What is vulvodynia?

Vulvodynia is chronic pain in the vulva, the area on the outside of a woman’s genitals. It is usually described as a sensation of burning, stinging, itching or rawness. Vulvodynia is defined as pain that lasts more than three months and doesn’t have a clear identifiable cause, such as an infection or a skin disorder. This pain may cause sexual dysfunction and it can negatively impact a woman’s quality of life.

What causes vulvodynia?

Knowledge about the cause of vulvodynia is limited. There are many suspected causes, including inflammation, injury to nerves in the area (neuropathic problems), hormonal factors, musculoskeletal problems and genetic (inherited) factors. Often, women with vulvodynia also suffer from other common pain syndromes. These pain syndromes can include:

What are the risk factors for vulvodynia?

Several risk factors for the development of vulvodynia can include:

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/03/2018.


  • National Vulvodynia Association. What is Vulvodynia? Accessed 8/28/2018.
  • National Institutes of Health. Vulvodynia. Accessed 8/28/2018.
  • American Academy of Family Physicians. Vulvodynia. Accessed 8/28/2018.
  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Vulvodynia. Accessed 8/28/2018.
  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Colposcopy. Accessed 8/28/2018.
  • RadiologyInfo.org. Nerve Blocks. Accessed 8/28/2018.
  • Bornstein J, Goldstein A, Stockdale C. 2015 ISSVD, ISSWSH, and IPPS Consensus Terminology and Classification of Persistent Vulvar Pain and Vulvodynia. American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology. Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease. April 2016;20(2):126-130. Accessed 8/28/2018.

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