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New Study Provides Insights on Vulvodynia Relapse and What Might Trigger It

Reed BD, Harlow SD, Plegue MA, Sen A. Remission, Relapse, and Persistence of Vulvodynia: A Longitudinal Population-Based Study. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2016 Jan 11. [Epub ahead of print]

This study elucidates risk factors for relapse and remission of vulvodynia, or chronic pain in the vulvar area. Results are based on data from women with vulvodynia in the University of Michigan’s large and comprehensive Woman to Woman Health Study. The investigators identified 441 women in the study who screened positive for vulvodynia, and of that group, 239 of the women completed 4 more surveys. Based on this data, investigators were able to determine that about 50% of the women with vulvodynia eventually went into remission and did not relapse. Another 40% of the women initially experienced remission at some point, but unfortunately relapsed within 6-30 months. Only about 10% of the women had persistent vulvodynia at each screening (i.e., no remissions). Interestingly, investigators found that key factors associated with relapse included provoked pain at the first screening, or a diagnosis of interstitial cystitis at the first screening. Factors associated with persistence included more severe intercourse-related symptoms, pain with oral sex, or pain with partner touch. The key take-away message is vulvodynia usually occurs in episodes; in other words, remission of vulvodynia symptoms is the common scenario, while persistent symptoms with no remission is the exception, not the rule.