Women's Health Matters

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Vulvodynia literally means 'pain in the vulva.' Vulvodynia describes a symptom, which can have many different causes. Women who have it often describe vulvodynia as a burning or shooting pain throughout the vulva. This condition is closely related to a condition called vulvar vestibulitis, where women experience pain around the opening of the vagina. Both of these conditions will be discussed in this Health Centre.

There are no studies that clearly tell us how common this condition is. Some estimates suggest that up to 15 percent of women experience some symptoms. Women can experience this condition throughout the lifecycle, but it is most commonly a disease of women in their reproductive years. Many never seek treatment.

Experts used to believe that sexual abuse was the primary cause of vulvodynia and that vulvodynia was a psychological condition, not a physical one. While some women with vulvodynia have experienced abuse, studies have now shown that a history of sexual abuse is not more common among women with this condition. Sexual abuse is no longer considered the cause of vulvodynia, although a past experience of abuse may influence a woman's attitudes about her body and the course of her treatment.

Vulvodynia is not "just in your head," but it can influence many aspects of your life beyond the purely physical. Vulvodynia often limits a woman's sexual experiences and can adversely affect her relationships. Some studies have also suggested that depression is more common among women with vulvodynia


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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital