What is the difference between vulvodynia and pelvic pain?
Pelvic pain is a general term that health care providers use to describe pain that occurs mostly or only in the lower abdominal area. Pelvic pain signals that there might be a problem with one of the organs in the pelvic area: uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, vagina, urinary tract, lower intestines, or rectum. Another possibility is that the pain might be a symptom of infection. Sometimes pelvic pain can be caused by muscular and skeletal problems.1 Vulvodynia more commonly refers to pain of the external genitalia, including the labia ("lips" or folds of skin at the opening of the vagina), the clitoris, and the vaginal opening.
What other conditions are associated with vulvar pain?
Endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and infections or sexually transmitted diseases are commonly associated with vulvar pain. Vulvar pain may also be related to contact dermatitis, pinched nerves, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, or inflammation of the bladder wall, called interstitial cystitis.2
Is vulvodynia related to vulvar cancer?
Vulvar pain is a symptom of vulvar cancer, which is rare.3 If your health care provider finds an abnormal area of the vulva, he or she may take a small sample of tissue from that area to determine from a biopsy whether cancer is present. When vulvar cancer is found and treated early, it can be cured more than 90% of the time.
For more information about vulvar cancer visit the National Cancer Institute website.
- NICHD. (2012). Pelvic pain. Retrieved March 30, 2012, from http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/PelvicPain [top]
- Bachmann, G. A., Rosen, R., Pinn, V. W., Utian, W. H., Ayers, C., Basson, R., et al. (2006). Vulvodynia: A state-of-the-art consensus on definitions, diagnosis and management. Journal of Reproductive Medicine, 51, 447-456. [top]
- Canavan, T. P., & Cohen, D. (2002). Vulvar cancer. American Family Physician, 66, 1269-1275. [top]