Harvard Women's Health Watch

By the way, doctor: What can I do about vulvodynia?

Q. I've had pain and burning near the entrance to my vagina for a long time. My doctor says it's probably vulvodynia. What can you tell me about this condition? How is it treated?

A. Vulvodynia is a chronic pain syndrome affecting the vulva — the outer tissue surrounding the vagina and urethra. Women with vulvodynia describe burning, stinging, or aching pain that may occur spontaneously or be triggered by touch or activities such as sexual intercourse.

The condition can be frustrating for both patient and clinician. Discomfort is obvious, but there may be no physical signs apart from mild redness. Women with vulvodynia often can't tolerate being touched with a Q tip near the vaginal opening. Until recently, vulvodynia was thought to be rare, but studies now suggest that 3% to 15% of women have the disorder at any given time.

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