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Vulvovaginal Discomfort Is Common in Both Premenopausal and Postmenopausal Women

Watson, LaTina J., BA1; James, Kaitlyn E., PhD, MPH2; Hatoum Moeller, Ida J., ScD3; Mitchell, Caroline M., MD, MPH1,4

Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease: April 2019 - Volume 23 - Issue 2 - p 164–169
doi: 10.1097/LGT.0000000000000460
Benign Vulvovaginal Disorders

Objectives We surveyed women from a primary care population to assess the prevalence of unreported vulvovaginal symptoms.

Materials and Methods A random sample of women aged 18 to 84 years without a diagnosis of vulvovaginitis or vulvodynia in the past year were surveyed anonymously about prevalence and severity of vulvar and vaginal symptoms of itching, burning, irritation, vaginal discharge, vaginal dryness, and vulvovaginal pain in the past month. Women reporting at least 1 moderate-severe symptom were considered symptomatic. Demographic and clinical characteristics were compared between women with and without symptoms using Pearson's χ2 and Student's t test.

Results Of 1,676 mailed surveys, 272 (16.2%) were returned. Respondents were primarily non-Hispanic (254, 93.4%), White (214, 78.7%), and English speaking (267, 98.2%). More than a third of women (107, 39.3%) reported 1 or more moderate-severe symptoms. Symptomatic women were younger (49 ± 14 years vs 54 ± 15 years, p = .004) and more likely to report a history of asthma (22% vs 12%, p = .028), eczema or seasonal allergies (56% vs 40%, p = .011), or a previous diagnosis of bacterial vaginosis or yeast (36% vs 15%, p < .001) than asymptomatic women. Premenopausal versus postmenopausal women reported similar prevalence of moderate-severe symptoms: 57/136 (42%) vs 50/136 (37%), respectively (p = .39). Symptoms frequently or always interfered with both interest in sex (33/107, 31%) and ability to have sex (32/107, 30%).

Conclusions This study suggests that moderate-severe vulvovaginal symptoms are prevalent in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women and that these symptoms have a significant impact on sexual health.

1Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA;

2Deborah Kelly Center for Outcomes Research, Vincent Obstetrics & Gynecology Department, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA;

3Department of Medicine, Gastrointestinal Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA; and

4Vincent Obstetrics & Gynecology Department, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA

Correspondence to: Caroline M. Mitchell, MD, MPH, Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Fruit St, Boston, MA 02114. E-mail:

C.M.M. is a consultant for Lupin Pharmaceuticals, EvoFem Biosciences, and Scynexis. The other authors have declared they have no conflicts of interest.

Funding for this study was provided by the Domolky Innovation Award and the Vincent Memorial Research Funds.

Copyright © 2019 by the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology