Health Library

Vulvodynia

Definition

Vulvodynia is chronic pain or discomfort of the vulva. The vulva includes the:

  • Labia majora and labia minora
  • Clitoris
  • Vaginal opening

Female Genitalia

si55550966_96472_1_vulva.jpeg
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Causes    TOP

The cause of vulvodynia is not known. Some possibilities include:

  • Injury or irritation of vulvar nerves
  • Inflamed tissue
  • Abnormal response to infection or trauma

Risk Factors    TOP

Vulvodynia is more common in women who are younger. Other factors that may increase the chance of vulvodynia include:

  • History of vulvodynia
  • Chronic pain or disorders associated with chronic pain
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Some mental health disorders, such as posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Recurrent yeast infections
  • Frequent use of antibiotics
  • Irritation to the genitals by soaps or detergents
  • Genital rashes
  • Previous treatment or surgery to the external genitals
  • Pelvic nerve irritation or muscle spasms

Symptoms    TOP

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain, which may come and go
  • Burning
  • Stinging
  • Irritation
  • Rawness

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. It may include a pelvic exam. The affected area may need to be examined closely. 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    TOP

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:

Medications

Medications may include:

  • Topical medications that are applied to the skin, such as corticosteroids, estrogen, or anesthetics
  • Antidepressants
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Prescription pain relievers

Physical Therapy

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

Other Treatments    TOP

Suggested treatments for vulvodynia include:

  • Injections
  • Nerve stimulation or nerve blocks
  • Surgery

Prevention    TOP

There are no current guidelines to prevent vulvodynia.

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:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated April 2014. Accessed June 8, 2016.
Vulvodynia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
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Updated April 27, 2016. Accessed June 8, 2016.
Vulvodynia. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated April 22, 2013. Accessed June 8, 2016.
What is vulvodynia? National Vulvodynia Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed June 8, 2016.
4/7/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance.
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Reed BD, Legocki LJ, et al. Factors associated with vulvodynia incidence. Obstet Gynecol. 2014;123(2.1):225-231.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Marcie Sidman, MD
Last Updated: 4/7/2014

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