The relationship between vulvovaginal candidiasis and provoked vulvodynia: A systematic review


BACKGROUND: Provoked vulvodynia (PVD) is a chronic vulvar pain condition affecting up to 8.3% of the female population. Despite many years of research, no clear cause for PVD has been identified. Several risk factors have been studied, including vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC). However, to date, the role of Candida infections in PVD has remained unclear. VVC and PVD have an overlap of symptoms that may contribute to diagnostic inaccuracy and mistreatment. AIM: To systematically review the literature on the relationship between VVC and PVD. METHODS: Cohort and case-control studies were included that compared women with PVD with healthy controls with respect to the presence of a history of Candida vulvovaginitis. PVD had to be diagnosed by Friedrich's criteria or the International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease criteria. The inclusion process as well as the quality appraisal of the studies, using the Newcastle-Ottawa Quality Assessment Scale, were performed independently by 2 authors. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Outcomes of the population-based case-control studies were listed as odds ratio. Outcomes of the pathophysiological studies were based on local pro-inflammatory responses on Candida in vitro. RESULTS: We included a total of 14 studies, both population and clinic-based case-control, and pathophysiological research. 7 studies were of low methodological quality, and 7 studies were of medium methodological quality. The population-based case-control studies showed a significantly increased odds ratio for self-reported VVC in PVD cases compared with controls. The pathophysiological studies revealed a tendency for an increased local proinflammatory response on Candida in vitro in patients with PVD. Owing to the substantial heterogeneity of the studies, meta-analysis was not performed. CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: Health care providers may consider a diagnosis of PVD in women with self-reported VVC, and to act on this properly. Reiteration of antifungal prescriptions by physicians without a decent diagnosis, will lead to mistreatment. Women should be informed by their health care provider that intercourse during (or shortly after) the treatment of VVC might worsen the vulnerability of the vulvar skin. STRENGTH AND LIMITATIONS: This is the first systematic review performed to describe the relation between VVC and PVD. An independently performed in- and exclusion process and quality appraisal, ensured optimal internal validity. However, there were important methodological limitations and the size of heterogeneity prevented establishing a meta-analysis. CONCLUSION: This systematic review is unable to draw conclusions regarding a relationship between actual VVC and PVD because studies were based on self-reported VVC. Until new evidence becomes available, we advocate that PVD should be considered as an unexplained chronic pain condition. In women with recurrent or persistent VVC-like complaints, physicians should consider a diagnosis of PVD. Leusink P, van de Pasch S, Teunissen D, et al. The Relationship Between Vulvovaginal Candidiasis and Provoked Vulvodynia: A Systematic Review. J Sex Med 2018;15:1310-1321

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Last time updated on 3/30/2019

This paper was published in NARCIS .

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