Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2006;73(7):1239

See related article on vulvodynia.

What is vulvodynia?

Vulvodynia (say: vull-voh-DIN-ee-uh) is often present when the area around the opening of the vagina hurts for many months or years. If you have vulvodynia, the area may hurt when you have sex, use tampons, ride a bicycle, or wear tight clothes. You also might hurt for no reason. The pain may be burning, stabbing, or stinging, or you might only itch.

How did I get it?

Doctors are not sure why women get this problem. It might be caused by nerves in the area that are too sensitive. Vulvodynia is not caused by cancer or a sexually transmitted disease. It also is not a psychological problem.

How is this problem treated?

You should see your doctor if you think you might have vulvodynia. He or she will run tests to make sure your pain or itching is not caused by an infection.

If you have vulvodynia, your doctor might give you medicine. This is often a pill that you swallow or a cream that you rub on the area.

Even though vulvodynia is not a psychological problem, some women find it helpful to see a therapist to learn ways to deal with the pain. Your doctor might give you medicine that is used to treat depression. This is because these medicines help make the nerves in the area less sensitive, not because your doctor thinks you are depressed.

Your doctor also might want you to try physical therapy. Rarely, some women with very bad pain might need to have surgery.

Will I always have it?

Doctors used to think vulvodynia was a lifelong problem. But there have been women whose symptoms went away, sometimes after several years of treatment.

Where can I get more information?

  • Your doctor

  • National Vulvodynia Association

    Telephone: (301) 299–0775

    Web site:

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