Glossary

Glossary

A

adhesion
Web-like growths of scar tissue that bind any of the pelvic organs to one another; may be caused by surgery, injury or endometriosis; commonly causes pelvic pain.

anemia
A low red blood cell count, caused by heavy menstrual bleeding or other blood loss; the most obvious symptom is fatigue.

anesthetic
Drugs used to prevent pain during surgery or other procedures.
A general anesthetic makes the person unconscious.
A local anesthetic numbs the area where the surgery is to be performed.
Local anesthetics may be combined with sedatives to make a person relaxed and sleepy but not unconscious.

antibiotics
Drugs used to kill bacterial or fungal infections.

anticonvulsants
Drugs originally developed to treat epileptic seizures, but which may have other useful effects on the nervous system and the body's ability to perceive pain.

B

benign
Not cancerous.
Describes an abnormal growth that is not cancer and will not spread to other areas of the body or threaten a persons’ health or life.

C

cesarean section
The surgical removal of an infant from the uterus.
Also referred to as a C-section.

contact dermatitis
A skin rash caused by allergies.

cul-de-sac
A pouch formed by the space between the uterus and the rectum.

D

dioxin
A toxic chemical found in some paper products, pesticide-treated food, leaded gas; may be linked to endometriosis.

dysmenorrhea
Dainful periods.

dyspareunia
Painful sex.

E

ectopic pregnancy
When an ovum (or egg) is fertilized and begins to develop inside the fallopian tubes; a dangerous condition that can be fatal to a woman if left untreated.

endocrine system
A network of glands and ducts that produce and release hormones inside the body.

endometrial ablation
The removal of the endometrium (lining of the uterus) using one of various methods, including laser, microwave, electric current, or heated fluid and freezing.
This is a treatment for heavy menstrual bleeding that permanently stops menstruation and prevents future childbearing.

endometrium
The lining of the uterus.
Menstrual flow is derived from the endometrium.
After each menstrual period, the endometrium grows to replace the part of the surface that has been lost.

estrogen
A hormone produced primarily by the ovaries; responsible for reproduction and the development of secondary female sex characteristics.

excision
The surgical removal of tissue.

F

fallopian tubes
Tubes through which the egg passes from the ovary to the uterus.

G

GnRH (gonadotropin-releasing hormone) – one of the hormones that regulates the female menstrual cycle.

GnRH agonists (gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists) – a group of drugs, which reduce a woman's estrogen levels, used to treat endometriosis and reduce the size of fibroids.
These drugs prevent ovulation and cause an artificial menopause.
They may cause symptoms similar to menopause and can also cause bone mineral loss, which can eventually lead to osteoporosis.
For these reasons, GnRH agonists are most often a temporary treatment, used to relieve symptoms until other approaches can take effect.

H

hypertension
Persistent high blood pressure.

hysterectomy
The removal of the uterus.
During a simple hysterectomy, only the uterus and cervix are removed; during a total hysterectomy, the uterus and cervix are removed along with the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

hysteroscopic resection
The removal of fibroids from the inner wall of the uterus, with a fiberoptic device called a hysteroscope.

I

implants
Small, flat patches of endometrial-like cells growing outside the uterus.

infertility
The inability to have children; not being able to achieve pregnancy after one year of regular, unprotected sex, or the inability to carry a pregnancy to a live birth.

intravenous
Injection of a substance directly into a vein.

irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
A chronic bowel disorder that affects the lower intestinal tract; can cause abdominal cramps, abdominal distention, diarrhea, constipation and nausea.
Irritable bowel syndrome does not cause physical changes in the gut.

L

laparoscopy
A procedure that uses a fibreoptic device, called a laparoscope, to examine the inside of the pelvic cavity.
The laparoscope is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen.

laparotomy
Traditional abdominal surgery.

leiomyomas
The medical term for fibroids.

lesion
A small area of damaged tissue.

lichen sclerosus
A chronic skin disease that begins when hard, white spots appear on the skin; over time these patches can become larger and crinkled, causing inflammation and thinning of the skin.
In women, the condition affects mainly the vulva.

lupus erythematosus
An autoimmune disease where the body's own immune system attacks its tissue; may cause a skin rash, arthritis or damage to the kidneys and cardiovascular system.

luteal phase – the portion of a woman's menstrual cycle between ovulation and menstruation. It typically lasts for 12 to 16 days.

M

myomectomy
The surgical removal of a fibroid.

N

neurectomy
The removal of a specific nerve or a portion of a nerve, usually to treat pain.

neurons
Long, branched cells that carry nerve impulses, including pain signals.

neuropathic pain
Pain experienced because the ability of the nervous system to perceive pain has been damaged by chronic pain.

nodule
A small lump or cluster of tissue.

O

opioids
A group of drugs, which include morphine and opium, that relieve pain and cause sedation.

osteoporosis
A disease in which the bones become thin, porous and more fragile.

ovaries
Female glands that produce eggs and the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

ovulation
The release of an egg from the ovary.
Ovulation occurs in the middle of a woman’s menstrual cycle.

oxalate
A substance found in plant foods, including many vegetables; some women eat a low oxalate diet to treat vulvodynia.

P

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) – highly toxic chemicals, now banned in Canada, but still present in the environment.
They were once used in inks, paint, and as additives when making plastics.

pelvic congestion
Dilation (swelling) of the veins in the pelvis, causing pressure and pain.

peritoneum
The thin membrane that covers the pelvis and abdomen walls, as well as the pelvic organs.

physiotherapist
A health professional who treats disease and injury using physical methods, such as exercise and massage.

prostaglandins
Naturally occuring hormone-like substances that cause the uterus to contract and are responsible for period cramps.

R

reproductive age
All the years a woman is able to conceive a child, from her first period until the onset of menopause.

resection
The surgical removal of an organ or other structure.

retrograde bleeding
The backward flow of menstrual discharge through the fallopian tubes into the pelvis, during a woman's period.

S

Sjogren's syndrome
An autoimmune disease where the body's own immune system attacks the glands that secrete body fluids, such as the sweat, tear and saliva glands.

spinal cord
The bundle of nerves inside the spinal column that carry nerve impulses to and from the brain.

T

transvaginal surgery
Surgery where an incision is made inside the vagina.
Transvaginal surgery may be used, for example, to treat conditions that affect the bladder, such as cystocele or stress incontinence, or to remove a woman’s gallbladder.

trigger points
Painful areas on the body caused by referred pain.

tumour
A mass of cells that may be benign or cancerous.

U

ultrasound
An imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to visualize soft body tissues.
The 'echoes' produce an onscreen image.
Thicker tissue appears lighter on the ultrasound screen.
Ultrasound technology has been used for over 35 years and studies show it is safe.
It does not use radioactive material to produce an image.

urethral syndrome
Pain and inflammation of the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body).

uterosacral ligaments
Ligaments that attach the uterus and cervix to the base of the spine.

uterus
The female organ that holds and sustains the fetus.

V

visceral
Pertaining to the internal organs.