEO in 2022

Became CEO in 2016; search for replacement to begin

Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance
Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance

Nonprofits, activists are expecting greater need as workers are laid off.

File photo/Sound Publishing
Ban on single-use plastic bags in WA begins Oct. 1

Shoppers will have the choice to pay for a reusable plastic or recycled paper bag.

file photo
Housing and finance insiders call for subsidized housing families can own, instead of rent

Advocates say increasing homeownership will strengthen the community, build intergenerational wealth

Map of proposed landfill expansion sites (screenshot from King County website)
Waste management expert knocks county’s plan to expand landfill

The waste management advocate said the decision to expand seems pre-determined despite assessment.

file photo
State employees including first responders sue state over vaccine mandate

The lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 90 plaintiffs claims Inslee’s order is unconstitutional.

Pixabay photo
Union carpenters to go on strike, expected to impact Eastside Microsoft projects

Members authorized strike after rejecting AGC offer for the fourth time.

file photo
The state’s hospitals face “unprecedented collapse” amid COVID uptick warn healthcare unions

Union spokeperson says understaffing was a problem even before the pandemic.

Gov. Jay Inslee talks about schools reopening during a past news conference. (Screenshot courtesy of TVW)
Masks required at big outdoor events; vaccine mandates expanded

Governor’s mask order takes effect Sept. 13.

Pixabay image
King County is looking for community members to help oversee law enforcement accountability

Community Advisory Committee for Law Enforcement Oversight is in need of applicants.

Garbage at the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill in Maple Valley. FILE PHOTO
Why burning our trash may not be as bad as it sounds

Understanding waste-to-energy’s financial and environmental impact in King County.