What causes vulvodynia?

Health care providers do not know what causes vulvodynia. It tends to be diagnosed when other causes of vulvar pain, such as infection or skin diseases, are ruled out.

Researchers think that one or more of the following may cause or contribute to vulvodynia:1

  • Injury to or irritation of the nerves that transmit pain and other sensations from the vulva
  • Increased density of the nerve fibers in the vulvar vestibule
  • Elevated levels of inflammatory substances in the vulvar tissue
  • Abnormal response of vulvar cells to environmental factors
  • Altered hormone receptor expression in the vulvar tissue
  • Genetic factors such as susceptibility to chronic vestibular inflammation, susceptibility to chronic widespread pain, or inability to combat vulvovaginal infection
  • Localized hypersensitivity to Candida or other vulvovaginal organisms
  • Pelvic floor muscle weakness or spasm


  1. NICHD. (2012). NIH research plan on vulvodynia. Retrieved June 22, 2016, from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/product/383
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