Self-Reported Neuropathic Pain Characteristics of Women With Provoked Vulvar Pain: A Preliminary Investigation

Emma Dargie, Ian Gilron, Caroline F Pukall
Journal of Sexual Medicine 2017, 14 (4): 577-591

BACKGROUND: Provoked vestibulodynia (PVD) is a common chronic genital pain condition affecting approximately 12% of premenopausal women. Although parallels have been drawn between PVD and neuropathic pain (NP), no studies have examined self-reported NP characteristics in PVD.

AIM: To explore pain symptoms that resemble NP reported by those with PVD and compare responses with those with an established NP condition.

METHODS: Women with provoked vulvar pain (PVP; n = 65) completed online questionnaires designed to assess characteristics of NP. Responses were compared with those of women with postherpetic neuralgia (PHN; n = 30).

OUTCOMES: In addition to a range of descriptive questions, participants completed the McGill Pain Questionnaire, the Self-Complete Leeds Assessment of Neuropathic Signs and Symptoms (S-LANSS), the Neuropathic Pain Symptom Inventory (NPSI), and the Pain Quality Assessment Scale (PQAS).

RESULTS: PVP exhibits some neuropathic characteristics, typically evoked pain (as opposed to the more constant pain of PHN) indicative of allodynia and hyperalgesia. Specifically, women with PVP scored, on average, higher than the NP cutoff on the S-LANSS, and there were no significant differences between women with PVP and those with PHN on some NPSI subscales. However, women with PHN reported more NP symptoms on the PQAS, S-LANSS, and other NPSI subscales.

CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: Validated NP questionnaires could be of particular use for health care professionals who need a more efficient way to assess symptoms of patients with PVP and should be included in future studies investigating the mechanisms and treatment of this pain.

STRENGTHS AND LIMITATIONS: This study takes a unique approach to the examination of PVP by using multiple validated NP measures to compare pain characteristics with those of a group of participants with PHN, an established NP condition. However, it is limited by self-reported data not confirmed with clinical examination, small size of the PHN group, and the severity of the pain experienced in the PVP group.

CONCLUSION: Women with PVP report some symptoms suggestive of NP characteristics, and future research should use NP measures in addition to physical examinations to further investigate the mechanisms that maintain this pain condition. Dargie E, Gilron I, Pukall CF. Self-Reported Neuropathic Pain Characteristics of Women With Provoked Vulvar Pain: A Preliminary Investigation. J Sex Med 2017;14:577-591.

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