Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Ji Chen Bihl (Committee Member), David Cool (Advisor), Jerome Yaklic (Committee Member)

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Vulvodynia is a chronic, heterogeneous, and multifactorial disease. This condition may affect up to 18 percent of the female population including Caucasians, African Americans, Africans and Hispanics particularly those sexually active at child bearing age. The etiology of this condition is complex and multifactorial and it is frequently accompanied by physical disabilities, psychological distress and sexual dysfunction. Clinically, vulvodynia can be generalized or localized and pain can be provoked or unprovoked. Patients may also describe vulvar paresthesias or dysesthesias that may last hours. The International Society for the Study of Vulvar Disease (ISSVD) recognizes vulvar pain related to a specific disorder (infectious, inflammatory, neoplastic or neurologic) and vulvodynia (pain due to nonspecific etiology). In the case of vulvodynia, even the basic biological processes involved in the condition are unclear and further investigation of these processes is vital for constructing a substantive knowledge base. While recent research activities have created a foundation and enhanced our knowledge base, our understanding of the etiology and pathology of this condition is largely incomplete. Reports suggest a strong link that vulvodynia initiates a strong inflammatory reaction that is mediated by cytokines. In our study, we measured the levels of 27 cytokines that may be involved in this inflammatory response in the vaginal milieu of vulvodynia patients. For our study, we received 15 vaginal swabs from patients diagnosed with vulvodynia and 5 vaginal swabs from healthy patients with no signs and previous history of this disease. Also the application of 2D-Difference in Gel Electrophoresis to study the presence and expression of different proteins in the vaginal milieu of vulvodynia patients has shown promising results. Our results indicate a more than 10-fold increase in IL-1ra levels (p<0.03), a 7-fold increase in IL-12 levels (p<0.04), a 3-fold increase in PDGF-bb (p<0.04) levels, a 9-fold increase in VEGF levels (p<0.02) and a 2-fold decrease in IL-17 levels in vulvodynia patients compared to healthy controls. Our results indicate the presence of a strong inflammatory response involved in vulvodynia. Our proteomic studies indicate alterations in the normal proteomic levels in the vaginal milieu of vulvodynia patients compared to healthy controls.

Page Count


Department or Program

Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology

Year Degree Awarded