Patterns in Vulvodynia Treatments and 6-Month Outcomes for Women Enrolled in the National Vulvodynia Registry-An Exploratory Prospective Study

J Sex Med. 2018 May;15(5):705-715. doi: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2018.03.003. Epub 2018 Apr 7.


Background: Vulvodynia is a poorly characterized condition with multiple treatment options that have been described as largely ineffective in research settings.

Aim: To describe treatment patterns in women enrolled in the National Vulvodynia Registry and determine if there is an association between selected treatments and patient-reported outcomes such as pain, sexual function, and psychological distress after 6 months of treatment.

Methods: Participants completed questionnaires on general medical history and patient-reported outcomes using the short-form McGill Pain Questionnaire, the Female Sexual Function Index, the Short Form-12 quality-of-life questionnaire, the Coping Strategies Questionnaire, and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. The evaluation also included pain sensitivity assessment of the vaginal mucosa using a cotton-tipped applicator and the vaginal muscles using a single-digit. In this prospective cohort study, all measurements were collected at baseline and again at 6 months after treatment.

Outcomes: Type of treatment, number of treatments, self-reported pain intensity, dyspareunia, and pain-related psychological distress measures are reported at baseline and 6 months.

Results: Of 344 women enrolled, 282 received treatment; 78 different treatments were identified and categorized by type (eg, topical, oral, physical therapy) and number. The most commonly used treatments were topical (85%, n = 241), physical therapy (52%, n = 147), and oral medications (45%, n = 128). Notably, 73% of participants received ≥2 treatments. There was no association between type or number of treatments and patient characteristics. At 6 months, women reported improvements in general pain (P = .001), pain during intercourse (P = .001), catastrophizing (P = .000), and anxiety (P = .000). The Short Form-12 quality-of-life questionnaire showed improvements in physical limitations (P = .024), emotional limitations (P = .003), well-being (P = .025), and social function (P = .010). However, all domains of the Female Sexual Function Index indicated worsening in sexual function (P = .000) except for pain.

Clinical translation: Multi-modal treatments were most commonly used in clinical practice and improvements in patient-reported outcomes such as quality of life, distress, and pain were noted; however, participants who returned at 6 months continued to report poor sexual function.

Conclusions: Strengths include a prospective and long-term study design that evaluated women in clinical settings. Limitations include a high rate of loss to follow-up for certain measures and inability to evaluate efficacy of individual treatments. In a setting where women were receiving highly specialized care, we found wide variation in the type and number of treatments used to treat vulvodynia. Despite this heterogeneity in treatment selection, women reported significant improvements in all study measures except sexual function. Lamvu G, Alappattu M, Witzeman K, et al. Patterns in Vulvodynia Treatments and 6-Month Outcomes for Women Enrolled in the National Vulvodynia Registry-An Exploratory Prospective Study. J Sex Med 2018;15:705-715.

Keywords: Dyspareunia; National Vulvodynia Registry; Outcomes; Painful Intercourse; Treatment; Vulvodynia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Coitus / psychology
  • Dyspareunia / psychology
  • Dyspareunia / therapy
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Management
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain Threshold
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Self Report
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Vulvodynia / drug therapy
  • Vulvodynia / psychology
  • Vulvodynia / therapy*