Vulvodynia

Vulvodynia (said ‘vul-vo-din-ia’) is a condition where there is pain, burning and discomfort in the vulva that cannot be linked to a specific cause.

This pain may or may not be triggered by touch and may be felt in one area or across the whole vulva. Women with vulvodynia have a normal-looking vulva.

It is a chronic condition that can last for months or years. For some women it can be so uncomfortable that sitting for long periods, using tampons or having sex is difficult or impossible.

Vulvodynia can affect women at any age but is most common in young women who have pain during sex and are often unable to have penetrative sex at all (called provoked vestibulodynia).

What causes vulvodynia?

Unfortunately we don’t yet know.

Some research suggests that women with vulvodynia may have been born with more nerve endings in the area around and between their urethra and vagina (called the vestibule), and if these nerves become damaged, the area becomes hypersensitive. It appears that this damage could be triggered by chronic thrush, sexual trauma (e.g. sexual abuse, sex without enough lubrication) and childbirth.

How is vulvodynia diagnosed?

There is no special test for vulvodynia – only tests to prove the pain is not caused by other conditions. Your doctor will usually do a physical exam and may take and test samples of your vagina and vulva to rule out other irritations like thrush or eczema.

Unfortunately, not all doctors are familiar with vulvodynia and sometimes they will conclude that a woman’s vulvar pain is caused by a psychological problem. If you cannot get relief from vulvar pain or you want a second opinion, it may help to see a women’s health specialist (a gynaecologist).

How is vulvodynia treated?

Lubrications and medications applied to the affected area may provide some relief. Physiotherapy can also help to relax the pelvic floor muscles. If all else fails, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the tender area.

Things to remember

  • Vulvodynia is vulvar pain which does not have a clear cause and where there are no physical signs of irritation.
  • Although vulvodynia can last for years, there are treatments to manage its symptoms.
  • Vulvodynia will often go away by itself.

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The Women’s does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or use of such information or advice) which is provided on the Website or incorporated into it by reference. The Women’s provide this information on the understanding that all persons accessing it take responsibility for assessing its relevance and accuracy. Women are encouraged to discuss their health needs with a health practitioner. If you have concerns about your health, you should seek advice from your health care provider or if you require urgent care you should go to the nearest Emergency Dept.

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