Acute: a condition of sudden onset and short duration
Allodynia: when a stimulus that should produce a normal sensation is experienced as pain
Anitconvulsants: medications developed for the treatment of epileptic seizures. This group included 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
Clitoris: erectile tissue. The external part is in front of the urethra. The major organ os 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 istrument used to look inside the bladder
Cytokines: smalll proteins that have an effect on cells. They include interleukins, lymphokines, tumor necrosis factor and the interferons which trigger inflammation and respond to infections.
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
Endometriosis: a condtion where 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 endometrisis 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
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
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
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
Mucosa: the thin lining of many body surfaces that secretes a protective, slimy substance called mucin
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 that 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 defectation, urination and sexual intercourse
Perineum: the area between the vagina and anus or the scrotum and the 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 TCA's.
Trigone: the base of the bladder. Trigonitis is a term used to describe redness (possibly inflammation) in this area
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