Understanding and treating vaginismus: a multimodal approach
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Introduction and hypothesis
This clinical opinion was written to bring attention to the understanding and treatment of vaginismus, a condition that is often under diagnosed and therefore inadequately treated, yet affects millions of women worldwide. Despite its description more than a century ago, vaginismus is rarely taught in medical school, residency training, and medical meetings. The DSM 5 classification stresses that vaginismus is a penetration disorder in that any form of vaginal penetration such as tampons, finger, vaginal dilators, gynecological examinations, and intercourse is often painful or impossible. Compared with other sexual pain disorders such as vulvodynia and vestibulodynia, the treatment of vaginismus has the potential for a high rate of success. Stratifying the severity of vaginismus allows the clinician to choose among numerous treatment options and to better understand what the patient is experiencing. Vaginismus is both a physical and an emotional disorder. In the more severe cases of vaginismus women (and men) complain that attempted intercourse is like "hitting a wall" suggestive of spasm at the level of the introitus. The emotional fallout resulting from this needs to be addressed in any form of treatment applied.
This article is based on lessons learned in the treatment of more than 250 patients and evaluation of more than 400 inquiries, and was written to make vaginismus more widely understood, to aid in the differential diagnosis of sexual pain, suggest a variety of effective treatments, and explain how Botox can be used as part of a multimodal treatment program to treat vaginismus.
With greater awareness among clinicians it is hoped that medical schools, residency programs, and medical meetings will begin teaching the understanding and treatment of vaginismus.
KeywordsVaginismus Painful sex Painful intercourse Unable to have intercourse Unable to consummate
I thank Ellen Wilson, Janet Pacik, Kim Collins, and Cynthia Piar for their valuable suggestions in improving our vaginismus treatment program and their undying support of our "dilating divas."
Conflict of interest
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