DefinitionVulvodynia is chronic pain or discomfort of the vulva. The vulva includes the:
- Labia majora and labia minora
- Vaginal opening
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CausesThe cause of vulvodynia is not known. Some possibilities include:
- Injury or irritation of vulvar nerves
- Inflammed tissue
- Abnormal response to infection or trauma
Risk FactorsVulvodynia is more common in women who are younger. Other factors that increase your chance of developing 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
SymptomsSymptoms may include:
- Pain, which may come and go
DiagnosisYour 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.Your bodily tissues and fluids may need to be tested. This can be done with:
- Tests to check for bacteria and/or yeast
TreatmentTalk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
- Topical medications that are applied to the skin, such as corticosteroids, estrogen, or anesthetics
- Prescription pain relievers
Physical TherapyTherapy 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 TreatmentsSuggested treatments for vulvodynia include:
- Nerve stimulation or nerve blocks
PreventionThere are no current guidelines to prevent vulvodynia.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
National Vulvodynia Association
Canadian Women's Health Network
Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 93: diagnosis and management of vulvar skin disorders. Obstet Gynecol. 2008;111:5):1243-1253.
What is vulvodynia? National Vulvodynia Association website. Available at: http://www.nva.org/whatIsVulvodynia.html. Accessed June 26, 2013.
Vulvodynia. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/vulvodynia.html. Updated August 2010. Accessed June 26, 2013.
Vulvodynia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 25, 2013. Accessed June 26, 2013.
Vulvodynia. National Institute of Child Health & Human Development website. Available at: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/vulvodynia/Pages/default.aspx. Updated April 3, 2013. Accessed June 26, 2013.
4/7/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Reed BD, Legocki LJ, et al. Factors associated with vulvodynia incidence. Obstet Gynecol. 2014;123(2.1):225-231.
- Reviewer: Andrea Chisholm, MD
- Review Date: 03/2013
- Update Date: 04/07/2014
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