Vaginal Pain and Vulvodynia

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

View Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) Slideshow Pictures

Vaginal Pain Symptoms

Pain in the vagina or the female external genital organs (the vulva, which includes the labia, clitoris, and entrance to the vagina) most commonly is a result of infection. Vaginal pain during sexual intercourse is referred to as dyspareunia. Infection of the vagina is referred to as vaginitis.

Quick GuideFemale Sexual Dysfunction: Treatment for Women's Sexual Disorders

Female Sexual Dysfunction: Treatment for Women's Sexual Disorders

Vaginal pain and vulvodynia facts

  • Vulvodynia refers to pain in the area of the vulva and vaginal opening for which no cause can be identified.
  • Vulvodynia is not related to sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs).
  • The exact cause of vulvodynia is not known.
  • Symptoms include a burning, throbbing, or aching pain that can be localized to one area of the vulva or more widespread.
  • Vaginal itching may be associated with vulvodynia.
  • Vulvodynia can be treated with medications and/or self-care (home remedy) measures. No one treatment is effective for all women.
  • Local anesthetics, local estrogen creams, antidepressants, and anticonvulsive drugs are examples of medical treatments for vulvodynia.
  • Biofeedback, exercises, and nerve blocks may benefit other women.
  • Vulvodynia is not associated with cancer or serious medical conditions, but it can be a source of long-term physical and emotional discomfort.

What is vaginal pain (vulvodynia)?

Vulvodynia refers to pain in the area of the vulva and vaginal opening. Vulvodynia is considered to be pain for which there is no known cause. It is different from pain that is located deep in the pelvis or internally in the vagina. This article focuses on pain in the vulvar region and at the opening (introitus) of the vagina. Deeper vaginal pain can also occur due to infections, tumors and conditions that cause more generalized pain in the pelvic organs.

Vaginal pain can be chronic and can last for years in some women. The degree of severity varies among women. It often occurs in the absence of physical signs or visible abnormalities. It can be severe and can interfere with sexual activity and cause painful intercourse (dyspareunia). However, there are a number of other causes of vaginal pain during or after sex.

What causes vaginal pain and/or vulvodynia?

It is unclear why some women develop vulvodynia. It is not thought to be related to sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), although some women with vulvodynia have had multiple STDs. Some theories suggest that vulvodynia may be related to

  • damage or irritation of nerves,
  • abnormal responses to irritation or inflammation,
  • allergic reactions,
  • muscle spasms,
  • a history of sexual abuse, or
  • frequent use of antibiotics.

Familial or genetic factors also have been suggested to play a role in vulvodynia. Unfortunately, the exact cause has not been determined and most women have no known contributing factors.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/31/2015

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Women's Health Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Vaginal Pain and Vulvodynia - Medications

    What medications or other medical treatments have helped your vaginal pain (vulvodynia)?

    Post View 22 Comments
  • Vaginal Pain and Vulvodynia - Home Remedies

    What home remedies have been helpful in relieving your vaginal pain and vulvodynia?

    Post View 4 Comments
  • Vaginal Pain (Vulvodynia) - Symptoms

    What were your symptoms associated with vulvodynia?

    Post View 6 Comments
  • Vaginal Pain During Pregnancy

    Please share your experience with vaginal pain during pregnancy.

    Post
  • Vaginal Pain (Vulvodynia) - Prognosis

    Have you found a remedy for your vulvodynia? How have you managed the symptoms?

    Post View 8 Comments

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors