Possible Causes of Pain During Sex
There are a number of potential causes of pain during sex. Some of these causes are infections, such as sexually transmitted diseases. Others are unrelated to sexual activity, such as endometriosis and ovarian cysts. Trauma, as well as certain cancers,1 can also cause pain during sex. In addition, there are sexual pain disorders, such as vulvodynia, that are less well understood. If you experience pain during sex, it is therefore important to see your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Pain during sex may be the sign of a serious health problem. Even if it isn’t, dealing with your pain can greatly improve your quality of life.
Pain during intercourse is also known as dyspareunia.
Sexually Transmitted Infections That May Cause Pain
A number of different sexually transmitted diseases can potentially lead to pain during sex.2 STDs associated with pain during intercourse include:
molluscum contagiosum – if the sores it causes become infected
pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) – a condition that usually results from an untreated STD. This can cause significant pain and can also lead to infertility.3 Infections that can become PID if left untreated include gonorrhea, chlamydia, and bacterial vaginosis.
These STDs cause sexual pain for different reasons. Some cause local swelling, irritation, or discharge. Others cause blisters or sores that are either inherently painful or can easily become infected and lead to pain.
Other Causes of Sexual Pain in Women
Most sexual pain in women is categorized as either pain on entry or deep pain. Some women also experience pain from superficial genital contact. These types of pain can be caused by a variety of medical conditions other than STDs, including:4
vulvodynia – pain on or around the vulva, which may or may not have a clear cause
vaginismus – uncontrolled spasming of the vagina. This can make penetration difficult or impossible.
endometriosis – an overgrowth of the uterine lining that usually causes deep pain
uterine fibroids – benign tumors of the uterus that become more common as women age
damage to the vulva, vagina, or surrounding organs from trauma, childbirth, or female genital mutilation
eczema and other genital skin conditions, such as lichen sclerosis
There are also a number of non-medical factors that can cause pain during sex. These include insufficient lubrication, stress, and even a history of sexual abuse.4 Many such difficulties can be treated, or relieved, with a combination of appropriate techniques, therapies, and patience. However, medical causes of dyspareunia should usually be ruled out first.
12 Reasons Sex May Hurt — And What You Can Do About It
Other Causes of Sexual Pain in Men
For men, sexual pain tends to be categorized as either painful erections or pain during ejaculation. Other types of pain, such as surface irritation, can also cause pain during sex. However, skin infections and related pain may not always be considered in a sexual light.
Conditions other than STDs that can cause sexual pain in men include:
Peyronie’s disease – a type of scarring that leads to curvature of the penis5
problems with retraction of the foreskin5
trauma to the penis, such as a penile fracture5
prostatitis – infection of the prostate6
urethritis – infection of the urethra7
interstitial cystitis – a type of bladder infection8
eczema and other genital skin conditions5
Causes of Painful Sex in Men
If you are experiencing pain during sex, it’s a good idea to visit a doctor for help. However, it’s important to know that sexual pain is sometimes hard to diagnose. This is particularly true for sexual pain caused by something other than infection. It may take time to figure out what is causing your pain. You may need to visit one or more specialists. Types of specialists that are sometimes called upon to deal with sexual pain include psychologists, urologists, gynecologists, and even dermatologists.