Is this topic for you?
This topic is for women who have vulvodynia, a type of vulvar pain with no known cause. If your doctor has told you that the pain in your vulva is caused by something else, like an infection or a skin problem, see the topic Female Genital Problems.
What is vulvodynia?
Vulvodynia is pain in the vulva that can't be explained by another health problem, such as an infection or a skin problem. The vulva is the area around the opening of your vagina.
The main parts of the vulva are:
See a picture of the vulva.
What causes vulvodynia?
Doctors don't know the exact cause of vulvodynia. But some things that may help cause it include:
In most cases, vulvar pain is a symptom of some other problem. And when that problem is treated, the pain often goes away. Some conditions that may cause vulvar pain include yeast infections and other vaginal infections, atrophic vaginitis, lichen sclerosus, lichen planus, or an allergic reaction to soaps or other products, such as vaginal sprays or douches.
What are the symptoms?
Pain is the main symptom of vulvodynia. Depending on the person, the pain may:
Other symptoms may include:
How is vulvodynia diagnosed?
Your doctor will first ask you about your past health, your sexual history, and your symptoms. Then he or she will do a pelvic exam to rule out other possible causes for your pain, such as an infection or a skin problem.
During the exam, your doctor may use a cotton swab to touch different areas on and around your vulva to see where the pain is and how bad it is. If he or she sees a problem or any skin changes, you may need a biopsy. This means that your doctor will remove a small piece of tissue from your vulva and send it to a lab to be studied for the cause of your pain. Your doctor may also recommend an exam called a colposcopy to take a closer look at the cells on your vulva.
If a cause for your pain is not found, you may have vulvodynia.
How is it treated?
There are many treatments for vulvodynia, but what works for someone else may not help you. Work with your doctor to find what is best for you. Even though there is no cure, treatment can help you feel better and lead a full and active life.
Treatment may include:
There are other things you can try to relieve your symptoms:
How can you live better with vulvodynia?
When you have vulvodynia, you may find it hard to do your daily tasks. It may hurt to walk, exercise, or sit for long periods of time. And it may hurt to have sex. All of these things can affect your life, work, and relationships.
At times you may feel overwhelmed, tired, and angry. These feelings are normal. Most women who have vulvar pain feel this way at one time or another.
Even though living with vulvar pain can be stressful, the good news is that you can do some simple things to feel better:
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