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.

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What about vaginal pain during pregnancy?

Vaginal pain may occur during the third trimester of pregnancy due to an increase in pressure on the cervix. Women who experienced vulvodynia before pregnancy may continue to experience this symptom during pregnancy.

What symptoms are characteristic of vaginal pain and vulvodynia?

Symptoms of vulvodynia can include:

  • Burning or stinging pain in the vulva or vaginal opening
  • Sharp, aching, or throbbing pain in the vagina or vulva
  • itching may be associated with the pain
  • The pain may be constant or it may come and go
  • Pain that occurs during sex or exercise
  • Some women report pain that is localized to one side or one area of the vulva, while others have more generalized and widespread pain.
  • There usually are no physical signs or changes that accompany vulvodynia, but sometimes there is evidence of inflamed skin.

What are risk factors for vaginal pain and vulvodynia?

Since the cause is poorly understood, it is difficult to predict who is at risk for vulvodynia. It can affect women of all ages and races. It can begin as early as adolescence and can occur both before and after menopause. It may occur during the menstrual period or independent of the menstrual period.

How is vaginal pain and vulvodynia diagnosed?

There are no specific tests that confirm vulvodynia, and the diagnosis is made based upon the characteristic symptoms. However, since vulvar and vaginal infections (yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, vaginitis) are sometimes associated with burning and itching, cultures or other diagnostic tests to rule out infections may be ordered.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/31/2015

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