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How to Discuss Vulvar Pain: an Update to Terminology

Earlier this year, 3 prominent societies representing pelvic health met to discuss and update terminology for vulvar pain. The result is the “2015 Consensus Terminology and Classification of Persistent Vulvar Pain.” A complete list of the updated terminology can be accessed on the website of the International Pelvic Pain Society. The updated document takes into account the additions of the terms Primary versus Secondary Vulvodynia, intermittent versus persistent pain, and considers research-based interventions for the suspected etiologies of pain. Some of the other updates are highlighted below.

  • Replace the term “unprovoked” with “spontaneous”
  • Use the term “vulvar” rather than “vulvodynia” in the title of the terminology
  • Vulvar pain definition removes the word “burning” from description

Vulvar pain can have a known cause, and the categories within vulvar pain caused by a specific disorder are: infectious, inflammatory, neoplastic, neurologic, trauma, iatrogenic, and hormonal deficiencies. Vulvodynia, defined as vulvar pain at least 3 months in duration, and without a clear identifiable cause, is described as having “potential associated factors.” There are also descriptor terms such as localized, provoked, or mixed, and terms such as intermittent, persistent, constant, immediate or delayed.

The terminology document recognizes that a patient may have a specific condition or diagnosis, and also be diagnosed with vulvodynia. As this consensus document is designed to replace the ISSVD terminology from the 2003 publication, becoming familiar with the updates is valuable for pelvic rehabilitation providers. The evaluation and treatment of vulvar pain is introduced in the Insitute’s Pelvic Floor Level 1 continuing education course, and further developed in the Level 2B course. For an immersion in the topic of vulvar pain, check out the Institute’s course on Vulvodynia: Assessment and Treatment instructed by Dee Hartmann. Your next opportunity to take the course is this March in Houston.

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