Vulvodynia

Vulvodynia

What is it?

The word vulvodynia is used to refer to several disorders that cause pain in the vulva, the external (visible) genitals of the woman.  This pain can be described as burning, stinging, generalized irritation, etc.  While some women have symptoms in a very specific area of the vulva, other women describe these symptoms across the entire genital area.  The term vestibulodynia (formerly called vestibulitis) is a more specific disorder that refers to pain only at the vaginal opening that typically interferes with sexual intercourse or tampon insertion.  In general, these diagnoses are not used if there is some other explanation for the pain symptoms (e.g. yeast infection, skin disease, etc.).

These can be very frustrating conditions for the patient because we have not learned much about the reasons for these painful symptoms.  Currently we believe that the small nerve fibers in the skin of the vulva become “over-sensitized”, which means that normal touch and pressure are perceived in the brain as pain.

What is the Treatment?

Because the cause of vulvodynia is still being determined, most options for treatment are not approved by the FDA and, to some extent, are considered experimental.  Current options include physical therapy, topical ointments that affect nerve sensitivity or oral medications that affect nerve transmission and perception.  In very select cases (some cases of vestibulodynia), surgery can be used to remove the painful areas of skin, which has been shown to reduce symptoms.

How does a patient schedule an appointment to be seen for Vulvar Pain?

If you are experiencing what you think might be vulvodynia symptoms, seeing a specialist in vulvar disorders (link to MCW Vulvovaginal Concerns clinic) may help lead to a diagnosis and/or treatment.

Please call the Pre-Arrival Department at 414-805-6644.