Vulvodynia is a pain disorder of the vulva. This is the outside area of a woman's genitals. Vulvodynia causes severe pain, burning, and stinging of the vulva.
The exact cause of vulvodynia is unknown. Researchers are working to learn more about the condition. Causes may include:
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) DO NOT cause this condition.
There are two main types of vulvodynia:
The vulvar pain is often:
You may feel symptoms all the time or just some of the time. At times, you may feel pain in the area between your vagina and anus (perineum) and in the inner thighs.
Vulvodynia may occur in teens or in women. Women with vulvodynia often complain of pain during sexual activity. It may occur after having sex the first time. Or, it may occur after years of sexual activity.
Certain things may trigger symptoms:
The goal of the treatment is to reduce pain and relieve symptoms. No one treatment works for all women. You also may need more than one type of treatment to manage your symptoms.
You may be prescribed medicines to help relieve pain, including:
Other treatments and methods that may help include:
Lifestyle changes may help prevent vulvodynia triggers and relieve symptoms.
Some women with localized vulvodynia may need surgery to relieve pain. The surgery removes the affected skin and tissues around the vaginal opening. Surgery is done only if all the other treatments fail.
You can ease the stress of illness by joining a support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone.
The following organization provides information on vulvodynia and local support groups:
Vulvodynia is a complicated disease. It may take weeks to months to achieve some pain relief. Treatment may not ease all symptoms. A combination of treatments and lifestyle changes may work best to help manage the disease.
Having this condition can take a physical and emotional toll. It can cause:
Working with a therapist can help you better deal with having a chronic condition.
Call your provider if you have symptoms of vulvodynia.
Also call your provider if you have vulvodynia and your symptoms get worse.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' Committee on Gynecologic Practice; American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP). Committee Opinion No 673: persistent vulvar pain. Obstet Gynecol. 2016;128(3):e78-e84. PMID: 27548558 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27548558/.
Bornstein J, Goldstein AT, Stockdale CK, et al. 2015 ISSVD, ISSWSH, and IPPS consensus terminology and classification of persistent vulvar pain and vulvodynia. J Low Genit Tract Dis. 2016;20(2):126-130. PMID: 27002677 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27002677/.
Stenson AL. Vulvodynia: diagnosis and management. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2017;44(3):493-508. PMID: 28778645 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28778645/.
Waldman SD. Vulvodynia. In: Waldman SD, ed. Atlas of Common Pain Syndromes. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 96.