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NIH Office of the Director (OD)

Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH)

Embargoed for Release
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
10:00 a.m. EST

Marsha Love
301-496-9472 or 301-402-1770

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’' 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.

For print copies of the Vulvodynia Awareness Campaign information packet, contact the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Information Resource Center at 1-800-370-2943 or visit: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/.

The National Women's Health Resource Center also has a number of consumer-oriented materials on vulvodynia available online at http://www.healthywomen.org.

Speakers at the launch of the Vulvodynia Awareness Campaign included:

  • Vivian W. Pinn, M.D., Director for Research on Women's Health; Director, Office of Research on Women's Health, NIH
  • Christin Veasley, Associate Executive Director, National Vulvodynia Association
  • Bernard L. Harlow, Ph.D., Mayo Professor of Public Health, Chair of the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota School of Public Health & Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health
  • Hope K. Haefner, M.D., Director, University of Michigan Center for Vulvar Diseases
  • Candace S. Brown, M.S., M.S.N., Pharm.D., Professor, Departments of Pharmacy, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Psychiatry, University of Tennessee Health Science Center
  • Estella Parrott, M.D., M.P.H., Program Director, Reproductive Medicine Gynecology Program, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NIH
  • Nelson L. Adams, M.D., President, National Medical Association; Chairman, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Jackson North Medical Center, Miami, FL.
  • Elena Rios, M.D., President, National Hispanic Medical Association
  • Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, R.N., Executive Vice President, National Women’s Health Resource Center

The Office of the Director, the central office at NIH, is responsible for setting policy for NIH, which includes 27 Institutes and Centers. This involves planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all NIH components. The Office of the Director also includes program offices which are responsible for stimulating specific areas of research throughout NIH. Additional information is available at http://www.nih.gov/icd/od/.

The Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH), Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH) serves as a focal point for women's health research at the NIH. For more information about NIH's Office of Research on Women's Health, visit http://orwh.od.nih.gov/.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

Reference: Bachmann GA, Rosen R, Pinn VW, et al. Vulvodynia: a state-of-the-art consensus on definitions, diagnosis and management. J Reprod Med. 2006;51(6):447-56.
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