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Vulvodynia – symptoms, causes, types and other risk factors

This is a chronic pain or discomfort around the opening of the vagina (this opening is known as vulva) and there is not identifiable cause. It lasts at least 3 months. The irritation, burning or pain which is associated with the vulvodynia can make the woman so uncomfortable that having sex or sitting for long periods become unthinkable. Vulvodynia can last from months to years. Those women who suffer from vulvodynia should not let the absence of visible signs or embarrassment about discussing the symptoms keep them from seeking help. There are many treatments for vulvodynia which are available to lessen the discomfort. Your doctor can find the cause for your vulvar pain so it is very important to have an examination. There are many women who have vulvodynia but they do not the cause for it. Many doctors do not recognize this condition as a real pain syndrome but nowadays this is changed. But even today there are many women who do not receive a right diagnosis. These women can remain isolated by a condition which is not easy to discuss. There are many studies which are done to discover the real cause for this condition so doctors can give the right treatment to their patients.

Vulvodynia symptoms

The pain in the genital area is the main symptom of vulvodynia and it can be characterized as [1,2]:

  • Itching
  • Throbbing
  • Painful intercourse (dyspareunia)
  • Rawness
  • Stinging
  • Soreness
  • Burning

The pain which you feel can be constant or occasional. The pain can happen when the sensitive area is touched (provoked). The pain can be localized to a certain area, such as the opening of the vagina (vestibule) or it can be felt in the entire vulvar area (generalized). The vulvar tissue can look slightly swollen or inflamed. In the most cases, the vulva appears normal. Vestibulodynia is a similar condition to vulvodynia. In this type of condition the pain is caused only when pressure is applied to the area surrounding the entrance to your vagina. There are many women who do not mention that they suffer from vulvodynia but this is a very common condition. If you feel pain in your genital area, then you should talk with your doctor or ask your doctor to refer you to a gynecologist. It is very important for your doctor to discover the cause of vulvar pain, for example, it is caused by medical problems such as diabetes [3]; genitourinary syndrome of menopause; precancerous skin conditions; herpes; yeast or bacterial infections. It is very important not to repeatedly use over – the – counter treatments for yeast infections if you are not visiting your doctor on regular basis. When your doctor has evaluated your symptoms, then he or she can recommend treatments or way which can help you to manage your pain.


Vulvodynia causes

Doctors do not know what the cause for vulvodynia is, but there are possible contributing factors, such as

  • Muscle spasms or weakness in the pelvic floor, which supports the uterus, bladder and bowel
  • Hormonal changes,
  • Allergies or sensitive skin
  • Past vaginal infections
  • Injury to or irritation of the nerves surrounding your vulvar region

Types of vulvodynia: It is known fact that this condition is affecting the vulva which is the external female genital organs. It can include the vaginal opening, clitoris and labia. There are 2 main subtypes of vulvodynia:

  • Generalized vulvodynia: In this type of vulvodynia the pain is in different areas of the vulva at different times. The vulvar pain can happen once in a while or it can be constant. The pressure or touch may or may not prompt it. But this can make the vulvar pain worse.
  • Localized vulvodynia: This is a pain in one area of the vulva. In many cases is a burning sensation and this type of vulvar pain is usually provoked by pressure or touch, such as prolonged sitting or intercourse.

Complications: This condition can be frustrating and painful and it can keep you away from wanting sex which can lead to emotional problems. If you have a fear of having sex, then it can cause spasms in the muscles around your vagina (condition called vaginismus). Also there can be other complications such as

  • Decreased quality of life [4]
  • Relationship problems
  • Altered body image [5]
  • Sexual dysfunction  [1]
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depression [6]
  • Anxiety [6]


[1] Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. What are the symptoms of vulvodynia? Retrieved from

[2] Shallcross R, Dickson JM, Nunns D, et al. Women’s experiences of vulvodynia: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the journey toward diagnosis. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 2019;48:961–74.

[3] Kalra B, Kalra S, Bajaj S. Vulvodynia: An unrecognized diabetic neuropathic syndrome. 2013.

[4] Ponte M, Klemperer E, Sahay A, Chren MM. Effects of vulvodynia on quality of life. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2009;60(1):70–6.

[5] Kingdon J. Vulvodynia: A comprehensive review. Nursing for Women’s Health. 2009;13(1):48-58.

[6] Govind V, Krapf JM, Mitchell L, et al. Exploring pain-related anxiety and depression in female patients with provoked vulvodynia with associated overactive pelvic floor muscle dysfunction. Sexual Medicine. 2020;8(3):517-24.

Merlin Joy
Merlin Joy
Holding a doctorate degree, Dr. Merlin Joy AKA Sinatra developed passion for home remedies from her mother, grand father and grandmother. Sinatra loves to read books and hiking. You can contact her through [email protected]


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