Monday, May 23, 2011

Why do antibiotics make vulvodynia worse?

I had a UTI a couple weeks ago. Doctors usually give me Bactrim for my UTIs. During the first couple years of my vulvodynia, they'd give me 7 or 10 days of Bactrim, and by the fifth or sixth day I was flaring at that level-9 torture zone.

I don't know if antibiotic philosophy changed or what, but the past few times I've had UTIs, the doc has given me only 3 days of Bactrim. Three days of Bactrim isn't long enough to give me scary flares, but I still flare, and the flares get worse with each pill.

In the past, I've meant to ask the doctor for an antibiotic other than Bactrim, but doctors are so whirly and fast that I'd always forget to ask for a different antibiotic until I was on the way to the pharmacy, at which point I'd decide to fill the script because Bactrim won't hurt me this time around. But with this latest UTI, I stopped the doctor from whirling out the door without giving me a chance to think and told her about the flares. She wrote me a three-day script for Cipro.

Turns out Cipro makes me flare in basically the same way Bactrim does. But I made it through -- and with 4 UTIs in the 15 months I've been with Catfish......!.........I'm sure to have another opportunity to see if some other antibiotic makes me flare.

The reason I'm writing this post, though, is that among my many vulvodynia theories, sometimes I think interstitial cystitis and vulvodynia are one issue manifesting in different ways depending on the individual. And maybe I just think this because my pain seems to have elements of both. For instance, I've got the diet issue like IC, but I generally don't have its hallmark urgency.

But since finishing the Cipro, my coochie is on edge. As soon as I eat something it doesn't like -- like chocolate or sugar (of course) -- it starts to flare. On top of that, I have urgency, especially after eating those bad foods. In other words, all of a sudden, my pain has expanded to include some IC symptoms, and it all seems tied to the latest UTI and the Cipro.

In my many hours of crotch readings, I've seen antibiotics cited as a possible cause of IC and vulvodynia, and I've also seen many report that antibiotics make their symptoms worse. But as you all know, no one has a definitive answer about anything involving IC and vulvodynia. Maybe the antibiotics simply kill off too much of our good bacteria? Maybe they do something to our nerves? Maybe they contain small malicious bees? In other words, the title of this post might as well be rhetorical.

The urgency and the more volatile pain I've been having since taking the Cipro are encouraging me to eat more carefully again. Of course, I am hovering just below what the BMI chart says is my lowest healthy weight, and trying to gain weight while also trying to eat healthy implies lots of cooking, which is my lowest priority in the world, and money, which I'm measuring out like a snail.

A serving of celery is like 9 calories. Literally. Okay, 14. It's so good for you, and it makes you poop good, but I will never gain weight eating it instead of milkshakes. Evil, evil milkshakes.

I feel like I would benefit from going back to basics and doing a little elimination diet, starting off eating only the foods I know are safe-safe-safe for me and working up from there. But, again, cooking. I'd rather eat (gluten-free) toast for the rest of my life.

But I probably will figure something out and do it. My cooch feels pretty awful -- though honestly, I am a master pain wrangler lately. I'm cool with the pain and secretly, latently furious with the situation. I might take up boxing. Or axe throwing.

At the same time, I'm trying to keep patient. I don't have insurance, but even if I don't find a job that provides it for me, in five or so months I will be able to get insurance through Ohio's high-risk pool, which offers insurance to people like me, the insurance-company rejects (me due to bipolar disorder; they probably don't know about vulvodynia to disqualify us for it!). After I do, I'll head to that specialist I keep fantasizing about seeing. Last night I dreamt my mom and I went to some top-secret spage-age place for our hips and they found a small problem in mine that was probably the cause of my pain and I started crying I was so happy. It took me a few breaths to realize it wasn't real when I woke up. Axe throwing.

Off to pee again... I've gotten really good at wrangling urges too, especially after that last UTI. I am a pain-wrangling deity.


  1. Hi. I have this problem as well -- lots of UTI's, and the antibiotics hurt like hell -- except for augmentin -- as I recall. You are at least keeping your sense of humor. Your way with spinning this and the funny word choices are hilarious. Thanks for making me laugh through my pain. Hope you are better these days and I hope you try cranberry pills.

  2. I hope you get this figured out! I'm frustrated with antibiotics too.
    My IC/VV symptoms started after a yeast infection that happened to occur right before I took an antibiotic. Since then, anything really sugary gives me vulvar itchiness. Doctor says no yeast infection though, but was willing to prescribe Diflucan. I'm presently scouring the web for helpful on IC/VV, antibiotics, sugar, and yeast. So until then, here's to plain greek yogurt, probiotic pills, and that dreadful low-sugar diet.

    1. Abby I'm going through the same thing and have some theories. please email me I'd love to talk about it britneyc529@yahoo

  3. Hi, I have vulvadynia but was pain free for 7 years with cymbalta. Then 3 weeks ago i got BV, put on bactrim and then cipro, I have flared to the point if nightly crying and ice packs. I start a very important job on Monday and I can't even imagine concentrating with this shit. The scary part was that as I took my half an ambien pill for sleep tonight, I.considered taking the whole bottle. I feel alone and deeply deeply sad. I was so excited to.start this new job and give my family a new life.

    1. That's awesome that Cymbalta helped you! I was on Effexor for a while and I think I might've gotten a benefit from it too.

      I'm so sorry I didn't reply to this earlier. I hope you have started out at your job OK. Vulvodynia added huge stress to the job I was at when my pain started, to the point where I quit -- so I can imagine what you're feeling right now. (The job itself was also very stressful, however -- a bad work environment for me.)

      And I'm so sorry your pain came back. That is awful. Sometimes I wonder if antibiotics put me here in the first place -- Bactrim in particular -- having had multiple UTIs (or so the doctors suspected, for good reason, though now I wonder if they really were).

      I know how you feel, regarding the pill comment. I don't like to admit it because I don't want to set off alarms. But please know that you are not alone. And your pain doesn't have to stand in the way of your job performance. Even if it does, there are workplace accommodations that your new employer will have to follow... you probably already know this. Anyway, I hope things are going well so far, and please know that there are many of us out here experiencing exactly the problems you face. Hugs to you!

  4. I've noticed antibiotics make my vulvodynia flare too. Good to see someone post about it. I took femdof ( right after which seems to help get things balanced again. I know it wasnt a yeast infection because I went to the gyno to double check.

    Since doing physical therapy for both vulvodynia and pelvic pain, I am generally almost always pain free. However, I think the gluten free diet I have started has helped quite a bit too.

    1. I take Fem-Dophilus too! It does help. I'm so happy to hear your pain has diminished so greatly. That is wonderful. It gives me hope! Best wishes.

  5. Thank you for your blog. I have been too many doctors and they have blamed the problem on low estrogen. Like the majority on this blog....all my problems started up after many UTI's and antibiotics. I wonder how we can raise awareness to no only other women but doctors......thank you for your help.

  6. Hi. I'm only 14 years old and at first I didn't know what was wrong with me. I had the cold and my doctor gave me some antibiotics and thats when I started feeling pain down there. I take a cool bath almost 6 times a day to soothe the pain. I didn't even tell my mom what was going on. I've read things about it being from sexual intercourse, but I'm still a virgin! So i do not understand this! Sometimes i cry when the pain gets really severe. I am also a dancer so since the pain and itching started, I have skipped dance because I fear it will cause even more pain.