Vulvodynia (Vulvar Pain): Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Vulvodynia is a term that simply means pain of the vulva. Vulvodynia is a silent epidemic affecting 1 in 4 adolescent girls and women. While no one treatment for vulvar pain or genital pain is right for every woman with vulvodynia, several treatment options are available.

Pain is the most notable symptom of vulvodynia, and can be characterized as a burning, stinging, irritation or sharp pain that occurs in the vulva and entrance to the vagina. It may be constant, intermittent or happen only when the vulva is touched, but vulvodynia is usually defined as lasting for years.

Symptoms may occur in one place or the entire vulvar area. It can occur during or after sexual activity, when tampons are inserted, or when prolonged pressure is applied to the vulva, such as during sitting, bike riding, or horseback riding. Some cases of vulvodynia are idiopathic where no particular cause can be determined.

Vulvar vestibulitis syndrome (VVS), vestibulodynia, or simply vulvar vestibulitis or "localized (to the vestibule) provoked vulvodynia"[4] refers to pain localized to the vestibular region. It tends to be associated with a highly localized "burning" or "cutting" type of pain. The pain of vulvodynia may extend into the clitoris; this is referred to as clitorodynia.

Vulvar vestibulitis syndrome is the most common subtype of vulvodynia that affects premenopausal women – the syndrome has been cited as affecting about 10%–15% of women seeking gynecological care.

Vestibulectomy, during which the nerve fibers to the area are cut out, may be recommended if other treatments have not been found to be effective. There have been no high quality studies looking at surgery as a treatment. While improvement has been noted in 60% to 90%, those who were treated without surgery improved in 40 to 80% of cases.