Vulvodynia is chronic pain or discomfort in the vulva. The vulva is often called the lips of the vagina. The vulva includes:

  • Labia (labia majora and labia minora)
  • Clitoris
  • Vaginal opening

Female Genitalia

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The causes of vulvodynia are not completely known but may include:

  • Infection
  • Changes in the vulvar tissue
  • Perhaps abnormal nerve sensation

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.

The following factors are thought to increase the risk of vulvodynia:

  • 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
  • History of genital warts
  • Pelvic nerve irritation or muscle spasms
  • History of sexual abuse
  • History of domestic violence


Symptoms of vulvodynia may include:

  • Pain of the vulva, which may come and go
  • Burning of the vulva
  • Stinging of the vulva
  • Irritation of the vulva
  • Rawness of the vulva


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include:

  • Pelvic exam
  • Tests to check for bacteria and/or yeast
  • Magnified exam, using a colposcope—visual examination of the vulva and vagina using a low-power microscope
  • Biopsy —removal of a sample of tissue for testing


Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Treatment options include:


To help manage pain:

  • Topical anesthetics (eg, lidocaine , xylocaine)
  • Estrogen creams
  • Corticosteroid creams
  • Injections of steroid into the skin—may be used

For pain and irritation relief:

Other medications that are sometimes tried include:

Physical Therapy

Therapy can help you strengthen and relax your pelvic muscles. This will ease muscle spasms. You will need to see a specialist in pelvic floor issues.

Other Treatments

Suggested treatments for vulvodynia include:

  • Interferon injections
  • Laser treatments
  • Surgery


The causes of vulvodynia are not well-understood. There is no known way to prevent.