Vulvodynia

Overview

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
IMAGE
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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:

  • Mood or anxiety disorders, such as posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Sleep problems

SymptomsandDiagnosis

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

Treatments

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.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

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:  http://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.  http://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.