What is vulvodynia?
Persistent vulvar pain can be frustrating and difficult to diagnose. Treating such pain is also difficult, and it can take a while to resolve, even with the right therapy. The cause of vulvar pain can be a specific disorder such as an infection, or it can be idiopathic (meaning there’s no known cause). Idiopathic pain in the vulva is referred to as vulvodynia.
According to the International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease, people with vulvodynia experience discomfort in the vulva, most often described as a burning pain. It occurs without any visible findings or a particular, clinically recognizable neurological disorder. To diagnose vulvodynia, the doctor will try to rule out more common causes of vulvar pain, including:
- Infection (e.g., herpes, human papillomavirus, and candidiasis)
- Inflammation (e.g., immunobullous disorder, lichen planus, and lichen sclerosus)
- Abnormal tissue growth (e.g., squamous cell cancer and Paget’s disease)
- Neurological disorder (e.g., compression of the spinal nerve and herpes neuralgia)
Vulvodynia is diagnosed when vulvar pain persists for three months or more without any detectable cause.
The doctor will describe each case of vulvodynia along the following parameters:
- Generalized, localized (e.g., clitorodynia and vestibulodynia), or both
- Spontaneous, provoked (e.g., with contact), or both
- Primary or secondary onset
- Persistent, intermittent, constant, delayed, or immediate