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Disease: Vulvodynia Vulvodynia
Category: Gynecological diseases

Disease Definition:

Pain in the area around the opening of the vagina (vulva) is a condition called vulvodynia. Sitting still for a long time or even having sex may become impossible due to the pain, burning or irritation that is related with vulvodynia. The condition could linger for months or even years.
There are many reasons explaining why experts believe vulvodynia is underreported. It may be either because of the reluctance of many women to talk about their symptoms, or it may be because of the lack of visible symptoms of vulvodynia. A woman shouldn’t be hesitating to get help if she’s living with vulvodynia. The pain and discomfort of vulvodynia could be decreased with treatment.

Work Group:

Symptoms, Causes


The vulva consists of the pad of fatty tissue at the base of a woman’s abdomen (mons pubis), the labia, the clitoris and the opening of the vagina. “Vulvodynia” means “painful vulva”.


Pain in the genital area is the primary symptom of vulvodynia. This pain is characterized by:

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Soreness
  • Rawness
  • Throbbing
  • Painful intercourse (dyspareunia)
  • Stinging


The experienced pain could be either constant or intermittent and could last for months or even years, but it could also disappear as abruptly as it started. In a condition that is similar to vulvodynia called vulvar vestibulitis, pain is experienced only when pressure is applied to the area that surrounds the entrance of the vagina. The vulva usually appears normal but sometimes, the vulvar tissue may look minimally swollen or inflamed. Vulvodynia is a pretty common condition, even though women usually don’t tell their doctors about this problem. In case a woman is experiencing pain in her genital area, she should consult a doctor or ask for a referral to a gynecologist. It’s important to have the doctor eliminate yeast or bacterial infections, skin conditions, and medical problems like diabetes or other more easily treatable causes of vulvar pain. The doctor can recommend treatments or ways to help manage the pain after he/she has evaluated the woman’s particular symptoms.


The causes of vulvodynia are unknown but some factors that might contribute to it include the following:

  • Past vaginal infections
  • Allergies or a localized hypersensitivity of the skin
  • Injury to or irritation of the nerves surrounding the vulvar region


Vulvodynia isn’t a sexually transmitted condition or a sign of cancer. Several women suffering from vulvodynia have a history of treatment for recurrent vaginitis or vaginal yeast infections, while others have a history of sexual abuse. But most women with vulvodynia have no known contributing factors.





Treatment of vulvodynia concentrates on relieving symptoms. A combination of treatments may work best for a woman, but there’s no one treatment that works for every woman in the same way. It could take weeks or even months for a new treatment regimen to perceptibly improve symptoms. Some of the available treatment options are: 



The pain of vulvodynia could be reduced with the use of anticonvulsants such as gabapentin and carbamazepine, or with the use of tricyclic antidepressants such as nortriptyline, amitriptyline and desipramine. Itching could be reduced with the use of antihistamines such as hydroxyzine.


Biofeedback therapy:

By teaching the woman how to control specific body responses, this type of therapy could help reduce pain. It works by helping the woman enter a relaxed state. This method could teach the woman how to relax her pelvic muscles to cope with vulvodynia, because these muscles can contract in anticipation of pain and end up causing chronic pain.


Local anesthetics:

Temporary symptom relief can be provided by medications such as lidocaine ointment. To reduce discomfort, the woman may be recommended applying this ointment 30 minutes before sexual intercourse. After sexual contact, the woman’s partner may also experience temporary numbness.



In some cases, the pain may be relieved by surgery to remove the affected skin and tissue (vestibulectomy), in case the painful areas could be pinpointed at the hymeneal ring (vulvar vestibulitis, localized vulvodynia).



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