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NIH Launches Campaign to Raise Awareness of Vulvodynia, a Painful Disorder Affecting Many Women
The Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) at the National Institute’s of Health (NIH), in partnership with other federal and non-federal partners, announced the launch of the “Vulvodynia Awareness Campaign” on October 24, 2007.
Vulvodynia, also referred to as “the pain down there” or “feminine pain,” is chronic discomfort or pain of the vulva, which is the area around the outside of the vagina. It is a persistent condition for which there is no apparent cause and no single effective treatment. Vulvodynia can have stressful effects on every day life and relationships. A lack of sufficient consumer and health care provider information may contribute to a delayed diagnosis and the ultimate long-term suffering of vulvodynia patients.
Researchers estimate that as many as 18 percent of women will experience symptoms consistent with vulvodynia. Many women suffer with unexplained vulvar pain for months—even years—before a correct diagnosis is made and an appropriate treatment plan is determined. Studies have shown that almost half of the women with symptoms chose not to seek treatment, even when these symptoms limited sexual intimacy. (Bachmann et. al, 2006).
“The time has come to talk openly and directly about vulvodynia—its symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment—so that the quality of life of sufferers of this condition can be improved,” said Vivian W. Pinn, M.D., Director, Office of Research on Women’s Health, NIH.
There is currently no cure for vulvodynia. But there are treatments for some of the symptoms. Some current treatments include local pain relievers (medications), physical therapy, changes in diet, and drug treatment. Because each woman’s symptoms may be different, no one treatment works all the time or is right for everyone.
The NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) hopes by combining forces with partners such as advocacy groups, health care practitioners, research organizations, and federal and non-federal entities, there will be increased awareness and understanding of this important medical condition for women. Over the years, ORWH has helped expand the scope of women’s health research. This research and consequent dialogue have led to better decision-making regarding treatment options for a wide range of medical conditions. Many issues that were or may still be considered “sensitive” for women to discuss with their health care providers resulted too often in women suffering in silence. For example, breast cancer, menopause, urinary incontinence, cervical cancer, sexually transmitted infections, and uterine fibroids are a few examples of conditions that affect women and that only over recent years have women begun to feel more comfortable discussing openly. ORWH continues its efforts to bring these women’s health issues into the public arena.
Through the efforts of a collaborative and diverse group of partners, the campaign will disseminate educational materials to the public and to healthcare providers, which will include frequently asked questions, online and print resources, fact sheets, and scientific articles.
Campaign materials are available on the Office of Research on Women’s Health Web site at: http://orwh.od.nih.gov/health/vulvodynia.html.
Vivian Pinn, Christin Veasley, Bernard Harlow, Hope Haefner, Candace Brown, Estella Parrott, Nelson Adams and Elena Rios