Why Women With Chronic Vulvar Pain Struggle to Be Diagnosed

“Since proper diagnosis for vulva pain is so elusive, estimates of the prevalence of this condition vary, ranging anywhere from 4% to 40% of the female population. A study published in the British Columbia Medical Journal, “Provoked Vestibulodynia: A qualitative exploration of women’s experiences,” estimates that of the women who are diagnosed, anywhere up to 28% of them are chronic lifetime sufferers” [1]

Challenges in Vulvodynia Diagnosis

The fact of the matter is that women who are suffering with vulva pain, are not always getting an accurate diagnosis. One reason for this is due to: “many cases of generalised vulvodynia and localized vulvodynia (vestibulodynia) being mistakenly attributed to yeast infection, pudendal neuralgia, and other entities” [2]. “There’s a huge problem,” remarked Harvard Medical School professor in obstetrics and gynaecology, Elizabeth G. Stewart, MD, who was talking to attendees at an Internal Medicine seminar. – Diagnosis is an intricate process due to many disorders which have the same symptoms [2].

Moreover, doctors are inclined to put their faith in patients’ self-diagnosis; and they may not conduct a physical exam prior to administering treatment; and may not discuss their patients’ issues face-to-face. So to that end, vulvodynia sufferers can being given the wrong diagnosis, and the wrong therapies [2]. Which is a totally unacceptable situation…

As Dr Stewart points out, doctors must be mindful of various different diagnoses, when they examine a woman with vulvovaginal symptoms. After all, among other factors, symptoms can be a result of: STDs, drug reactions, atrophy, allergy, and contactants. So for the purpose of narrowing things down: “physicians should ask themselves whether the problem results from infection, low oestrogen, a dermatological source, disease elsewhere in the body, a drug, cancer or a precancerous condition, or any combination of these factors” [2]. Therefore, in order for this to be done comprehensively, an experienced Vulvodynia Specialist should be consulted.

And, as Dr. Stewart, noted: “in the US, there’s virtually no vulvovaginal training for clinicians” [2], and unfortunately, when it comes to general practitioners (GPs), the same can be said for the UK. – And that is why it is essential to see a Vulvodynia Specialist, who will be able to give you a correct diagnosis, and conduct the necessary exams and tests, which will culminate in a Holistic Personalised Treatment Plan. This is likely to include both conventional and the latest cutting-edge treatments.


[1]. Lapointe, V.  (2016). “Women with chronic pain disorder struggle to be diagnosed.” Medhill.
[2]. Kearney-Strouse, J. (2022). “Vulvovaginal disorders common but commonly misdiagnosed.” ACP Internist.