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What Is the Vulvar Vestibule?

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  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2014
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The vulvar vestibule is one of the body cavities that can be found in the external regions of the female genitalia. The term "vulvar" indicates the external part, while the "vestibule" denotes the cavity. The vulvar vestibule is also known as the vestibule of the vulva or vestibule of the vagina.

This particular bodily cavity is the component of the vulva that creates a space in the labia minora. This is a pair of longitudinal cutaneous folds that lie underneath two tougher and larger ones, referred to as the labia majora. As a result, the vulvar vestibule provides the opening into the vagina, and by extension, the urethra.

The edges of the vulvar vestibule is called Hart's Line. It is named after 19th-century Scottish surgeon David Berry Hart, who first described it and specialized in the branches of medicine that concerned the female reproductive system, gynecology and obstetrics. At the top of Hart's Line is the clitoral glans, which form the clitoris' external region and is protected by the clitoral hood; as well as the clitoral frenulum, which is created by the labia minora. At the bottom is the labia minora's rear, known as the frenulum labiorum pudendi.

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The medical condition specified for the vulvar vestibule or vulva is referred to as vulvar vestibulitis. It belongs a class of disorders that afflict the female genitalia, which are collectively known as vulvodynia or vestibulodynia, which literally means "pain of the vulva." Chronic pain is the defining symptom of vulvar vestibulitis, which is often characterized by a burning, itching, stinging, or sharp, throbbing sensation. The frequency of the pain varies from one case to another; it may occur only during sexual intercourse, appear and disappear with irregularity, or remain constant. In some instances, the pain may spread from the vulvar vestibule to other areas of the female genital organs such as the clitoris; the more specific term for this is clitorodynia.

The cause of vulvodynia in general has not yet been determined. Medical researchers theorize that autoimmune disorders, propensity to develop allergy and inflammation, nerve defects in the vagina, history of sexual abuse, and unsuccessful genital surgery are some of the disease’s possible causes. Diagnosis of vulvar vestibulitis is typically difficult, not just because so little is known of its nature, but also because the symptoms are not easy to discern and pain is sometimes attributed to psychological orientation or the first few instances of sexual intercourse.

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SarahSon
Post 8

This is a subject that many women feel uncomfortable talking about - even with their doctor.

I have a history of allergies and always seem to have something weird going on in my body. When I first started having these sharp pains, I just dismissed it thinking they would go away on their own.

I finally went to the doctor thinking I had a urinary tract infection, but he diagnosed it as vulvar vestibulitis.

I had never heard of it before and wondered how I got something like that. He said in my case it was probably something to do with my allergies.

Medication did clear it up, but if I get pains like that again, I won't wait so long to have it checked out.

andee
Post 7

@Oceana - I have had my share of urinary tract infections, and many of the symptoms are very similar. I can't say this has been the cause of any of my urinary tract infections, but it could play a role in it.

The main cause for my vulvar vestibulitis is from my lupus, which is an auto immune disease. I really think all of this must be related in some way, because I never seemed to have any of these symptoms or problems before I got the lupus.

Whatever the cause, it is certainly not pleasant. Even though my pains don't usually last very long, they are really painful when they happen.

Oceana
Post 6

Has anyone ever experienced vulvar vestibulitis because of a urinary tract infection? I had both at once, and my doctor said they were related.

My bladder started cramping, and I would get the strong urge to urinate. It happened more than once an hour, so I knew something wasn't right.

Shortly after that, my vulva began to ache and itch. I had double the misery!

My doctor gave me antibiotics for the infection, and she told me to start drinking cranberry juice to prevent further flare-ups. She also gave me a cleansing bottle, so that I could wash off my vulva with water every time I urinated. This would keep the urine from further irritating my vulva while they healed.

I thought it was so strange that the two conditions went together. I never knew that my own urine could irritate my body so much!

wavy58
Post 5

I had vulvar vestibulitis for awhile, and it made me absolutely miserable. Riding a bike was out of the question because of the pain, and I could not even wear tight pants. Inserting a tampon hurt so much that I switched to pads.

Since specialists can be hard to get an appointment with quickly, I had to wait two weeks before seeing my busy gynecologist. She told me to quit using any sort of scented soap or detergent, and she also gave me a steroid cream.

She told me to only use the specified dose, because using too much could thin out my skin. That was enough to keep me from abusing it!

The cream seemed to help right away. The burning and itching stopped within seconds of applying it. It felt so great to finally have some relief!

orangey03
Post 4

@seag47 – Wow, I can imagine how bad that must have been! I probably would have rushed myself to the hospital, too!

The most irritation I have ever felt in my vulvar vestibule has been due to yeast infections. The vulva itch so much, inside and out, that I scratch them until I rub them raw, and then the burning sets in.

If I don't treat it right away, the area eventually starts to ache. I have felt sharp, shooting pains in my vulva before, just because I was too stubborn to go to a doctor.

Now, I always go as soon as I'm sure that's what I have. She gives me a pill that clears up the infection, and within a few days, everything is back to normal. This sure beats waiting it out!

seag47
Post 3

I took some over-the-counter medication to treat a yeast infection, and I turned out to be allergic to it. The external parts swelled up so badly that it hurt to sit down.

Worried, I went to the emergency room. Embarrassed, I whispered to the admissions clerk that my vagina was swollen. She asked me if I had injured myself in some way!

After two hours of waiting and swelling up even further, I finally got to see a doctor. He took one look and knew I had experienced an allergic reaction. My vulvar vestibule was almost swollen shut, and my vulva were throbbing in pain.

All he told me was to take an antihistamine and put ice on the area! For this, I paid over $500, and that was after the insurance paid its part. At least I got some pain pills for my suffering.

The nurse gave me what looked like a diaper with an opening for ice. It had strings, and I placed the bulk of it on the swollen area and tied it around my legs. I had to wear it while I slept for the first couple of nights, and the cold really soothed the area.

dfoster85
Post 2

@Kat919 - I'm glad that you were able to recover. It sounds like for a lot of women, they can suffer for years with no relief being forthcoming. I read about one woman who had had surgery and was chided for not following post-operative instructions, even though she had - she was blamed for her own unfortunate, totally not-her-fault condition. (She, too, finally found relief - she had actually had some of the inflamed tissue surgically removed.)

I remember there being an episode of Sex and the City where Charlotte had a problem "down there." She was diagnosed with vulvodynia, if I remember right, and prescribed antidepressants. She said, "But I'm not depressed."

The doctor said, "They're not for you, they're for your vagina." And Charlotte and the girls joked about her vagina being depressed. Which is not quite an accurate description, of course, but is a pretty funny way to think of it!

Kat919
Post 1

I was actually diagnosed with vestibulitis when I was in college. I suspect it's one of those things with as many causes as there are diagnosed cases. In my case, abstaining from sex and using vaginal dilators seemed to help. I was also prescribed a very low dose of an antidepressant for a while. The doc said that it wasn't really for my mood; I'm not sure if they know how/why antidepressants work.

Any kind of sexual problem or disfunction for women is so hard to diagnose because there's just so very little known about women's sexual response and desire. Women need to be really active in pursuing answers - both medical answers and, often, the kind you find in a therapist's office.

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