What is vulvodynia?
Vulvodynia is a term used to describe pain affecting the vulva when the cause of the pain is unknown.
Vulvodynia is defined by the International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Diseases (ISSVD) as chronic vulvar discomfort or pain, characterised by burning, stinging, irritation or rawness of the female genitalia in cases in which there is no infection or skin disease of the vulva or vagina causing these symptoms.
In 2004, the ISSVD recognised that vulvodynia can be generalised or localised. It may be provoked by sexual intercourse or other non-sexual factors (insertion of tampons, tight clothing etc.), unprovoked, or mixed (provoked and unprovoked).
- Vestibulodynia refers to localised provoked vulvodynia (this was previously known as vulvar vestibulitis).
- Dyaesthetic vulvodynia refers to generalised unprovoked or mixed vulvodynia.
Refer to DermNet's page on genital skin problems for conditions that may cause vulvar burning, stinging, irritation and rawness.
Who gets vulvodynia?
Vulvodynia generally occurs in adult women between the mid-20's to late 60's. These women are usually healthy active women with no history of chronic health problems or sexually transmitted diseases. Vulvodynia is no more or less common in women whom have had one or more sexual partners.
The actual incidence of vulvodynia is unknown but may be as high as 15%.
What problems are associated with vulvodynia?
The pain and discomfort of vulvodynia can have a profound effect on the quality of life of women who suffer the condition. Simple activities such as sitting at a desk, bicycle riding, social events and maintaining a sexual relationship, are impacted upon. A woman's self-image is negatively affected and may lead to depression.
How do you treat vulvodynia?
Because by definition, the cause of vulvodynia is unknown, treatment may be challenging. Treatment of vulvodynia usually requires a multidisciplinary approach that may include:
- Psychological therapy
- Pain management therapy
- Behaviour modification
Specific treatment of vulvodynia is described under each subtype. However, regardless of type of vulvodynia, treatment for all must encompass a holistic approach taking into account the woman's physical and psychological needs.
- The V Book: A Doctor's Guide to Complete Vulvovaginal Health
- The Vulvodynia Survival Guide: How to Overcome Painful Vaginal Symptoms & Enjoy an Active Lifestyle
On DermNet NZ:
- Pudendal nerve entrapment syndrome
- Dyaesthetic vulvodynia
- Cyclic vulvovaginitis
- Cytolytic vaginosis
- Pruritus vulvae
- Vulval/vaginal problems in prepubertal females
- Genital skin problems
- Menopause and the skin
- Erosive lichen planus