Pain During Sex Linked to IBS

Women with Vulvodynia Likely to have Chronic Pain Conditions

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) It's not just that they're not in the mood. Millions of women experience pain during sex due to a painful vaginal condition. And many are likely to suffer from other chronic pain conditions.

A new study found that women with vulvodynia are two to three times more likely to have another chronic pain condition.

Scientists believe that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), fibromyalgia and bladder pain is somehow related to vulvodynia, but all of these chronic pain conditions have no currently identifiable cause.

Doctors hope that identifying these additional pain conditions can help improve treatment and ease women's suffering.

"If you have vulvodynia, get screened for other conditions."

The research was conducted at the University of Michigan, and used data from a survey of the Michigan Woman to Woman study. Dr. Barbara D. Reed, a professor of family medicine at the U-M Medical School, led the study.

Vulvodynia is defined by the National Vulvodynia Association as “chronic vulvar pain without an identifiable cause.” It's a nebulous condition – women experience symptoms in different places and with varying intensity, but it has been described most commonly as a burning pain.

For over half of women with the condition, intercourse is painful. Others experience pain with any type of pressure to the vulvar area, even just sitting or wearing pants.

Sixty percent report that vulvodynia has limited their ability to enjoy life. That's similar to other chronic pain conditions like IBS, in which people experience abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea.

“Chronic pain conditions like these can seriously hamper quality of life and it’s imperative that we understand the commonality among them,” Dr. Reed said in a press release.

Her research sought to estimate the relationship between vulvodynia and fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis (bladder pain) and IBS. The survey covered nearly 2,000 women in Michigan.

Almost nine percent of women were diagnosed with vulvodynia, 8.7 percent with interstitial cystitis, 9.4 percent had IBS and 11.8 percent had fibromyalgia. The researchers found that women with vulvodynia were two to three times more likely to have at least one of the other conditions.

Interestingly, women with low socioeconomic status were at greater risk to have multiple chronic pain conditions.

There's evidence that chronic pain conditions are underdiagnosed among Americans. That's why researchers want to understand what kind of patterns exist among people who have more than one condition.

“Women who have these disorders often see physicians but are not given a diagnosis or are given an erroneous diagnosis and continue to suffer without being treated properly,” Dr. Reed said in a press release. “Until their symptoms have a name, it can be really discouraging because patients begin thinking it’s all in their head.”

Dr. Reed is optimistic that diagnosis and treatment will improve as researchers learn more about chronic pain conditions.

The study was published in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 12, 2012
Last Updated:
August 20, 2012