Provoked Vestibulodynia: Does Pain Intensity Correlate With Sexual Dysfunction and Dissatisfaction?

Leen Aerts, Sophie Bergeron, Caroline F Pukall, Samir Khalifé
Journal of Sexual Medicine 2016, 13 (6): 955-62

INTRODUCTION: Provoked vestibulodynia (PVD) is suspected to be the most frequent cause of vulvodynia in premenopausal women. Previous research has been inconclusive as to whether higher vulvovaginal pain ratings are associated with lower sexual function and satisfaction in women with PVD. Whether pain intensity correlates with sexual impairment is an important question given its implications for treatment recommendations.

AIM: To examine the associations among self-reported and objective pain measurements, sexual function, and sexual satisfaction in a large combined clinical and community sample of premenopausal women diagnosed with PVD.

METHODS: Ninety-eight women with PVD underwent a cotton-swab test, a vestibular friction pain measurement, and a vestibular pressure-pain threshold measurement. In addition to sociodemographics, participants completed measurements of pain, sexual function, and sexual satisfaction.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Self-report measurements were the pain numerical rating scale (0-10), the McGill-Melzack Pain Questionnaire, the Female Sexual Function Index, and the Global Measure of Sexual Satisfaction. Objective measurements were pain during a cotton-swab test, pain during a vestibular friction procedure, and the vestibular pressure-pain threshold measurement.

RESULTS: Age and relationship duration were significantly correlated with the Female Sexual Function Index total score (r = -0.31, P < .01; and r = -0.22, P < .05, respectively). When controlling for age, intercourse-related pain intensity, pain during the cotton-swab test, pain during vestibular friction, the vestibular pressure-pain threshold, and the McGill-Melzack Pain Questionnaire sensory and affective subscale scores were not significantly associated with sexual function and satisfaction in women with PVD.

CONCLUSION: The findings show that in women with PVD, self-report and objective pain ratings are not associated with sexual function and satisfaction. The results support the biopsychosocial nature of PVD and underscore the importance of a patient-focused multidisciplinary treatment approach for PVD.

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