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What is Vulvodynia?

Have you ever heard of vulvodynia?  Unfortunately, even many women who suffer from it have not heard this word because it is frequently overlooked or misdiagnosed.  Vulvodynia is a chronic vulvar discomfort or pain,  often characterized by complaints of burning, stinging, irritation or rawness in the vulvar area, or external female genitalia. Burning sensations are the most common, but vulvodynia pain varies highly in location and persistence. The pain may be constant or intermittent, localized or diffuse. In many cases of vulvodynia, the pain occurs spontaneously.

As with most chronic pain conditions, vulvodynia can have a profound impact on quality of life. It often affects sexual activity and can interfere with other activities.  In many cases, it can also lead to depression. 

The cause of vulvodynia is unknown. It may be the result of multiple factors such as injury or irritation of the vulvar nerves; a localized reaction to candida or yeast; an allergic response to environmental irritants; high levels of oxalate crystals in the urine; or spasms of the muscles that support the pelvic organs.  There is no evidence that vulvodynia is caused by an infection or a sexually transmitted disease.

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Created: 9/17/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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