Ablation:  ablation is a way of  removing of tissue usually through surgery.

Acute: a condition of sudden onset and short duration.

Adenomyosis: adenomyosis is defined by the finding of endometrium (the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus/womb) within the myometrium (muscular wall of the womb).

Allodynia: when a stimulus that should produce a normal sensation is experienced as pain.

Analgesic: a medicine designed to relieve pain  

Anticonvulsants: medications developed for the treatment of epileptic seizures. They are sometimes used in the treatment of neuropathic pain. This group includes gabapentin.

Asymptomatic: having no symptoms.

Atrophic vaginitis: the lining of the vagina loses thickness and becomes thin and dry. This is usually caused by a loss of oestrogen that can result in vaginal itching and/or burning, loss of vaginal lubrication and painful intercourse.

Autoimmune diseases: illnesses that occur when the body tissues are attacked by its own immune system. Autoimmune diseases are more common in women than in men. The presence of one autoimmune disease increases the chances of developing another simultaneous autoimmune disease.

Biofeedback: conscious control of involuntary bodily processes such as the activity of the pelvic floor muscles. This is often demonstrated on a computer screen.

Biopsy: a small sample of tissue that is taken for analysis.

Bladder Pain Syndrome: chronic pelvic pain, pressure or discomfort perceived as related to the bladder accompanied by at least one other symptom such as the persistant urge to void or urinary frequency.

Chronic: longlasting/persistent.

Clitoris: erectile tissue. The external part is in front of the urethra. The major organ of sexual pleasure in women.

Connective tissue: the tissue connects structures of the body together. It is made up of protein, collagen and fibroblasts.

Cystitis: a general term for inflammation of the bladder.

Cystoscope: an instrument used to look inside the bladder.

Cytokines: small proteins that have an effect on cells. They include interleukins, lymphokines, tumour necrosis factor and the interferons which trigger inflammation and respond to infection.

D & C: Dilatation and curettage (D&C) is a minor surgical procedure to remove tissue from the endometrium (lining of the womb). D&C is often used in combination with a hysteroscopy ( see below)

Dysesthesia: a changed state of unpleasant sensation.

Dyspareunia: complaint of persistent or recurrent pain or discomfort associated with attempted or complete vaginal penetration during sexual intercourse. Pain that occurs at the opening of the vagina during penetration is called superficial or introital dyspareunia.

Deep dyspareunia: complaint of pain or discomfort on deeper penetration (mid or upper vagina).

Dysuria: urethral pain during urination.

Endometrium: the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus/womb.

Endometriosis: a condition where the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) is found in other parts of the body. This tissue has the ability to bleed just as uterine tissue does during menstruation. Symptoms of endometriosis vary depending on the location of the "implants".

Endoscopy: a procedure that is carried out using a special instrument called an endoscope. Cystoscopy and laparoscopy are types of endoscopy.

Epidemiology: the study of the source(s), prevalence and distribution of disease within a given population.

Erythema: redness (indicating inflammation on the surface) eg of the vestibule.

Fibromyalgia: tenderness along specific muscles and joints of the body and sleep disorder.

GnRH, also known as the Gonadotropin-releasing hormone, plays a pivotal role throughout the course of a person's life. Within the human body, there are several changes that occur when one transitions from childhood to adulthood. The catalysts responsible for these changes are hormones, which are produced when the walnut-sized pituitary gland sends chemical signals from the brain. There are many chemicals that are activated by this gland; one of which is GnRH.  It is used in the treatment and management of several hormone related conditions.

Histamine: a chemical released from mast cells (specialized inflammatory cells) that stimulates inflammation.

Histology: microscopic study of the body's tissues.

Human papilloma virus (HPV):  a family of viruses responsible for causing warts (the majority are on the hands, fingers and even the face). Some types however are sexually transmitted and produce genital warts, some of which increase the risk for cancer of the cervix, vagina and vulva.

Hyperaesthesia: increased sensitivity to a stimulus.

Hypoxia: a lack of oxygen delivered to tissues which may result in pain, tissue death, or abnormal functioning.

Hysteroscopy: a hysteroscopy is a procedure that uses a narrow telescopic device (a hysteroscope) to look inside the womb.

Interstitial cystitis: a disease of oversensitivity of the bladder, inflammation and ulceration which causes urinary urgency, frequency and pain. This is being renamed as bladder pain syndrome

Introitus: vaginal opening.

IUD: intrauterine device, often referred to as a coil. 

Labia majora: outer lips of the vulva.

Labia minora: inner lips of the vulva.

Laparoscopy: a surgical procedure in which a special viewing instrument called a laparoscope is inserted into the abdomen through a small incision. The abdomen can be examined and, if necessary, laparoscopic surgery can be carried out by inserting specially designed instruments through other small incisions

Lichen planus: a common condition that causes itchy pink/purple flat spots on the skin usually on the wrists, shins and back. When it occurs in the mouth or on the genitals, it appears as thin, red patches with (sometimes) thin, "lacy" edges. It can cause an extremely inflammatory vaginal change, which may result in scarring.

Mast cells: inflammatory cells that contain chemicals that stimulate inflammation such as prostaglandins, histamine and leukotrines.

MRI: magnetic resonance imaging. It uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create pictures of tissues, organs and other structures inside the body on a computer.   

Mucosa: the thin lining of many body surfaces that secretes a protective, slimy substance called mucin.

Myometrium: muscular wall of the womb.

Neuralgia: pain along the path of a nerve.

Neuroma: a non malignant tumour that  arises in nerve cells.

Neuropathic pain: pain caused by damage to nerve cells.

Neurostimulation or neuromodulation: a technique where nerves are electrically stimulated. The procedure has been found to be useful in many pain syndromes. It has also been used to treat bladders that do not function normally.

Nociceptive pain: pain that arises from continuing inflammatory tissue damage.

Opioids: medications that come from opiates and are used to manage chronic pain disorders.

Pelvic floor: muscle and connective tissue that sits at the base of the pelvis and supports the pelvic organs. The pelvic floor has many functions connected to defecation, urination and sexual intercourse.

Perineum: the area between the vagina and anus or the scrotum and anus.

Pubococcyegus: this is one of the muscles of the pelvic floor which extends from the bottom of the pubic bone to the coccyx bone.

Pudendal nerve: nerve which branches to supply the whole vulval area, from the pubis to the anus. It travels under pelvic ligaments and muscles on its pathway. It is formed from nerve roots in the lumbosacral spine.

Substance P: a small molecule found in certain nerve fibres. Substance P appears to stimulate inflammation and also functions in the transmission of pain within the nervous system.

TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation): a method of pain management using a low level of electrical stimulation applied to the body's surface.

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCA):  a group of medications used to treat depression. They are also used in lower doses for some forms of anxiety, fibromyalgia and the control of chronic pain. Amitriptyline and Nortriptyline are TCAs.

Trigone: the base of the bladder. Trigonitis is a term used to describe redness (possibly inflammation) in this area.

UAE: Uterine artery embolization is a procedure where an interventional radiologist uses a catheter to deliver small particles that block the blood supply to the uterus. The procedure is done for the treatment of fibroids and adenomyosis.

Urethra: the tube that allows urine to leave the bladder.

Urethral syndrome: a poorly understood condition with similar symptoms to bladder pain syndrome (BPS) and interstitial cystitis (IC). It is thought by many to be a form of BPS.

Urethritis: inflammation of the urethra.

Vaginitis: inflammation of the vagina. It may be caused by fungus (yeast), bacteria, hormonal imbalance, chemical irritation/allergy or conditions such as lichen planus. It may cause itching, burning, discharge. It is a common condition.

Vestibule: the vestibule contains the urethral opening, the opening of the vagina, skene's glands, Bartholin's glands and minor vestibular glands. The area extends from the clitoris to the bottom of the vaginal opening and to the side to the inner edge of the labia minora.

Vestibulitis: a form of vulvodynia when pain occurs only with pressure at the vaginal opening. This is known as vulvar vestibulitis syndrome.

Vulva: outer genitals of the female.

Vulvodynia: a general term meaning "vulvar pain". It can develop from many medical conditions, including vaginal infections, oestrogen loss and dermatological problems. 


Issue date: March 2014 

Review date: March 2017




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