What Is Vulvodynia? What Causes It?

Medically Reviewed by Nivin Todd, MD on March 02, 2023
2 min read

Constant and knife-like. Burning. Stinging. Soreness. Stabbing. This is how women with vulvodynia describe the pain they feel around the opening of their vagina.

There are two types of vulvodynia. Generalized vulvodynia means you feel pain all around your vulva. If you have localized vulvodynia, you feel pain in one specific area. The pain can be consistent or occur only when you sit for a long time or have sex.

It can be hard to discuss with anyone, including your doctor. But talking about what hurts is the first step to help and healing.

Vulvodynia is a pain disorder. Doctors don’t know why it happens. It's not brought on by a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Infection, skin disease, or cancer can cause pain around the opening of your vagina, but none of them are the same as vulvodynia.

Vulvodynia affects women of all ages, races, and ethnic backgrounds.

Other factors include hormonal changes, a history of sexual abuse, and sensitive skin issues, like allergies.

Vulvodynia can be so painful you lose the desire to have sex. This can cause relationship issues. It may trigger a condition doctors call “vaginismus.” That’s where the muscles around your vagina tense up because you’re afraid any kind of penetration will cause pain. Many things, like sex, using a tampon, or having a pelvic exam, might cause this reaction.

It can also affect your body image and sleep patterns, which can lead to anxiety and depression.