Chronic discomfort in vulvar area

Symptoms and causes of vulvodynia

VULVODYNIA is a chronic condition characterized by burning, stinging, irritation, or rawness in the vulvar area. The term refers to symptoms, present for at least six months, occurring anywhere generalized to the vulvar area but often localized to the opening of the vagina or vestibule. The discomfort can be brought on by touch or pressure, such as with sexual intercourse or prolonged sitting, or alternatively, can occur spontaneously. The exact location, constancy, and severity of the pain can vary. Often the only change to the skin in the area may be a faint redness. There is no identifiable cause for this condition and also no one test that proves this diagnosis. In fact, usually all identifiable and treatable causes of such symptoms in this area are ruled out or treated before establishing this diagnosis.



Since this disorder may be rooted in a combination of nerve and/or muscle abnormalities, medications for neuropathic pain and attention to the pelvic floor are first line therapy. Although this condition is not generally cured, most women respond well to therapy, and symptoms can be controlled. Sometimes the response is slow and often several different therapies need to be tried.


Long-term effects of vulvodynia

Vulvodynia is not associated with cancer, a sexually transmitted disease, or any kind of infection. It is not an early sign of any disease. It does not affect fertility nor preclude a normal vaginal delivery. Vulvodynia is also not a psychological disorder though for sure, the psychological effects can be profound. Many women feel depressed, angry, anxious, or guilty. If the pain affects their ability to engage in sexual intercourse, women can suffer from loss of libido and lack of feelings of femininity and sexuality. Loss of intimacy within a relationship and difficulty discussing it can strain a relationship, so counseling and sex therapy is also part of the whole healing process.


To find a specialist experienced in treating vulvodynia and vulvar disorders, visit the Cincinnati Sexual Health Consortium provider page {link to listing of sexual health providers}.


The following national organizations provide additional information on vulvodynia and vulvar disorders.


International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health


International Society for Sexual Medicine


The North American Menopause Society


The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists