Dyspareunia, or Pain with Sexual Activities: Many Options for Relief
By: Howard Tay, MD • Posted on November 05, 2020
Dyspareunia, or pain during sexual activity, is defined as a medical condition characterized by pain that is experienced by a woman with penetration during a sexual intercourse or pain with any type of genital sexual activity. It is a very common challenge experienced by women in primarily two age groups: 20-30 years of age and women 50-60 years old. The pain may be superficial or deep. It is often caused by dryness of the vagina. The pain can be felt in the area around the vaginal opening as well as within the pelvic area when a penis or a device is thrust inside. Pain may be sharp, burning or cramping.
If you are experiencing pain with intercourse, you don’t have to suffer. There are options for relief.
Causes of Dyspareunia
- Atrophic vaginitis, caused by declining estrogen levels with menopause that cause thinning, drying and inflammation of the vaginal wall tissue
- Urinary tract infections
- Interstitial cystitis, a chronic condition causing bladder pressure, bladder pain and sometimes pelvic pain
- Erosion of implantable mesh
- Tissue damage from radiation
- Pelvic Organ prolapse
- Urethral access or vaginal cysts
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Vaginismus, a muscle spasm in the pelvic floor
To confirm dyspareunia, and rule out other possible concerns, a doctor will take a detailed medical history and conduct an examination. Tests MAY include a urinalysis and urine culture, blood tests and vaginal swabs to screen for STIs and a cystourethroscopy, a procedure that allows your doctor to see inside of the bladder and urethra, using a cystoscope, a thin tube with a light and a lens or small video camera on the end.
Treating Painful Intercourse
Treatment for dyspareunia will depend on the cause of the pain. For atrophic vaginitis-related pain, initially over-the-counter remedies such as vaginal moisturizing products and water-based lubricants may provide relief. The use of estrogen supplementation, if appropriate (topical cream, oral estrogen, vaginal estrogen tablet), may also be used. A laser treatment has also been shown to be effective for many women for pain related to intercourse due to atrophic vaginitis but is still under study. If an STI is at the root of the problem, your doctor will discuss treatment options.
Relaxation techniques like yoga and stretching that promote physical relaxation may also be helpful. Regular yoga and stretching can help relieve tightness of muscles that can be associated with pain associated with dyspareunia.
Be Strong, Be Healthy, Be in Charge!
- Howard Tay, MD, Board Certified Urologist
Learn more about this condition on Dr. Tay’s urology website.
Dr. Howard Tay is a board-certified urologist in Arizona certified by the American Board of urology. He is an active member in the American urological Association. He has practiced urology in Arizona since 1996. Dr. Tay is recognized as a leading Arizona urologist, including several Phoenix Magazine “Top Doc” awards for urology. He is an active member in advancing Chair of Surgery at Banner Thunderbird Hospital. In addition to his practice, he is an educator training medical student and physician assistants in urology at Midwestern University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona Medical School-Phoenix Campus.
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