Within intimate relationships, sexual satisfaction takes on a high priority that can enhance or hamper the overall quality of a relationship. For this reason, women who suffer from sexual pain disorders may carry a heavy burden that’s seemingly out of their control. While women make up the majority of people affected by this condition, a small percentage of men can develop pain disorder symptoms.
Sexual pain disorders affect an estimated 15 percent of women within the United States, according to the University of Hawaii. Pain disorders are often chronic in nature jeopardizing a woman’s (or man’s) relationship as well as her sense of self and sexuality.
Symptoms and causes of sexual pain disorder can vary widely as individual factors -both physical and psychological- can contribute to the condition. This wide spectrum of potential symptoms and causes makes it all the more important for a person to get help when symptoms resembling sexual pain disorder start to affect her quality of life.
Types of Sexual Pain Disorders
Two types of pain syndromes, or sets of pain symptoms, distinguish sexual pain disorders.
Dyspareunia, the most common form, involves ongoing and persistent pain in the genital region that occurs whenever sexual penetration is attempted. Pain may originate within the vagina or deep within the pelvis region. Pain symptoms associated with vaginismus result from involuntary muscle contractions within the vagina that impede vaginal penetration.
Though defined as a psychiatric condition involving sexual dysfunction, symptoms of sexual pain disorder result from the pain syndrome that characterizes this condition, according to the University of Texas. A pain disorder diagnosis does not apply in cases where pain symptoms gradually decrease or can be alleviated by vaginal lubrication.
Sexual pain disorder symptoms can take any number of forms in terms of location and type of pain. Symptom types may include –
- Dull pain
- Sharp pain
- Burning pain
- Pain in different areas
- Generalized pain
- Pain in a specific area
Pain symptoms can occur during a pelvic exam, during oral sex as well as during sexual intercourse. Pain sensations are most often felt at the entrance of the vagina or deep inside.
Though rarely diagnosed in men, pain symptoms most often take the form of –
- Pain while obtaining an erection
- Pain during ejaculation
While both physiological and psychological factors may play a part in causing sexual pain disorders, physiological factors account for an estimated 75 percent of pain disorder cases. Physiological causes may include –
- Vaginal infections
- Thinning of vaginal walls
- Prior vaginal surgery
- Chronic constipation
Infections in particular can bring on a condition known as vulvitis, which can cause the vulva region to burn, itch or sting. Thinning of the vaginal walls is a common occurrence in postmenopausal women. Thinning can also be caused by certain medications that produce a “drying” effect.
In the case of men, physiological causes may take the form of –
- Prostate problems
- Genital allergies
Psychological causes typically stem from emotional conflicts between sexual partners or internal emotional conflict experienced by the partner experiencing pain disorder symptoms.