What is Vulvodynia?

Vulvodynia is a chronic condition characterized by pain and burning in the vulva in the absence of infection or other known disease. The location, constancy and severity of vulvodynia symptoms vary among girls and women. Some women experience pain in only one area of the vulva, while others experience pain in multiple areas. The most commonly reported symptoms are burning, stinging, and/or rawness.

Vulvodynia affects women of all age groups. According to a National Institute of Health funded Harvard study, almost 16% of US women suffer from vulvodynia at some point during their lives, with more than 90% reporting ongoing discomfort/pain for many years.  Approximately six million girls and women cope with vulvodynia.

The vulva, the female external genitalia includes the mons pubis, labia majora, labia minora, clitoris, vestibule and vestibular glands of the vagina. Except the mons pubis and labia majora . . . these surfaces are lined by a moist stratified squamous epithelium. This natural moisture (secretions) keeps the vulva area functioning well and comfortable.

Vulva Skin . . . a key to addressing vulvodynia
Vulva skin is made up of three primary layers. The top layer is the epidermis; the middle layer is the dermis. The bottom layer is the hypodermis (fatty cushion). Approximately 20% of the dermis is made up of the papillary layer, which mainly consists of elastic connective tissue, blood vessels, touch receptors, and nerve endings.

The dermis and hypodermis layers of the skin have sensory receptors and corpuscles that sense pressure and touch. The panician corpuscles in the hypodermis detect deep touch; they populate the oral lips, clitoris and nipples. Meissner’s corpuscles located on the top part of the dermis detect light touch.

Additionally, the clitoris, the prepuce (hood of the clitoris), labia minora, peri-anal area, eyelids and lips are mucocutaneous end organs. Mucocutaneous is a term meaning of or relating to the skin and a mucous membrane. These skin surface areas have natural moisture to maintain comfort and function.

Skin cells continuously replenish by dividing within the dermis (middle) layer and then sloughing off older cells through the epidermis (top) skin layer. Ongoing skin renewal helps to maintain vulva structure and function. Internal hydration (water) orchestrates skin renewal.

However, when the skin does not renew well, the structure/function of elastic connective tissue, blood vessels, touch receptors, and nerve endings within skin layers is hindered, which contributes to vulvodynia symptoms. For example, when the heel (structure) of a shoe, or the padding (structure) in a mattress is worn down, the shoe or mattress wears away and becomes uncomfortable due to lack of support.

Keirá Feminine Cream supports the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis layers of labia/vulva skin and calms vulvodynia symptoms such as burning, stinging, and rawness. The natural humecant and emollient ingredient in Keirá Cream also minimizes symptoms of vulva dryness. To learn more about Keirá Feminine Cream click here.

The National Vulvodynia Association is a nonprofit organization that strives to improve women’s lives through education, support, advocacy and research funding.

 The Skin Layers