October 17, 2016

Understanding the nuanced pain experiences of women with vulvodynia

A study, led by Dr. Barbara Reed, brings new understanding to a neurologic disorder afflicting as many as 16 percent of women and adolescent girls. 


Indivisible Breaking the Silence campaign logo
Indivisible, public awareness campaign by the National Vulvodynia Association

Just this month, the National Vulvodynia Association announced a public awareness campaign. NVA reports that “60 percent of affected women consult three or more doctors before receiving a diagnosis of vulvodynia.” And of those women, “40 percent seeking treatment for vulvodynia fail to receive an accurate diagnosis.” The campaign, “Indivisible” seeks to empowering women with vulvodynia, or chronic vulvar pain, to break their silence and improve the path to diagnosis and treatment. Coverage of Indivisible and vulvodynia awareness has been featured in Bustle, a new media platform “for and by women” this week.

Barbara D. Reed, M.D., M.S.P.H., professor of family medicine
Dr. Barbara Reed, M.D., M.S.P.H.

This coincides with a new study, led by Barbara Reed, M.D., M.S.P.H., professor, that further defines the pain profiles of women with vulvodynia. In the case-control study, women with and without vulvodynia were tested for their sensitivity to a variety of stimuli, including: pressure sensitivity, temperature sensitivity, vibratory sensitivity, and electrical sensitivity. Compared to the control group of women without vulvar pain, women with vulvodynia were more sensitive to mechanical pressure at the thumbnail and electrical stimulation at the vulva, hymenal remnants, and thumb. Heat, cold, and vibration sensitivity, however, did not differ between women with or without vulvodynia. The findings from the study provide additional evidence of central nervous system sensitization in vulvodynia.

Dr. Reed’s study is available online as an ePub ahead-of-print and will be featured in the January 2017 issue of the Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease. DOI: 10.1097/LGT.0000000000000267