Vulvodynia

The term “vulvodynia” is a general term that means “painful vulva” and actually refers to several disorders that affect the female genitals. Vestibulodynia, also known as vulvar vestibulitis syndrome (VVS) and localized vulvodynia, is the most common form of vulvodynia. It is defined as pain confined to the glands that surround the vaginal opening. Most women have experienced the pain for several years and they have been examined by many different health care providers before a diagnosis has been made. 

Many women remain undiagnosed due to a
lack of knowledge about vulvodynia. 

Women with vestibulodynia may complain of sharp, prickly, or knife-like pain, itching, rawness, burning after intercourse, feelings of a urinary tract infection, or dryness around the vaginal opening. The symptoms range from mild to severe and patients have periods of flare and remission.The exact cause of vestibulodynia in not known. It most like arises from multiple factors and may represent several different disease processes. The current theory is that it develops after a trauma to the vulva. This could be from an infection, allergic reaction, chemical irritation, or muscle or nerve injury. As a result, the tissues surrounding the vaginal opening become inflamed and the glands become hypersensitive. This causes any touch that would normally be perceived as neutral or pleasurable to be felt as painful. 

Possible Triggers of Vulvodynia

  • Recurrent yeast infections
  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Hormone imbalance (ex., breast feeding, menopause, birth control pills)
  • Breast cancer
  • Dermatologic conditions (ex., lichen sclerosus, lichen planus, lichen simplex chronicus)
  • Sexually transmitted infections

One of the most important aspects of treating vulvodynia is choosing a healthcare provider who specializes in sexual medicine or vulvar pain disorder because they are familiar with current treatments and research.

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