If you're not familiar with the condition vulvodynia, also called vulvadynia, it's a good idea to get acquainted — because it's pretty common. The International Journal of Women's Health estimated in 2014 that 16 percent of women worldwide experience some form of vulvodynia in their lifetimes — which is a pretty massive number. Vulvodynia is actually a diagnosis that includes a question mark; it means that somebody is experiencing serious vulvar pain and there's no known cause behind it, like thrush or an STI. And the symptoms can be more complex than you might think.
There are actually multiple types of vulvodynia. The most well-known is generalized vulvodynia. Verywell Health explained that it's "characterized by pain that is spread out throughout the vulvar region. It can be present in the labia majora and/or labia minora. Sometimes it affects the clitoris, perineum, mons pubis and/or inner thighs." There's a big diversity in symptoms, but the basic idea is that people with vulvodynia may experience serious pain — which can feel like stabbing, burning or waves of agony — in different parts of their vulva for no visible reason. Vulvodynia's causes aren't well-known; the National Vulvodynia Assocation noted that research indicates vulvodynia may be triggered by erratic nerve signals in the vulva or underlying inflammatory conditions, but there's still a lot of work to be done. Here are some unexpected ways this condition shows up.