Basic information for topics, such as "What is it?" and "How many people are affected?" is available in the About Vulvodynia section. Other Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that are specific to a certain topic are answered in this section.
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.
Conditions that are associated with chronic vulvar pain include:
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Contact dermatitis
- Pinched nerves
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inflammation of the bladder wall, called interstitial cystitis
However, these types of vulvar pain are not considered vulvodynia, because their causes can be identified.2
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 is curable in most cases.4
For more information about vulvar cancer visit the National Cancer Institute website.
- NICHD. (2012). Pelvic pain. Retrieved June 2, 2016, from http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/PelvicPain
- 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. Retrieved August 17, 2016, from PMID: 16846081
- Canavan, T. P., & Cohen, D. (2002). Vulvar cancer. American Family Physician, 66, 1269–1275. Retrieved August 17, 2016, from PMID:12387439
- National Cancer Institute. (2017) Vulvar Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version. Retrieved May 4, 2018 from https://www.cancer.gov/types/vulvar/patient/vulvar-treatment-pdq#section/_90