Self-reported vulvar pain characteristics and their association with clinically confirmed vestibulodynia

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Objective: We evaluated a series of questions pertaining to vulvar pain symptoms to determine their association with a localized vulvodynia (vestibulodynia) diagnosis in women from the general population. Methods: A sample of 12,435 women completed a self-administered screening questionnaire for the presence of specific types and characteristics of vulvar pain lasting 3 months or longer. Sensitivity, specificity, and predictive values were calculated for each cross-classification of vulvar pain type and characteristic, using as the gold standard 121 subjects with a clinically confirmed vestibulodynia diagnosis. Results: Relative to women with clinically confirmed vestibulodynia, 83% reported >10 episodes of pain on contact at the time of tampon insertion, intercourse, or pelvic examination, and 83% also reported pain on contact that limited or prevented sexual intercourse. These strong associations with a vestibulodynia diagnosis were not observed with respect to women who reported vulvar pain symptoms of burning or knifelike pain, or vulvar pain characteristics of continuous versus intermittent pain, or provoked versus spontaneous pain. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that a small number of symptoms may be suitable for identifying a large proportion of women suffering from vestibulodynia which may be ideal for the development of an effective screening test in the future. However, we also recognize that a large proportion of women experiencing vulvar pain symptoms will not meet the diagnostic criteria for vestibulodynia. Thus, implementing such a screening procedure as part of a routine examination or testing would require a subsequent pelvic examination to confirm a vestibulodynia diagnosis and to rule out other known explanations for vulvar pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1333-1339
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Women's Health
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2009


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