A conceptual model for the pathophysiology of vulvar vestibulitis syndrome

Denniz Zolnoun, Katherine Hartmann, Georgine Lamvu, Suzie As-Sanie, William Maixner, John Steege

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations

Abstract

Vulvar vestibulitis syndrome (vestibulitis), the most common type of chronic vulvovaginal pain, impairs the psychologic, physical, and reproductive health of approximately 10% of women at some point in their lives. Research on the pathophysiology of vestibulitis suggests abnormalities in 3 interdependent systems: vestibular mucosa, pelvic floor muscles, and central nervous system pain regulatory pathways. To date, causes and relative contributions of these abnormalities to the development and maintenance of vestibulitis remain poorly understood. Research consistently supports the conceptualization of vestibulitis as a chronic pain disorderg-akin to fibromyalgia, irritable bowel disorder, and temporomandibular disorder (TMD)-that is far more complex than vestibular hypersensitivity alone. Nevertheless, the clinical diagnosis of vestibulitis continues to rely on subjective report of pain during intercourse and vestibular sensitivity on clinical examination after exclusion of other gynecologic disorders. We propose that current diagnostic criteria, which are based on highly subjective patient and clinician measures, are not sufficient to describe and properly classify the heterogeneous clinical presentations of this disorder. To inform clinical care or research, we must be able to objectively characterize women with vestibulitis. This narrative review critically appraises current conceptualization of vestibulitis and presents a context for studying vestibulitis as a chronic pain disorder, emphasizing the need for objective assessment of clinical features.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-401
Number of pages7
JournalObstetrical and Gynecological Survey
Volume61
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

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