Understanding Vulvodynia, Interstitial Cystitis, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Vulvodynia, Interstitial Cystitis, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome are three conditions that can cause serious, recurring pain in women. If you have been experiencing any of the following symptoms, it may be time to seek professional help. Dr. Melissa A. Delgado and her clinical staff at The Chronic Pelvic Pain Center of Northern Virigina, are ready to help you find relief from these conditions. 


Vulvodynia is a chronic vulvar pain without an identifiable cause, according to the National Vulvodynia Association (NVA).1 The pain can be so severe that it affects a woman’s quality of life including sexual intercourse and can sometimes make sitting unbearable. Additionally, women who suffer from vulvodynia are likely to suffer from chronic pain conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Interstitial Cystitis (IC).2   

Diagnosing vulvodynia can take time because healthcare providers must review and rule out the cause of other infections and skin diseases in order to be definitive about a vulvodynia diagnosis.3

Interstitial Cystitis (IC)

IC, also known as painful bladder syndrome, is a recurrent pain and pressure in the bladder area. It's associated with pain in the lower part of the urinary tract and can last more than six weeks. Symptoms for IC vary from patient to patient. In some patients, the pain can feel like a bladder infection while others may have intermittent pain with varying levels of pain.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS is an intestinal disorder, which affects the normal movement of the intestinal muscle of the large intestine. Symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. The pain may worsen during a woman’s menstrual cycle. In most cases, the pain is manageable but, in some patients, the pain can become severe, unbearable, and affect their quality of life.

The link between Vulvodynia, IC, and IBS

The symptoms of vulvodynia, IC, and IBS can overlap. Some patients may have vulvodynia and IC concomitantly with vulvodynia-related burning pain, frequency, urgency, and pain associated with urination. There are other patients who may suffer from both IC and IBS.

We can help 

If you suffer from or suspect you have any of these conditions based on your symptoms, our healthcare providers at The Chronic Pelvic Pain Center of Northern Virigina have the experience to help you. They are ready to answer any questions and discuss your current health issues. Request an appointment using our online booking system or call the office at 571-261-8069.

1. National Vulvodynia Association (2018)
2. Reed BD, Harlow SD, Sen A, Edwards RM, Chen D, Haefner HK. Relationship between vulvodynia and chronic comorbid pain conditions. Obstet Gynecol. 2012;120(1):145-51.
3. (2012). NIH research plan on vulvodynia. Retrieved June 22, 2016, from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/Documents/NIH_Vulvodynia_Plan_April2012.pdf

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