Vulvodynia (vul-vo-DIN-ee-uh) is chronic pain in the area around the opening of your vagina (vulva) for which there is no identifiable cause. The pain, burning or irritation associated with vulvodynia may make you so uncomfortable that sitting for long periods or having sex becomes unthinkable. The condition can go on for months or years.
If you have vulvodynia, don't let the absence of visible signs or embarrassment about discussing the symptoms of vulvodynia keep you from seeking help. Treatment options are available to lessen the pain and discomfort of vulvodynia.
The main vulvodynia symptom is pain in your genital area, which can be characterized by:
The pain you experience may be constant or intermittent and can last for months or even years, but it can vanish as suddenly as it started. You may feel the pain in your entire vulvar area (generalized), or it may be localized to a certain area, such as the opening of your vagina (vestibule). A similar condition, vulvar vestibulitis, may cause pain only when pressure is applied to the area surrounding the entrance to your vagina.
Vulvar tissue may look minimally inflamed or swollen. More often, your vulva appears normal.
When to see a doctor
If you experience pain in your genital area, discuss it with your doctor, or ask for a referral to a gynecologist. It's important to have your doctor rule out more easily treatable causes of vulvar pain, such as yeast or bacterial infections, skin conditions and medical problems such as diabetes. Once your doctor has evaluated your particular symptoms, he or she can recommend treatments or ways to help you manage your pain.
The vulva is the outer part of the female genitalia, including the labia and clitoris. ...
Doctors don't know what causes vulvodynia, but contributing factors may include:
Many women with vulvodynia have a history of treatment for recurrent vaginitis or vaginal yeast infections. Some women with the condition have a history of sexual abuse. But most women with vulvodynia have no known contributing factors. Vulvodynia isn't sexually transmitted or a sign of cancer.
Because it can be painful and frustrating and can inhibit sexual activity, vulvodynia can cause emotional problems. For example, fear of having sex can cause spasms in the muscles around your vagina (vaginismus). Other complications may include:
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or primary care provider. In some cases, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in conditions affecting the female reproductive tract (gynecologist).
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment, and to know what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
For vulvodynia, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions you have.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Before diagnosing vulvodynia, your doctor will ask you several questions to get a better idea of your medical history and to understand the location, nature and extent of your symptoms.
As part of his or her evaluation, your doctor may also perform these tests:
Treatments and drugs
Vulvodynia treatments focus on relieving symptoms. No one treatment works for every woman, and you may find that a combination of treatments works best for you. It may take weeks or even months for treatment to improve your symptoms noticeably. Options may include:
Lifestyle and home remedies
The following tips may help you manage the symptoms of vulvodynia:
Coping and support
You may find it helpful to talk to other women who have vulvodynia. Talking to others with the condition can provide information and help relieve the isolation you may feel. If a support group isn't for you, ask your doctor for names of counselors in your area who are familiar with vulvodynia.
Last Updated: 2011-07-15
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