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Vulvodynia - Overview

How is vulvodynia diagnosed?

Your doctor will first ask you about your past health, your sexual history, and your symptoms. Then he or she will do a pelvic exam to rule out other possible causes for your pain, such as an infection or a skin problem.

During the exam, your doctor may use a cotton swab to touch different areas on and around your vulva to see where the pain is and how bad it is. If he or she sees a problem or any skin changes, you may need a biopsy. This means that your doctor will remove a small piece of tissue from your vulva and send it to a lab to be studied for the cause of your pain. Your doctor may also recommend an exam called a colposcopy to take a closer look at the cells on your vulva.

If a cause for your pain is not found, you may have vulvodynia.

How is it treated?

There are many treatments for vulvodynia, but what works for someone else may not help you. Work with your doctor to find what is best for you. Even though there is no cure, treatment can help you feel better and lead a full and active life.

Treatment may include:

  • Medicines. Some examples are antidepressants, seizure medicines, nerve blocks, and medicated creams. These can help make the tissues of the vulva less sensitive. And antihistamines can help relieve itching.
  • BiofeedbackBiofeedback. This treatment can help you learn how to control and relax your pelvic muscles. Tightness or spasms in these muscles can make vulvar pain worse.
  • Physical therapyPhysical therapy. Specific exercises can help you strengthen your pelvic muscles.
  • Estrogen creams. Putting this cream on your skin can help relieve pain.
  • Surgery. In rare cases, surgery is done to remove tissue that is very sensitive.

There are other things you can try to relieve your symptoms:

  • Always clean your vulva gently.
  • Avoid soaps and other products, such as vaginal sprays or douches, that irritate your skin.
  • Wear loose-fitting cotton clothes. Avoid nylon and other fabrics that hold moisture close to the skin. This may cause irritation and allow an infection to start.
  • Avoid hot baths, and don't use soaps or bath products to wash your vulva. Rinse with water only, and gently pat the area dry.
  • Relieve itching and pain with a cold water compress or cool baths. Don't scratch the area.
  • Try using a vaginal lubricant, such as Astroglide or K-Y Jelly, to reduce irritation from having sex.
  • Stay active. But limit exercises that can irritate the vulva, such as bike riding or horseback riding.
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