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Medical Description

Vulva: external female genitalsA woman's external genitals are called the vulva. This includes the mons, labia and clitoris, as well as the vaginal and urethral openings and the entryway to the vagina, called the vestibule.

Women with vulvodynia experience chronic vulvar pain. They may feel shooting pain, itching, stinging, rawness, throbbing and/or burning throughout this area, or the pain may only be in specific areas or "tender points." Some women experience constant pain, while others have cycles of pain, which may be linked to their menstrual cycles. Some women may have pain with pressure or sexual contact. The skin of the vulva may look normal or there may be red patches especially with touch or pressure.

Localized vulvodynia is a condition in which pain occurs in a horseshoe-shaped area of the vaginal vestibule. This area is located on the lower side of the vaginal opening furthest from the clitoris (see diagram). The pain is generally focused in specific spots. Women with localized vulvodynia are less likely to have constant pain; their pain is more often a response when the area is touched. This condition is called provoked localized vulvodynia.

PLV and vulvodynia are sometimes described as being either primary or secondary. Primary disease refers to pain that begins when a woman first has sex or tries to insert a tampon. Secondary disease is pain that occurs after a number of years of pain-free intercourse. Some women can link the development of secondary vulvodynia/PLV with a specific event, such as an injury or an infection. This information may be helpful to your doctor when deciding on the best treatment for you.


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