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Logo of brjgenpracRCGP homepageJ R Coll Gen Pract at PubMed CentralBJGP at RCGPBJGP at RCGP
Br J Gen Pract. 1993 June; 43(371): 239–244.
PMCID: PMC1372421

Vaginal symptoms of unknown aetiology: a study in Dutch general practice.


Vaginal symptoms are frequently presented by women to general practitioners. In many cases, the aetiology of these symptoms remains unknown. This study focused on the factors associated with microbiologically unexplained vaginal symptoms, the course of symptoms and signs in these cases, and factors modifying this course. In a group of 610 women presenting to their general practitioner with vaginal symptoms (itching, irritation, abnormal but non-bloody discharge) the distribution of diagnoses was studied and factors associated with symptoms of unknown aetiology were identified using logistic regression analysis. During a three month follow up, the course of symptoms and signs was studied in 139 women with unexplained vaginal symptoms, using survival analysis methods. It was found that 25% of all the women had symptoms of unknown aetiology. A larger number of these women, compared with women with other diagnoses, were Caucasian, married, more highly educated, used oral contraceptives and reported psychological distress. During the follow-up period, a specific infection was diagnosed in less than 20% of the women with unexplained vaginal symptoms. Over half of the women (54%) recovered within three months. Short duration of symptoms before presentation was associated with a higher probability of recovery. From the study, it was found that many women visiting the general practitioner for vaginal symptoms had no demonstrable microbial disorder. Often these symptoms were transient and disappeared without intervention. Persistent symptoms may call for further examination where somatic, as well as psychosocial, factors should be taken into account.

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