I also see these as warning signs for interstitial cystitis (in me).
A History of Urinary Tract Infections
I had recurrent urinary tract infections as a toddler, a few in my childhood, and two in the six months before my vulvodynia started. As a toddler, once my parents had me shower instead of bathe, the infections went away, but the doctor told my mom I have a narrow urethra (yes, like Hank Hill -- reason #6274 that's my favorite TV show ever).
Prolonged or Recurrent Antibiotic Use
The first UTI I had in the six months leading up to my vulvodynia resolved with lots of water and cranberry juice, but the second one forced me to get antibiotics. When the chronic pain started, I was on antibiotics for about two months straight and then a couple more times as the doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with me. Over that time, my pain got worse. Had I been diagnosed with vulvodynia or interstitial cystitis from the start, I think my pain wouldn't have advanced alongside the antiobiotic use like it did.
A History of Digestive Problems
I had always had an uncomfortable stomach, but after I got mono my senior year of high school, my intestines were never the same. I would get run-to-the-toilet, watery-explosive diarrhea the moment a Tootsie Roll crossed my lips -- or Cherry Coke, or Wheat Thins -- the triggers weren't consistent, but I learned them immediately!
The diarrhea resolved slowly, and instead of exploding, my intestines would just cramp a lot and send things out prematurely when they got triggered. That still happens -- refined sugar, chocolate, and caffeine are basically laxatives for me.
Three months before my chronic pain started, my gut shut down for a week. I was in constant pain as I felt whatever offending food I had eaten move step by step through my intestines. I always knew where it was, and I tried every over-the-counter medicine I could find to get it out of there. I don't know if it was food poisoning (I've never heard of it moving so slowly) or simple intestinal devastation, but that was one of the worst weeks of my life.
Pain with Arousal
Starting in my late teens or early twenties, I would occasionally get sharp pains in my vulva when I got aroused. Penetration and touch didn't hurt, just arousal. The pain was fleeting and I didn't concern myself with it, but looking back, it wasn't right.
Low-Level Pelvic Pain or Discomfort
Two months before my chronic pain started, I developed what I can only describe as minor discomfort around where my bladder is. It was August, and I had no air-conditioning, so I thought maybe I wasn't drinking enough water -- maybe I was sweating it out and my bladder wasn't happy with that. When the real pain started, that low-level discomfort grew steadily over the course of a day just like a bladder infection might. I chugged water, peeing every hour, but unlike a UTI, increased urination just made the pain worse.
Pain that Resists Treatment
This goes without saying for those of us diagnosed with vulvodynia or interstitial cystitis, but I think it's important to note that pain that does not respond to treatment is probably not due to the condition the patient is being treated for. Had my vulvodynia/IC been a UTI, it would have responded to increased water intake, and if not to that, to one of the several antibiotics doctors put me on over the following months. Had the pain been due to treatment-resistant infection, it would have been due to a more complicated physiological problem than a run-of-the-mill UTI. Not all manifestations of medical conditions will fit into the conditions' boxes, but if they don't, it should send up a red flag.
I know it's mostly you already-afflicted girls who will be reading this, but we AAGs should band together, make a hindsight list (HL), and do something with it. Let me know if you're in.