Vulvodynia is chronic pain or discomfort of the vulva. The vulva includes the:
- Labia majora and labia minora
- Vaginal opening
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The cause of vulvodynia is not known. Some possibilities include:
- Injury or irritation of vulvar nerves
- Inflammed tissue
- Abnormal response to infection or trauma
Vulvodynia 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
Symptoms may include:
- Pain, which may come and go
Your 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
Talk 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
Therapy 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.
Suggested treatments for vulvodynia include:
- Nerve stimulation or nerve blocks
There are no current guidelines to prevent vulvodynia.
- Andrea Chisholm, MD
- Reviewed: 03/2013
- Updated: 04/07/2014
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