Definition of Vulvodynia

Chronic and sometimes severe vulvar pain a woman experiences. Though many women who have vulvodynia have had chronic or recurrent vaginitis (vaginal infection), the connection between vaginitis and vulvodynia is unclear and only a small percentage of women who have vaginitis develop vulvodynia.

There are few other discernible circumstances that could account for the symptoms; doctors most often consider vulvodynia a chronic pain syndrome.

Symptoms

The symptoms often come on suddenly and may include

  • Intense burning, stinging, or itching of the vulva (labia, clitoris, and opening to the vagina)
  • Discomfort and soreness when sitting or walking
  • Pain during sexual intercourse (dyspareunia)

Diagnosis and Treatment

The diagnostic path includes a thorough pelvic examination with cultures for yeast infection (candidiasis) and sexually transmitted diseases (stds) such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. In vulvodynia, such test results are negative and the pelvic examination is normal.

Treatment options include medications such as antihistamine medications, which lessen itching, and tricyclic antidepressant medications, which act to block nerve impulses related to pain. Other medications sometimes helpful for the pain of vulvodynia include certain antiseizure medications and topical corticosteroid medications. Other methods of pain relief that some women find helpful include cold compresses to the vulva, biofeedback, acupuncture.

Vulvodynia may persist for several months; rarely, symptoms may continue for more than a year. Eliminating any underlying causes for symptoms generally speeds recovery from vulvodynia as well. Relaxation techniques and compassionate communication between the woman and her sexual partner help with the emotional and sexual aspects of vulvodynia.

See also ALTERNATIVE METHODS FOR PAIN RELIEF; ANALGESIC MEDICATIONS; MALDYNIA; SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASE (STD) PREVENTION.

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