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
  • Inflammed 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 post-traumatic 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

Your doctor will ask 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.

Testing may include:

  • Tests to check for bacteria and/or yeast
  • Biopsy

Treatment    TOP

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

Medications

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

Physical Therapy

Therapy can help you strengthen and relax your pelvic muscles. This will ease muscle spasms. You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in pelvic floor issues.

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.
What is vulvodynia? National Vulvodynia Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed June 26, 2013.
Vulvodynia. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at:
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Updated August 2010. Accessed June 26, 2013.
Vulvodynia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated September 25, 2013. Accessed June 26, 2013.
Vulvodynia. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated April 3, 2013. Accessed June 26, 2013.
4/7/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance.
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Reed BD, Legocki LJ, Plegue MA, Sen A, Haefner HK, Harlow SD. Factors associated with vulvodynia incidence. Obstet Gynecol. 2014;123(2.1):225-231.
Last reviewed June 2015 by Andrea Chisholm, MD
Last Updated: 4/7/2014

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