This is the name given to a condition which causes pain and discomfort – sometimes severe in the vestibular area of the vagina. This is the area that surrounds the entrance to the vagina. It is a naturally sensitive area with a plentiful nerve and blood supply and it contains

  • the bartholins glands which produce the moisture to lubricate the vagina,
  • the urethra – the pipe from the bladder and from which you pass your urine
  • the vestibular glands. These also produce some of the moisture vital to the area.

    All women suffering with vestibulitis experience pain when pressure is applied to the vestibule. This is most obvious during sexual intercourse and when inserting a tampon. The severity of symptoms can vary, but women commonly tell the doctor that they are sore and tender. Itching is not usually a symptom.

    Commonly women with these symptoms are treated for thrush and it may be that a thrush infection may trigger vestibulitis. However, if thrush is not found by examination and investigation and the symptoms persist despite treatment for thrush, then the possibility of this condition should be considered.

    Examination of the area may reveal redness and tenderness to touch, but the appearances can be difficult to see.

    Treatment is usually with creams; some steroid creams are helpful as are some zinc oxide creams.

    If the symptoms are severe and not helped by topical treatments, a drug called amitriptyline can be helpful as it seems to modulate the pain receptors in the nerve endings. This drug is often used for chronic pain of different origins.

    Make sure that you don’t irritate the vulval area with scented soaps, shower gels, intimate deodorants, or antiseptic agents. Only use clean water and shower rather than bath. Wear loose fitting clothes and cotton underwear. Avoid fabric conditioners and biological washing powders.

    If you think you may be suffering from this condition it is advisable to exclude any vaginal/genital infection first. See your local genitourinary clinic, they may be able to refer you to an appropriate specialist.

    Further information

    Lists of genitourinary clinics

    Vulval Pain Society

This article published on
01 July 2005

Next review date 7/1/2013


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