Vulvodynia

Vulvodynia is persistent pain around the opening of the vagina (vulva) lasting at least three months with no known cause. Many women experience the discomfort and frustration of vulvar pain. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your gynecologist. 

Signs and symptoms of vulvodynia

Women with vulvodynia describe their symptoms as vulvar discomfort and burning pain. Vulvodynia often has no visible signs.

Causes of vulvodynia

Vulvodynia is the term given to vulvar pain with no identifiable cause. 

Diagnosing vulvodynia

Vulvodynia is often diagnosed after other conditions are ruled out. To diagnosis vulvodynia, your provider will:

  1. Take your health history to identify the patient’s duration of pain, medical and surgical history, sexual history, allergies, and previous treatments. 
  2. Perform a physical exam of the vulva and vagina to evaluate the skin and identify infection, inflammation, and/or abnormal growths.

Additional testing may be necessary to rule out other conditions that may be creating discomfort.

Vulvodynia treatment options

After your provider has ruled out all other conditions, they may treat your vulvar pain using the following methods:

Medication

Your provider may prescribe an oral medication, or topical cream or ointment that helps reduce the pain and discomfort. If general vulvar pain remains after trying these treatment options, your provider may try increasing or combining medications.

Nerve block

If medication is not providing adequate relief, women may benefit from a nerve block injection to stop the pain.

Biofeedback and physical therapy

Women with vulvodynia should be assessed for pelvic floor dysfunction. Biofeedback and physical therapy, including pelvic floor physical therapy, can be used to treat localized and generalized vulvar pain.

Surgery

If the vulvar pain is localized to the vaginal opening, then your provider may recommend a vestibulectomy, which is a gynecologic procedure to remove the painful tissues.

Lifestyle changes

There are ways to manage and improve your symptoms using lifestyle changes found under our vulvar skin care guidelines.

Multidisciplinary approach

Vulvodynia can affect your quality of life. In addition to treating your physical symptoms, your provider may recommend a sexual health counselor, clinical psychologist, and/or pain specialist to help care for your emotional wellbeing.

Last reviewed: 
June 2018

Interested in using our health content?