Etiology, diagnosis, and clinical management of vulvodynia
Leslie A Sadownik
University of British Columbia, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Abstract: Chronic vulvar pain or discomfort for which no obvious etiology can be found, ie, vulvodynia, can affect up to 16% of women. It may affect girls and women across all age groups and ethnicities. Vulvodynia is a significant burden to society, the health care system, the affected woman, and her intimate partner. The etiology is multifactorial and may involve local injury or inflammation, and peripheral and or central sensitization of the nervous system. An approach to the diagnosis and management of a woman presenting with chronic vulvar pain should address the biological, psychological, and social/interpersonal factors that contribute to her illness. The gynecologist has a key role in excluding other causes for vulvar pain, screening for psychosexual and pelvic floor dysfunction, and collaborating with other health care providers to manage a woman's pain. An important component of treatment is patient education regarding the pathogenesis of the pain and the negative impact of experiencing pain on a woman's overall quality of life. An individualized, holistic, and often multidisciplinary approach is needed to effectively manage the woman's pain and pain-related distress.
Keywords: vulvodynia, diagnosis, treatment, etiology, sexual pain disorder, dyspareunia, vestibulodynia, assessment, treatment, multidisciplinary
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