Vulvodynia is chronic vulvar pain without an identifiable cause. The location, constancy, and severity of the pain vary among sufferers. Some women experience pain in only one area of the vulva, while others experience pain in multiple areas. The most commonly reported symptom is burning, but descriptions of the pain can vary.
There are two main subtypes of vulvodynia, and both can occur together.
Vulvar vestibulitis syndrome (VVS)
VVS is characterized by pain limited to the vestibule, the area surrounding the opening of the vagina. It occurs during or after pressure is applied to the vestibule, through sexual intercourse, tampon insertion, gynecologic examination, or prolonged sitting or wearing fitted pants.
VVS is further classified as primary or secondary. Women with primary VVS have experienced vestibular pain since the first attempt at vaginal penetration. Women with secondary VVS have experienced pain-free sexual intercourse prior to the development of pain.
Generalized vulvodynia (GV)
For women with GV, pain occurs spontaneously and is relatively constant, but there can be some periods of symptom relief. Activities that apply pressure to the vulva, such as prolonged sitting or simply wearing pants, typically exacerbate symptoms.
Some women experience pain in a specific area, such as only in the left labia or near the clitoris, while others experience pain in multiple areas, including the labia, vestibule, and clitoris. In the latter group, pain may also occur in the perineum and inner thighs.