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This topic is for women
who have vulvodynia, a type of vulvar pain with no known cause. If your doctor has told you that the pain in your vulva is caused by something else, like an infection or a skin
problem, see the topic
Female Genital Problems and Injuries.
Vulvodynia is pain in the vulva that can't be explained by another health problem, such as an infection or a skin problem. The vulva is the area around the
opening of your vagina.
The main parts of the vulva are:
See a picture of the vulva.
Doctors don't know the exact
cause of vulvodynia. But some things that may help cause it include:
most cases, vulvar pain is a symptom of some other problem. And when that
problem is treated, the pain often goes away. Some conditions that may cause
vulvar pain include yeast infections and other vaginal infections, atrophic vaginitis, lichen sclerosus, lichen planus, or an allergic reaction to soaps or other products, such as vaginal sprays or douches.
Pain is the main symptom of vulvodynia. Depending on the person, the pain may:
Other symptoms may include:
Your doctor will first
ask you about your past health, your sexual history, and your symptoms. Then he or she
will do a pelvic exam to rule out other possible causes for your pain, such as
an infection or a skin problem.
During the exam, your doctor may use
a cotton swab to touch different areas on and around your vulva to see where
the pain is and how bad it is. If he or she sees a problem or any skin
changes, you may need a biopsy. This means that your doctor will remove a small piece of tissue from your vulva and send it to a lab to be studied for the cause of your pain. Your doctor may also recommend an exam called a
colposcopy to take a closer look at the cells on your
If a cause for your pain is not found, you may have
There are many
treatments for vulvodynia, but what works for someone else may not help you.
Work with your doctor to find what is best for you. Even though there is no
cure, treatment can help you feel better and lead a full and active life.
There are other things you can try to
relieve your symptoms:
When you have vulvodynia, you may find it hard to do your daily tasks. It
may hurt to walk, exercise, or sit for long periods of time. And it may hurt to
have sex. All of these things can affect your life, work, and
At times you may feel overwhelmed, tired, and angry.
These feelings are normal. Most women who have vulvar pain feel this way at
one time or another.
Even though living with vulvar pain can be
stressful, the good news is that you can do some simple things to feel
The National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) is a nonprofit organization that provides information on the suspected causes, current treatments, and ongoing research on vulvodynia, a spectrum of chronic vulvar pain disorders.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
(ACOG) is a nonprofit organization of professionals who provide health care for
women, including teens. The ACOG Resource Center publishes manuals and patient
education materials. The Web publications section of the site has patient
education pamphlets on many women's health topics, including reproductive
health, breast-feeding, violence, and quitting smoking.
April 26, 2012
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Carla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine
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