Objectives: This study set out to investigate the epidemiological characteristics and comorbidities of chronic vulvar pain. Secondary goals were to identify the preferred approaches for managing vulvodynia in Italy.
Study design: A cross-sectional study (the VuNet -Vulvodynia Network project) was performed in consecutive female patients with chronic vulvar pain attending 21 Italian medical centers (public hospitals, university clinics and private outpatient services) in the period December 2016 to November 2018. Study data were entered by healthcare professionals in a special web-based medical record system (PRIDE- Progetto Rete Italiana Dolore vulvarE). These data covered epidemiological aspects, demographic characteristics, obstetric and gynecological history, presence and duration of current and/or past symptoms, associated disorders, details of physical examination and treatment approaches.
Results: A total of 1183 subjects with a diagnosis of chronic vulvar pain were included in the study. The main reason for consultation was superficial dyspareunia, present in 64.2 % of the women. 43.4 % of the sample reported comorbid sexual disorders (of desire in 22.1 % and arousal in 21.3 %). 48.3 % of the patients reported prolonged pain lasting between one and five years. Factors associated with vulvar pain included a relatively high family history of diabetes mellitus (father = 8.6 %; mother = 8.4 %), recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis (32 %), and urinary tract infections (37.4 %: recurrent cystitis in 19.5 % and post-coital cystitis in 17.9 %). Irritable bowel syndrome (28 %), constipation (23.5 %), headache (25.7 %: migraine in 18.0 % and menstrual headache in 7.7 %), allergies (17.5 %: food allergies in 10.1 %, respiratory allergies in 7.4 %), anxiety (15.0 %), dyschezia (11.7 %), invalidating dysmenorrhea/endometriosis (11.1 %), and major depression (7.6 %) were also reported. Vestibulodynia was diagnosed in 837 of the 1183 patients (70.8 %) and generalized vulvodynia in 323 (27.3 %). Notably, 69.1 % of the patients stated that previous therapies had not changed their pain.
Conclusions: The diagnoses of vestibulodynia and vulvodynia must be considered in patients with chronic vulvar pain. The VuNet study contributes to a more comprehensive reading of the predisposing, precipitating and maintaining factors that contribute to vulvar pain, and of the key comorbidities.
Keywords: Vestibulodynia; Vulvar pain; Vulvodynia; Vulvovaginal candididosis.
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