The International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD) defines Vulvodynia as chronic vulvar discomfort or pain, characterized by burning, stinging, irritation or rawness of the female genitalia in cases in which there is no infection or skin disease of the vulva or vagina causing these symptoms. Burning sensations are the most common, but the type and severity of symptoms are highly individualized. Pain may be constant or intermittent, localized or diffuse.
Like other forms of debilitating pain, vulvodynia can have an enormous impact on the quality of life of people who live with it, yet there are few concrete answers about its cause, and despite the concerted efforts of some activists, educators, and physicians, few people know about chronic vulvar pain.
Vulvodynia has been classified into the following subtypes:
Generalized (or dysesthetic) VulvodyniaDysesthetic Vulvodynia symptoms may be diffuse or in different areas at different times. Pain may be present in the labia majora, labia minora, and/or the vestibule. Some women experience pain in the clitoris, mons pubis, perineum and/or the inner thighs. The pain may be constant or intermittent. Symptoms are not necessarily caused by touch or pressure to the vulva, i.e., with intercourse or bicycle riding, but these activities often exacerbate the symptoms.
Vulvar Vestibulitis SyndromeWomen with VVS have pain only in the vestibule, and only during or after touch or pressure is applied. Burning sensations are the most common symptom and may be experienced with some or all of the following: sexual intercourse, tampon insertion, gynecologic examination, bicycle riding, and wearing tight pants.
There are several other conditions that cause chronic vulvar pain and may coexist with Vulvodynia. The most common of these are listed below:
Cyclic VulvovaginitisWomen with cyclic vulvovaginitis have recurrent burning and itching symptoms at the same stage of the menstrual cycle. Many have cyclical bouts of yeast infections and some have other causes for their symptoms.
Vulvar DermatosesThere are many dermatologic conditions that may cause pain in the vulva. The most common include: allergic or contact dermatitis, lichen sclerosus, lichen simplex chronicus and lichen planus. These conditions may cause symptoms of itching and burning. Scratching the vulva and overusing topical medications may inflame the tissue, causing swelling and additional pain.
Vulvodynia, as with most chronic pain conditions, can have a profound impact on a womans quality of life. It typically affects her ability to engage in sexual activity and may interfere with daily functioning, e.g., sitting at a desk, engaging in physical exercise, and participating in social activities.
This information was made available from the National Vulvodynia Association .