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Definition

Vulvodynia is pain of the vulva that lasts more than three months.

The vulva is made up of the:

  • Labia majora and labia minora
  • Clitoris
  • Vaginal opening
Vulva
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Causes

The cause is not known. It may be due to:

  • Injury or infection
  • A problem with how the body responds to pain

Risk Factors

Vulvodynia is more common in women who are 20-40 years of age.

Other factors that may raise your risk are:

Symptoms

The main symptom is pain that lasts more than three months.

You may have:

  • Burning
  • Stinging
  • Soreness
  • Aching
  • pressure
  • Pain with sex or inserting tampons

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. You may also have a pelvic exam. The area may need to be closely checked. This can be done using a colposcope to magnify the area.

Your bodily fluids and tissues may need to be tested. This can be done with:

  • A swab of the vaginal area
  • Biopsy

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. This may mean:

Medications

You may be given:

  • Topical medicines that are put on the skin, such as corticosteroids, estrogen, or anesthetics
  • Antidepressants
  • Antiseizure medicine

Physical Therapy

Therapy can help strengthen and relax the pelvic muscles. This will ease muscle spasms. A doctor who specializes in pelvic floor issues may be needed.

Supportive Care

The following steps can help ease pain:

  • Wear 100% cotton underwear.
  • Do not douche.
  • Use only mild soaps for bathing. Pat the area dry after bathing.
  • Use lubrication when having sex.
  • Apply cold packs to the area.
  • Rinse the area after urination. Pat it dry.

Other Treatments

Suggested treatments for vulvodynia include:

  • Injections
  • Nerve stimulation
  • Surgery

Prevention

Vulvodynia can't be prevented.

RESOURCES

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists  http://www.acog.org 

National Vulvodynia Association  http://www.nva.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Women's Health Network  http://www.cwhn.ca 

Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada  http://www.sogc.org 

References

ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 93: Diagnosis and management of vulvar skin disorders. Obstet Gynecol. 2008;111:5):1243-1253. Reaffirmed 2013.

Vulvodynia. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/vulvodynia.html. Updated April 1, 2014. Accessed July 26, 2018.

Vulvodynia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T128775/Vulvodynia  . Updated September 18, 2018. Accessed July 26, 2018.

Vulvodynia. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development website. Available at: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/vulvodynia/Pages/default.aspx. Updated January 31, 2017. Accessed July 26, 2018.

What is vulvodynia? National Vulvodynia Association website. Available at: http://www.nva.org/what-is-vulvodynia. Accessed July 26, 2018.

4/7/2014 EBSCO DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance.  https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T128775/Vulvodynia  : Reed BD, Legocki LJ, et al. Factors associated with vulvodynia incidence. Obstet Gynecol. 2014;123(2.1):225-231.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Kathleen A. Barry, MD
  • Review Date: 05/2018
  • Update Date: 07/26/2018