International Adhesions Society





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What is Vulvodynia?

The International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD) defines vulvodynia as chronic vulvar discomfort or pain, especially that characterized by complaints of burning, stinging, irritation or rawness of the female genitalia. Burning sensations are the most common, but vulvodynia pain is highly individualized.

The condition varies in persistence and location. Pain may be constant or intermittent, localized or diffuse. In many cases of vulvodynia, pain occurs spontaneously. Vulvar vestibulitis, a type of vulvodynia refers to pain experienced only when pressure is applied to the vestibule, the area surrounding the entrance to the vagina. Vulvodynia has also occasionally been referred to as pudendal neuralgia.

Vulvodynia, as with most chronic pain conditions, has a profound impact on quality of life. It often affects one's ability to engage in sexual activity and can interfere with daily functioning. It can impair one's ability to work, engage in physical activity, and participate in a social life. These limitations can negatively affect self-image and may sometimes lead to depression.

What Causes Vulvodynia?

The cause of vulvodynia is unknown. It may be the result of multiple factors. Doctors speculate that it may be caused by:

  • an injury to, or irritation of, the nerves that innervate the vulva;
  • a localized hypersensitivity to candida;
  • an allergic response to environmental irritants;
  • high levels of oxalate crystals in the urine; or
  • spasms of the muscles that support the pelvic organs.

There is no evidence that vulvodynia is caused by infection or that it is a sexually transmitted disease.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Vulvodynia is diagnosed when other causes of vulvar pain, such as active yeast infection, herpes, skin disorders, and other bacterial infections are ruled out. Upon examination, the vulvar tissue may appear inflamed and swollen or it may look perfectly normal. It is common for a woman to consult several doctors before obtaining an accurate diagnosis.

Currently there is no cure for vulvodynia. Treatments directed toward symptom relief include drug therapies such as tricyclic antidepressants or anticonvulsants, nerve blocks, interferon, biofeedback, and diet modification. Surgical intervention is an option for some women when more conservative treatments do not produce acceptable relief.



- Vulvodynia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments. WebMD
- Vulvodynia: diagnosis and management. – also see here for full-text

Research Articles

- Evidence for overlap between urological and nonurological unexplained clinical conditions.
- Measuring treatment outcomes in women with vulvodynia.





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