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Definition  

Vulvodynia is chronic pain or discomfort of the vulva. The vulva includes the:

  • Labia majora and labia minora
  • Clitoris
  • Vaginal opening
Female Genitalia  
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Causes  

The cause of vulvodynia is not known. Some possibilities include:

  • Injury or irritation of vulvar nerves
  • Inflammed tissue
  • Abnormal response to infection or trauma
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Risk Factors  

Vulvodynia is more common in women who are younger. Other factors that increase your chance of developing vulvodynia include:

  • History of vulvodynia
  • Chronic pain or disorders associated with chronic pain
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Some mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Recurrent yeast infections
  • Frequent use of antibiotics
  • Irritation to the genitals by soaps or detergents
  • Genital rashes
  • Previous treatment or surgery to the external genitals
  • Pelvic nerve irritation or muscle spasms
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Symptoms  

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain, which may come and go
  • Burning
  • Stinging
  • Irritation
  • Rawness
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Diagnosis  

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. It may include a pelvic exam. The affected area may need to be examined closely. This can be done using a colposcope to magnify the area.

Your bodily tissues and fluids may need to be tested. This can be done with:

  • Tests to check for bacteria and/or yeast
  • Biopsy
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Treatment  

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:

Medications  

  • Topical medications that are applied to the skin, such as corticosteroids, estrogen, or anesthetics
  • Antidepressants
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Prescription pain relievers

Physical Therapy  

Therapy can help you strengthen and relax your pelvic muscles. This will ease muscle spasms. You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in pelvic floor issues.

Other Treatments  

Suggested treatments for vulvodynia include:

  • Injections
  • Nerve stimulation or nerve blocks
  • Surgery
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Prevention  

There are no current guidelines to prevent vulvodynia.