Types of Genital Pain
Hi everyone! My name is Sarah and welcome back to Everyday Consent. A couple weeks ago, I made a video about Pain During Sex where I discussed how undesired, usually accidental pain can often be avoided, and how we can help ourselves and our partners recognize that there’s a problem and try to fix it. Part of the process of becoming more aware of what we are experiencing physically and communicating those feelings is simply education. Namely, education about what kinds of sensation and pain are unusual and might be a sign of a problem. So, to that end, today I want us to learn a bit about some of the more common sexual and genital pain issues that the medical community is currently aware of, and some ways that they are treated.
Now is a good time to remind you: I am not a health professional. My hope is that the information in this video will help you to be more generally aware of what you or a partner might be experiencing and maybe point you in a useful direction if anything sounds familiar. Or it might just be interesting new information. But please do not confuse it for medical advice. If you are concerned or curious about any of this, please please please seek out the help of a health professional or at least do some further research online. I’ll put some resources in the description below.
Now let’s get right to it. Some issues can affect anyone regardless of sex, such as Urinary Tract Infections or Yeast Infections. A Urinary Tract Infection, or UTI, is when bacteria finds it’s way into the urethra and does not get properly cleared out during urination.
The bacteria then infects the urethra, bladder, or kidneys and causes all sorts of nastiness. They are often characterized by painful or uncomfortable urination, and they can cause sex to be painful as well. UTIs are pretty common, and are usually treated with antibiotics. A Yeast Infection is a fungal infection, usually within the vagina, but it can also affect the skin of the penis. Yeast infections often cause soreness or itching, and can also cause pain or a burning sensation during urination or sex. Yeast infections are generally treated with prescription or over the counter fungal treatments. Many Sexually Transmitted Infections or STIs also fall into this category. I’m not going to go into STIs today, but they are another common source of sex and genital related pain.
Again, I’ll put some resources below if you want to learn more. There are also plenty of sexual pain disorders that only affect those of a given biological sex. Let’s start with a few common causes of pain affecting people with genitals considered biologically male.
Peyronie’s disease is a connective tissue disorder in which scar tissue forms within the sheath of the penis under the skin. It is often, but not always, related to the penis being severely curved. Usually with Peyronie’s, the pain is most severe when the penis is erect because there’s more tension on the scar tissue, but there can be pain while flaccid as well.Treatment for Peyronie’s really depends on the specifics of the case, but it can range anywhere from simply waiting things out, to medication to break down the scar tissue, to surgery.
Prostatitis is a swelling of the prostate gland which can make urination and ejaculation painful. Prostatitis is fairly common. It’s what your doctor is checking for during a prostate exam, and may affect up to 50% of all cis men at some point in their lives. Prostatitis treatment also varies and might include medication or surgery. Phimosis and Paraphimosis are both issues of the foreskin being abnormally tight and restricted in its motion. With phimosis, the foreskin is too tight to be pulled back over the head of the penis, and with paraphimosis, the foreskin is too tight to be pulled forward over the head.
Initial treatment of Phimosis and paraphimosis generally involves various stretching techniques, but may involve minor surgery. Interestingly, most of the literature and research about genital pain focuses on individuals with vulvas, especially vulvar pain during intercourse, which is referred to as dyspareunia. Part of this is because vulvar pain disorders seem to be more common than the penis-related disorders I listed a moment ago. It’s actually quite difficult to determine how common vulvar dyspareunia is, due to a lot of complicating factors. Like differences in how studies are conducted, shame preventing women from seeing a doctor, or even how the term is defined.
One source found that anywhere between 8 and 21% of biosex women will experience painful intercourse in their lives. Another source says it’s 15-20%. And some sources say as much as 50-60%. If it’s okay with you, I’ll just call it common. Two of the most common types of pain that affect people with vulvas are vulvodynia and vaginismus.
Vulvodynia is characterized by burning, itching, o r sharp painful sensations around the outside of the vulva, labia, and entrance to the vagina. The pain may occur only during sex or while the vulva is being touched, or it may happen all the time. There are lots of different things that might cause vulvodynia, such as nerve injury, hormonal changes, allergies, irritation, or even muscle spasms.
Often the cause is unknown. There’s also no known cure for vulvodynia, so treatment is generally focused on relief of the painful symptoms. Treatments include topical or oral medications, pelvic floor muscle therapy, diet modification, and others.
Vaginismus is an involuntary cramping or spasming of the muscles of the vaginal wall. The cause of vaginismus is often unknown, but is sometimes psychological. Psychological causes range from anxiety to previous sexual trauma, to, ironically, fear that sex will be painful. It’s important to note that just because an issue is psychological does not mean that it’s “not real” or that the answer is to just “get over it”. The effects are very real, and deserving of attention and treatment.
Such treatments can include psychological therapy as well as pelvic floor muscle therapy and gradual expansion of the vaginal walls using lubrication and fingers or specially made inserts. That’s all I’ll talk about today, but it’s definitely not an exhaustive list. And again, I am not a doctor or an expert on any of these conditions, so my descriptions are far from all-inclusive or definitive. Hopefully this gives you an idea of some things to look out for, and so if anything I’ve mentioned sounds familiar as something you or a partner has experienced or is experiencing, I recommend seeing a health professional, checking out some of the resources I’ve listed, or doing your own research.
Some of the conditions I’ve mentioned are curable, and most of them are highly treatable, so that’s pretty good incentive to bring it up with a partner or a health professional if any of these symptoms sound familiar. Happy consenting folks, I’ll see you next week!.
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