Vulvodynia (vul-voe-DIN-e-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 keep you from seeking help. Treatment options are available to lessen your pain and discomfort.

Symptoms Causes Complications

The main vulvodynia symptom is pain in your genital area, which can be characterized by:

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

The pain you experience may be constant or occasional 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, vestibulodynia, 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

Although women often don't tell their doctors about the problem, vulvodynia is a fairly common condition.

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, other skin conditions, and medical problems such as diabetes. It's also important not to repeatedly use over-the-counter treatments for yeast infections without seeing your doctor. Once your doctor has evaluated your particular symptoms, he or she can recommend treatments or ways to help you manage your pain.

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