Irritant vulvitis or vulvodynia?
How can you differentiate between irritant vulvitis (caused by say a laundry detergent) and a secondary yeast infection (caused by lots of antibiotics) and vulvodynia? Does vulvitis that doesn't heal properly turn into vulvodynia?
With a recurrent or secondary yeast infection of the vagina, the yeast metabolizes glycogen (sugar) in the vaginal cells to alcohol. When alcohol gets on the vulvar skin, it burns and irritates it.
If you wear tampons to prevent the discharge from getting on to the vulva and the pain lessens or goes away, then the main problem is a recurrent yeast infection. Also, vaginal yeast cultures will show heavy growth.
With an irritant vulvitis, vaginal yeast cultures are generally negative, and pain does not improve with tampon use. If the vulvitis is constant, it is by definition vulvodynia which merely means vulvar pain.
Vulvodynia is a constant, chronic condition which has different etiologies such as chronic yeast infections, a contact dermatitis (irritant vulvitis) but a large category is unknown cause.
Vulvar vestibulitis which is an inflammation or the glands of the vestibule skin is actually a very less common cause of vulvodynia but an important one because it is a persistant disease refractory to treatment.