In females, the vagina is the passage from the cervix to the vulva. Pain or
discomfort in your vagina is often the result of a medical or psychological
issue. Early treatment and intervention may help you find relief and lower your
risk of complications.
are the symptoms of vaginal pain?
The specific symptoms of vaginal pain and discomfort vary, depending on the
underlying cause. For example, vulvar vestibulitis is a condition that causes
pain only when there’s pressure put on your vagina. In contrast, vulvodynia is
a condition that causes constant chronic pain.
Depending on your specific condition, you might experience one or more of
the following symptoms associated with vaginal pain:
- pain during intercourse
If your vaginal pain is caused by an infection, you may develop abnormal
vaginal discharge. For example, it may look or smell different than usual. This
can indicate a yeast or bacterial infection.
What causes vaginal
Vaginal pain may be confined to your vaginal area. Or, it may radiate down
from your pelvis or cervix.
The most common cause of vaginal pain is infection, reports the UNC
School of Medicine. Examples include:
- yeast infection
Other potential causes of vaginal pain include:
- trauma caused by sex, childbirth, surgery, or other
- vulvovaginal atrophy due to a drop in estrogen
- vulvar vestibulitis
- cervical cancer
Vaginal pain can also stem from a condition called dyspareunia. This is a
medical term for painful intercourse. It can be caused by insufficient
lubrication during sex from hormonal changes or lack of sexual arousal.
Vaginal pain can also stem from psychological conditions, such as a history
of sexual abuse.
In some cases, your doctor
may not be able to determine the cause of your vaginal pain. Vulvodynia is the
medical term for chronic vaginal pain with no known cause.
is at risk of vaginal pain?
Women of all ages can experience vaginal pain.
In some cases, your medical history may increase your risk. For example, hormonal
changes brought on by pregnancy, menopause, or hysterectomy may raise your risk
of vaginal pain. If you have a history of breast cancer treatment, you’re also at
Certain medications may also raise your risk of vaginal pain. For example, statins
are medications that help lower cholesterol. They’re known to cause vaginal
dryness. This can lead to vaginal pain.
Advancing age is also a risk factor. Menopause causes changes in your
hormone levels and thinning of your vaginal tissue. This affects your vaginal
lubrication and can contribute to vaginal pain.
How is vaginal pain diagnosed?
If you’re experiencing persistent or recurring vaginal pain, make an
appointment with your doctor. They can help diagnose the cause of your vaginal
pain. They will likely take your medical history, conduct a physical exam, and
if needed, ordering one or more tests.
To take your medical history, your doctor will ask you questions about your health,
such as your symptoms, diagnosed medical conditions, surgeries or other medical
procedures that you’ve undergone. They may also ask about any medications or
supplements that you’ve recently taken. They’ll likely ask questions about your
sexual health and habits as well.
Your doctor will likely conduct a physical exam of your vaginal area. During
this examination, they’ll check for signs of redness, swelling, damage, or
scarring. They may apply pressure with a cotton-tipped applicator to your vulva
and vagina to check for pain. If you have vulvodynia, you might experience severe
pain when any pressure is applied.
They may also take a sample of your vaginal discharge for testing. If it
contains an unusual type or number of bacteria, fungi, or viruses, it’s a sign
that an infection may be causing your pain.
If your pain is severe or your doctor suspects you have a serious condition,
such as cervical cancer, they may recommend further testing. This can consist
of obtaining tissue samples from the cervix for analysis.
If they suspect your vaginal pain has psychological origins, they may refer
you to a mental health specialist for evaluation.
is vaginal pain treated?
To relieve your vaginal pain, your doctor will try to treat its underlying cause.
They may prescribe a multi-step approach. For example, they may recommend
topical anesthetics or oral medications. In rare cases, they may recommend surgery.
If you have a bacterial or fungal infection, your doctor will likely prescribe
antibiotics or antifungal medications to treat it. You should take all of the doses
prescribed, even if your symptoms resolve before you finish the course of treatment.
This reduces the chance of the infection returning.
Your doctor may also recommend topical ointments, such as lidocaine gel.
They can help numb your vaginal area. This can help relieve persistent
discomfort or pain during intercourse.
Topical steroid creams may also help reduce irritation, swelling, and
Tricyclic antidepressants or anticonvulsants may also help reduce chronic
In rare cases, your doctor may recommend anesthetic injections or nerve
blocks to help deaden or numb in your vagina. They may also recommend surgery
to treat vulvodynia, vulvar vestibulitis, or cervical cancer.
Some home remedies and over-the-counter treatments may help alleviate
For example, applying witch hazel pads to your vaginal area may soothe
irritation. You can purchase pre-treated witch hazel pads at many drugstores or
natural health stories. Alternatively, you can dip your own cotton pads in
witch hazel solution.
To relieve pain following urination, it may help to pour clean, lukewarm
water over your vulva after going to the washroom. This will help cleanse and
soothe the area.
To relieve or prevent pain caused by sex, it may help to use a lubricant
during sexual intercourse.
To alleviate vaginal itching, over-the-counter antihistamines may help.
If your vaginal pain stems from chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs), taking
calcium citrate supplements can help reduce urinary tract symptoms that
contribute to vaginal pain. Avoiding foods high in oxalates can also help to prevent
UTIs. These foods include leeks, okra, rhubarb, wheat brain, almonds, peanuts,
pecans, and pistachios.
But before taking any supplements or changing your diet, talk to your doctor.
is the outlook for vaginal pain?
Your outlook depends on the underlying cause of your vaginal pain, as well
as the treatment you receive. In many cases, following your doctor’s
recommended treatment plan can provide lasting relief. Ask your doctor for more
information about your specific diagnosis, treatment options, and long-term