Prevalence of symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of vulvodynia: Population-based estimates from 2 geographic regions

Bernard L Harlow, Christine G. Kunitz, Ruby H Nguyen, Sarah A. Rydell, Rachel M. Turner, Richard F Maclehose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

198 Scopus citations


Objective We used validated sensitive and specific questions associated with clinically confirmed diagnoses of unexplained vulvar pain (vulvodynia) to compare the cumulative incidence of vulvar pain and prevalence of care-seeking behavior in Boston metropolitan area (BMA) and in Minneapolis/Saint Paul metropolitan area (MSP) from 2001 through 2005 using census-based data, and 2010 through 2012, using outpatient community-clinic data, respectively. Study Design We received self-administered questionnaires from 5440 women in BMA and 13,681 in MSP, 18-40 years of age, describing their history of vulvar burning or pain on contact that persisted >3 months that limited/prevented intercourse. Results By age 40 years, 7-8% in BMA and MSP reported vulvar pain consistent with vulvodynia. Women of Hispanic origin compared to whites were 1.4 times more likely to develop vulvar pain symptoms (95% confidence interval, 1.1-1.8). Many women in MSP (48%) and BMA (30%) never sought treatment, and >50% who sought care with known health care access received no diagnosis. Conclusion Using identical screening methods, we report high prevalence of vulvar pain in 2 geographic regions, and that access to health care does not increase the likelihood of seeking care for chronic vulvar pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40.e1-40.e8
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by National Institutes of Health grant numbers R01-HD384285 and R01-HD058608 .

Copyright 2018 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • ethnic groups
  • health services accessibility
  • prevalence
  • vulvodynia


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