The vaginitis monologues: Women's experiences of vaginal complaints in a primary care setting

Alison Karasz, Matthew Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Vaginal complaints are a common presenting problem in primary care settings. A disease model has dominated current research and treatment paradigms, with little attention to the illness or experiential dimensions of vaginal complaints. In this paper, we report data from a qualitative study of the experiences of women diagnosed with vaginitis. In semi-structured interviews with 44 women in New York City, United States, we investigated women's interpretations and explanations of their illness, their accounts of its impact on their lives, their experiences with treatment, and the role of vaginal symptoms in communicating distress and anger. We found that women's explanations of vaginal complaints differed strikingly from the current medical model described in the literature on vaginitis. Vaginal symptoms often occasioned extreme anxiety; their impact on social and sexual functioning could be severe. Finally, vaginal symptoms often functioned to express distress and gender conflict. These findings have important implications for the management of the disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1013-1021
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2003


  • Explanatory models
  • Illness representation
  • USA
  • Vaginal complaints
  • Women's health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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