The aim of this systematic review was to shed light on the disease-trajectory of vulvodynia and identify potential risk factors which may affect such trajectory.
We searched Pubmed to identify articles providing evidence on vulvodynia trajectory (i.e., remission, relapse or persistence rates) with a minimum follow-up of 2 years. A narrative approach was used for data synthesis.
Four articles were included (total participants: 741 women with vulvodynia; 634 controls). At a 2-year follow-up, 50.6% of women reported remission, remission with relapse was observed in 39.7% and persistence throughout time occurred in 9.6%. A decrease in pain was observed in 71.1% of patients at a 7-year follow-up. Mean pain scores and depressive symptoms resulted lower at 2-year follow-up, whereas sexual function and satisfaction were increased. Factors associated with remission of vulvodynia were greater couple cohesion, decreased reporting of pain after intercourse and lower levels of worst pain. Risk factors for symptom persistence included marriage, more severe pain ratings, depression, pain with partner touch, interstitial cystitis, pain with oral sex, fibromyalgia, older age and anxiety. Recurrence was associated with: longer duration of pain, more severe ratings of the worst pain ever and pain described as provoked.
Symptoms of vulvodynia seem to improve over time, regardless of treatment. This finding contains a key message for patients and their physicians, considering the deleterious consequences of vulvodynia on women’s lives.

© 2023. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.