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Int J Womens Health. 2017 Sep 11;9:631-642. doi: 10.2147/IJWH.S113416. eCollection 2017.

Provoked vestibulodynia: current perspectives.

Author information

1
Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, Carlton.
2
Action Centre, Family Planning Victoria, Melbourne.
3
Dermatology/Vulval Conditions Clinic, Mercy Hospital for Women, Heidelberg.
4
Clifton Hill Physiotherapy, Clifton Hill, VIC, Australia.

Abstract

Provoked vestibulodynia (PVD) refers to vulvar pain of at least 3 months duration, localized to the vestibule, provoked by touch and sexual activity and occurring in the absence of a clear identifiable cause. The clinical spectrum ranges from mild with distressing discomfort through to severe and disabling pain. Current understanding is that PVD is one of many chronic pain conditions characterized by sensitization of peripheral and central nociceptive pathways, with pain arising due to dysfunctional neuronal activity in the absence of painful stimuli. Pathophysiology is not well understood but is likely a complex interplay of environmental, genetic, psychological and immune factors. Care is multidisciplinary and follows general principles of chronic pain management with the addition of specific therapy tailored to address pelvic floor overactivity, and sexual and relationship difficulties. More recently, the therapeutic use of placebo is gaining traction in chronic pain research and is a very promising adjunctive therapy. The majority of women with PVD are managed outside of tertiary clinic settings, and care depends on availability and affordability of specialized services; however, much can be done by the primary health provider. PVD is common, and highly treatable, especially with early intervention, but unfortunately, many clinicians are unaware of this condition, and the biggest hurdle for women accessing treatment is obtaining a diagnosis. With treatment, most women can expect significant improvement, often with fairly simple interventions, although some women will benefit from referral to specialized centers. The aims of this article are twofold: firstly, to summarize current literature concerning PVD pathophysiology and management; secondly, to provide a framework for clinicians unfamiliar with vulvar medicine to understand and manage PVD.

KEYWORDS:

clinical subtypes; comorbidities; pathophysiology; physiotherapy; placebo; vulvodynia

Conflict of interest statement

Disclosure The authors report no conflicts of interest in this work.

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