Dyspareunia, also known as sexual pain, is the medical term for painful sexual intercourse in women. This is a common condition that affects many women at some point in their lives. Painful intercourse may be short-lived or may continue for a long period of time. It may occur just before, during or after intercourse, and the specific location and severity of the pain may vary. Women with dyspareunia may experience pain during penetration, pain with intimate touching or pain upon orgasm.

Causes of Dyspareunia

It is important to determine the cause of pain and make sure that any underlying condition is properly managed. Pain during sexual activity may be a result of:

  • Injury
  • Inflammation
  • Hormones
  • Skin disorders
  • Menopause
  • Sexually transmitted disease
  • Recent trauma
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Medications that diminish sexual desire
  • Psychological factors

Gynecologic disorders including endometriosis, hormonal changes that result in vaginal dryness, vaginitis or the growth of ovarian cysts may also be responsible for sexual pain. Some women experience painful or uncomfortable sexual intercourse for months after childbirth.

Diagnosis of Dyspareunia

To diagnose the cause of sexual pain, a doctor will review the patient's medical history and perform a physical examination. Additionally, a pelvic exam is usually performed to detect:

  • Skin irritation
  • Infection
  • External or internal abnormalities

Some patients may require further testing such as a laparoscopy to more closely view internal structures of the reproductive system. Blood tests may also be performed to measure hormone levels.

Treatment for Dyspareunia

Sexual pain that is caused by an underlying condition, such as an infection or disease, will likely be eliminated or lessened by treating the associated condition. Other treatment options may include:

  • Changing current medications
  • Hormone supplements
  • Use of lubricants
  • Kegel exercises
  • Anti-inflammatory medication

Psychotherapy sessions may be helpful for pain caused by emotional factors. A personalized treatment approach for sexual pain, will be developed for each patient's particular condition, taking into account its causes as well as their needs and comfort.

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