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Women's Chronic Pain Conditions

Often Misdiagnosed, Undertreated, or Dismissed: A Personal Story on Diagnosis of a Hidden Hernia

An article in the April 2 edition of The Washington Post offers confirmation of a problem that has been extensively discussed by members of PAINWeek faculty: the persistent and prevalent under diagnosis of women’s chronic pain conditions. Journalist Hillary Gulley relates her personal experience of pain and disability from hidden inguinal hernia, a presentation that, in 90% of cases, is seen in men. Gulley describes her ordeal, from the 2013 triggering event, to accurate diagnosis and surgical resolution some 3 years later. Summarizing the experience, she writes “While a woman with a hidden hernia usually can be quickly cured once the problem is detected and treated, a lasting wound is opened when her reality is denied by trusted medical experts who are uninformed about how a condition as common as a hernia might present in a woman’s body.”

As PAINWeek faculty participants Colleen Fitzgerald, MD, Georgine Lamvu, MD, MPH, FACOG, and others have observed, up to 20% of women suffer from chronic pelvic pain, with many cases misdiagnosed, under treated, or dismissed by healthcare providers. The resulting physical and psychological trauma to patients is substantial, and much remains to be done to improve the state of clinical understanding of such conditions as dysmenorrhea, vulvodynia, and other pelvic pain conditions.

For online subscribers to The Washington Post, a link to Hillary Gulley’s article may be found here.