What is Vulvar Vestibulitis?

As a Vulva Doctor will tell you: “Vestibulitis was first recognised in the late 1980s by gynaecologist Dr Edward Friedrich. It is characterised by a stinging or burning-like pain at the vagina entrance (that is provoked by sexual intercourse & the insertion of objects such as a tampon or speculum into the vagina). Vestibulitis usually develops between the ages of 20 & 50, often following a lower genital tract infection” [1]

The Low-Down on Vestibulitis

Vulvar vestibulitis (also known as vestibulodynia, or localized provoked vulvodynia), and VVS for short, is a type of vulvodynia. VVS describes pain which emanates from the vestibule (the part of your vulva around the opening of your vagina). It can redden and irritate the skin, and generate
pain in the glands within the skin [2].

The Two Main Types of Vulvar Vestibulitis

Number 1: Primary Vulva Vestibulitis

This Primary VVS type refers to: women who experience pain when they begin using tampons; start becoming sexually active; or have a vaginal exam with a Vulva Doctor, who uses a speculum. (The latter refers to a duck-bill-shaped device which Vulva Consultants employ to see inside a hollow part of the body, in order to treat or diagnose disease) [2].

Number 2: Secondary Vulva Vestibulitis

This secondary VVS type refers to: women who suddenly start to experience symptoms after they have previously experienced sex without any pain [2].

What Vulvar Vestibulitis Symptoms Should I Look For?

As Vulva Consultants are only too aware, VVS symptoms can vary from one patient to another. They could be sufficiently serious to impact a patient’s daily life; or they could be relatively mild. Symptoms may come and go, or they could be constant. Symptoms to be mindful of, include:
• Pain from pressure (touch, tight clothes, working out, cycling, sitting)
• Pain from having sex
• Pain from inserting a tampon
• Feeling a burning sensation
• Experiencing stinging
• Feeling raw
• Urinating more than usual, or suddenly feeling like you need to pass water
• Experiencing an irritating or abnormal vaginal discharge
• Having small red spots around the vestibular glands (just inside the opening of the vagina) [2]
Note: it is a good idea to compile a symptom diary which you can show to your Vulva Specialist on you first online or in-person consultation.

Did You Know?

“Vulvar vestibulitis can take a toll on your sex life & relationships. When you try to have sex, the muscles in your pelvis can tense up, making it hurt more. The pain may make you not want to have sex” [1]. If this is the case, you can be sure in the knowledge that Vulva Doctors are highly experienced, and have a deep understanding of this sensitive matter, and if you prefer to book an appointment with a female Vulva Specialist, then you can

Vulvar Vestibulitis Risk Factors & Causes

Your risk for VVS may be higher if you:
• Have been diagnosed with HPV (human papillomavirus)
• Have a yeast infection
• Have a bacterial infection
• Are post-menopausal
• Are sensitive to certain products (such as douches or soaps)
• Have endometriosis
• Suffer from painful bladder syndrome (interstitial cystitis)
• Have issues with the muscles which support your rectum, vagina, uterus, or bladder
• Use harsh soaps or detergents
• Utilise particular lubricants or spermicides
• Are experiencing heavy stress [2]


[1]. Black A, Singh A, Downey GP. Vestibulitis: a medic’s struggle with vulval pain from the other side of the curtain. Br J Gen Pract. 2015 Sep;65(638):474. As cited in National Institutes of Health.

[2]. WEBMD Women’s Health Guide (2022). “Vulvar Vestibulitis.”