SEXUAL MEDICINE HISTORY: Satyriasis: The Antiquity Term for Vulvodynia?


Gloria A. Bachmann, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Women's Health Institute, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ, USA. Tel: (732) 235-7633; Fax: (732) 235-8302; E-mail:


From ancient times, through the Middle Ages, and well into the 19th century, physicians concentrated on catastrophic medical conditions and illnesses rather than on quality of life issues. Wars, plagues, and pestilence left little time, energy, or concern for “discomfort” problems. Therefore, it is not surprising that women's conditions that caused distressing symptoms but fell short of major morbidity and mortality were not given a prominent position in medicine until relatively recently. This is especially the case with vulvodynia, a condition that has been reported to affect approximately 15% (and in some studies up to 27%) of the female population at some point in their lives. Despite its high prevalence, this condition was not discussed or reported in traditional medical textbooks until the end of the 1800s. Now, we propose another viewpoint on when the first description of vulvodynia appeared; that is, that vulvodynia was described as far back as the 1st century CE. From our review of the ancient medical literature, we believe that the condition described by Soranus as “satyriasis in females” was actually vulvodynia. McElhiney J, Kelly S, Rosen R, and Bachmann G. Satyriasis: the antiquity term for vulvodynia? J Sex Med 2006;3:161–163.