Vulvodynia – Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

pain during sex
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Vulvodynia can be either discomfort or chronic pain around the area covering the vaginal opening, and it’s characterized by lacking identifiable causes and lasting at least three months.

The pain, burning, or itching associated with vulvodynia can reach really high levels, and they can even make the patient lose all desire for sex. This condition can last up to several years.

Though there’s no apparent cause for vulvodynia yet, going to a doctor can help you find relief. Also, the doctor might determine a cause for the vaginal pain, nonetheless.

Types of vulvodynia

There are two types of vulvodynia, depending on how much of the vaginal area they cover. Do note that these two types can co-exist occasionally.


Localized vulvodynia refers to pain in just one area of the vulva. The diagnosis thus depends on which site is being targeted. For instance, vestibulodynia refers to pain on the tissue that surrounds the opening of the vagina, also called the vestibule.

Most women presenting localized vulvodynia have the mentioned type of vulvodynia, particularly provoked vestibulodynia. In this case, the pain only occurs when applying pressure to the vaginal vestibule.

The most common triggers for these conditions are intercourse, inserting a tampon, examination from a gynecologist, sitting for too long, or even wearing tight pants.

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Another known form that occurs with specific locations is clitorodynia, which affects the clitoris and can reach high pain levels. Luckily, this one is very rare.

PVD (provoked vestibulodynia) can also be split into two categories: primary and secondary.

Primary PVD is when the pain has been felt since the first time vaginal penetration was attempted. Secondary PVD seems to occur randomly, and patients often have enjoyed intercourse well before vulvodynia presenting.


GV is presents in a spontaneous manner, and it can be quite constant. However, GV patients can see periods where they don’t feel the symptoms.

Usually, these symptoms are worsened when pressure is applied to the vulva, including intercourse and sitting for a long time.

Who is at risk?

Women can have vulvodynia at any age, even during their teenage years. Estimates for how many women might suffer from this condition varies greatly, and they can range as high as 6 million or as low as 200 thousand.

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It was previously thought that vulvodynia only appeared in white females, but it’s now known that all women can get it, including Hispanic and African-America women just as much.

Finally, vulvodynia can occur randomly. It can show up in women who had sex previously without any trouble.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms for vulvodynia can appear all of the sudden, and they can last for as little as 3 months, yet they can extend for several year.

The most common symptoms include a burning or stinging sensation. Some women experience outright soreness or aching, and others can feel a throbbing sensation. Itching is also associated with this condition.

These symptoms also vary in how they show up, their frequency, or their duration.

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Some women experience them constantly, but others report it only manifests once in a while. They can also occur while exercising, having sex, and even walking or resting. Activities that involve pressure to the vulva, like cycling or sitting can also trigger the symptoms. Again, the symptoms can happen in specific zones or affect the entire vulva.

The most common symptom for vulvodynia in almost all cases is a burning pain sensation. Women tend to describe it like acid being poured on one’s skin or “knife-like”.

What causes it?

The causes for the most common vulvodynia cases are still unknown to the medical community. There’s also no evidence suggesting that infections can cause the condition, including STI’s.

Researchers are still trying to narrow down the causes of vulvodynia, but there are several possible factors related to this affliction.

Injury to the nerves or irritation can be one of them, as can be an abnormal response to infection or physical trauma on behalf of the vulvar cells. However, this can also be seen as a possible autoimmune factor. On the other hand, frequently using antibiotics is also thought to be a possible cause.

Yeast infections can be fairly common. Hypersensitivity to them is also thought to lead to vulvodynia. Allergy towards certain chemicals or substances and the ensuring irritation can also be one of the reasons.

Finally, hormonal changes and sexual abuse history have been quoted as likely factors influencing the affliction.

What are the consequences?

Vulvodynia can impact women’s lives in noticeable ways. It can go as far as impairing their desire or even ability to exercise, have sex, work, or merely socializing. The NIH has found that most patients feel like they don’t have control over their bodies, can’t engage in intercourse, and feel unable to enjoy their lives.

Regarding the emotional repercussions of vulvodynia, counseling and therapy should be sought if one’s life quality results damaged.

Luckily, the symptoms caused by vulvodynia aren’t threatening to one’s life, but they can still heavily impair women’s lives. Depending on the severity, intimacy can become unbearable, and maintaining a romantic relationship becomes difficult.

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A branching consequence is significant damage to a woman’s self-esteem and image since they can feel like they’re not enough or worth it.

However, the major issue related to vulvodynia is how unknown this condition is for many health professionals. Women might have to look to be patient when searching for medical help for vulvodynia.

  • Self-treatment

Women can use different strategies to keep their symptoms in check or even relieve them.

  • Avoid irritation

The first step should be avoiding irritants for your vulva, and several products and substances can cause this discomfort.

Try to stay away from fabric softener for your panties and stick to detergent approved as dermatologically safe. In that sense, skip scented toilet paper, and go for a soft and white paper. The same goes for underwear, pads, and tampons: keep them 100% cotton and white.

Avoid contact between your vulva and possible irritants. This means keeping shampoo away, and the same goes for creams, soaps, tampons, and pads with perfume. You might want to ditch contraceptives like spermicides and creams.

  • Try to avoid pools or hot tubs with too much chlorine. 
  • Also, make sure to rinse your vulva after urinating or having intercourse; use cool water for this.
  • In general, keep your vulva dry and clean, and that includes using swimsuits for too long after wetting them or wearing damp gym garments for too long.

After taking a bath, you should also want to dry your vulva (with gentle pats) and use plant-based or preservative-free oils and emollients to protect the area. Avoid wearing pantyhose and use loose clothing.

Urine can turn irritating with different foods, so watch what you eat. Beans, greens, berries, nuts, and chocolate might be included in that list.

Lose pressure

You want to avoid applying pressure to your vulva as well, and there are a few things you can do.

First, try always to use lubricant (water-soluble) when having intercourse. You should also try to avoid tasks that require or result in direct pressure on your genital area; cycling and horseback riding are the most common. You can also buy a foam rubber seat and use it to cushion your seats.

Pain relief

To relieve the pain, you can use different simple but effective methods.

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You can take a sitz bath and keep it cool or lukewarm. After having sex, you may apply ice packs to the affected area, but make sure to wrap with a hand towel.

On the other hand, you can also apply heat pads to the area, which can be effective for some patients.

Lastly, learn and use relaxation techniques.

Professional Treatment

Similar to the home treatments, there’s not a single vulvodynia treatment that’s effective in all cases and women, and the best approach is to try different treatments; the same goes for home treatment.

There are other treatment types that your doctor might recommend, and since vulvodynia can bring an emotional burden, support and counseling groups can also help.


You can use both oral, topical or injected medications.

Your doctor might prescribe lidocaine or other local anesthesia. Estrogen creams and tricyclic antidepressants can also help alleviate the symptoms. In some cases, anticonvulsants can be prescribed, as can nerve blockers or inhibitors for serotonin and norepinephrine.

On the other hand, your doctor might also advise neurostimulation or spinal infusion.

Lastly, anti-inflammatory medication and Botox might be recommended. Some doctors could also advise alternative medicine.


There are different therapeutic approaches that you might want to try.

First, there’s physical therapy to strengthen the muscles in your pelvis and lower spasms. Biofeedback can help with relaxing your vaginal muscles and reduce the pain.

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Finally, there’s a relatively new treatment that can work for vulvodynia, involving nerve stimulation with electricity; it’s helped treat chronic pain in general.

Again, emotional consequences might require counseling or therapy to deal with self-esteem issues springing from vulvodynia.


If you suffer from PVD (Provoked vestibulodynia), then removing the painful tissue can help if other treatments have failed to provide any relief.

However, it might be complicated to find a doctor experienced in this type of surgery, so you want to try asking your gynecologist whether he has knowledge about the condition or if he knows any doctor who does.

Use Natural Aphrodisiacs

A good way to ensure proper vulva health is to ensure you don’t use anything unnatural, especially when having sex. It’s why you may want to take a look at natural aphrodisiacs like Spanish Fly Pro that can help increase your libido and ensure your sexual well-being. There are no side effects and you don’t even need a doctor’s prescription to get started. It increases your natural vaginal lubrication, ensuring optimal vaginal health, without the need to add in any other product. 


Have some questions about Vulvodynia? We have tried to answer some of them below.

Can vulvodynia go away?

Yes, vulvodynia can be a lengthy condition lasting for months or even years. However, this affliction usually disappears on its own without specific treatment necessary, but you should still consider asking your doctor to treat the symptoms.

Is vulvodynia an autoimmune disease?

One of the believed causes for vulvodynia is an issue with vulvar cells responding to infections, but there’s no evidence suggesting it might be related to autoimmune issues.

What triggers vulvodynia?

It depends on the type of vulvodynia. However, it’s often caused by contact or pressure over the affected area. Still, symptoms can also show up and disappear on their own.

Is vulvodynia a sign of cancer?

Again, there’s no direct cause linked to vulvodynia, but vulvar neoplasia can cause pain on the vagina. Therefore, vulvodynia or similar vulvar pain could be a sign of cancer, so it’s a good idea to go to the doctor and get screened.

Can stress cause vulvodynia?

Nerve irritation is thought to be one of the causes of vulvodynia, and stress can worsen this condition. However, there’s no evidence suggesting stress is a legitimate cause for vulvodynia.

How can I treat vulvovaginitis at home?

The main way to treat vulvovaginitis depends on the type, but you can use over-the-counter creams to treat the discomfort or change products that might cause allergies.

Use the right creams and the right natural aphrodisiacs like Spanish Fly Pro to ensure optimal sexual health. 


While at times contributed by guest authors, our content is medically reviewed periodically by professionals for accuracy and relevance. We pride ourselves on our high-quality content and strive towards offering expertise while being authoritative. Our reviewers include doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and even medical students. 

Do note that any information found on the site does not constitute legal or medical advice. Should you face health issues, please visit your doctor to get yourself diagnosed. Icy Health offers expert opinions and advice for informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for professional medical advice.


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