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Vulvodynia: a consideration of clinical and methodological research challenges and recommended solutions

Authors Corsini-Munt S, Rancourt KM, Dubé JP, Rossi MA, Rosen NO

Received 17 June 2017

Accepted for publication 18 August 2017

Published 9 October 2017 Volume 2017:10 Pages 2425—2436

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JPR.S126259

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Amy Norman

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Katherine Hanlon

Serena Corsini-Munt,1 Kate M Rancourt,1 Justin P Dubé,1 Meghan A Rossi,1 Natalie O Rosen1,2

1Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, 2Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada

Abstract: Vulvodynia, an idiopathic chronic vulvar pain, is a prevalent genital pain condition that results in significant impairment to sexual, relational, and psychological functioning of affected women and their romantic partners. Despite its high prevalence, there remain gaps in knowledge and health care access for women coping with vulvodynia, given its varied clinical presentation and no widely accepted treatment protocol. The past several decades have seen important advancements in understanding vulvodynia and developing effective treatments; however, progress has been impeded due to clinical and methodological challenges in conducting research with this vulnerable population. This review presents a brief overview of vulvodynia correlates, consequences, etiology, and treatment, and then turns its attention to considering the clinical and methodological challenges that hinder vulvodynia research. Identifying these barriers alongside potential mitigating solutions is essential to developing empirically supported treatments for all women affected by vulvodynia, across all age and minority groups. Potential solutions will require researchers to broaden eligibility criteria, examine subgroups of women, and expand definitions of treatment outcomes, and may be best facilitated by more active collaboration among research groups and across relevant disciplines. Engagement in these solutions may contribute to more representative findings and the development and dissemination of empirically based treatment options for this complex pain condition.

Keywords: female sexual pain, vulvodynia, provoked vestibulodynia, research barriers

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