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Enigma of urethral pain syndrome: why are there so many ascribed etiologies and therapeutic approaches?

Urethral pain syndrome has had several sobriquets, which have led to much confusion over the existence of this pathological condition and the useful options in the care of the afflicted patient. Our aim was to explore the proposed etiologies of this syndrome, and to provide a critical analysis of each proposed etiology and present a balanced argument on the plausibility of the proposed etiology and therapeutic approaches. We carried out an English language electronic search in the following databases: Medline, Embase, Amed, Cinahl, Pubmed, Cochrane Library, Trip Database and SUMSearch using the following search terms: urethral syndrome, urethral diseases, urethra, urologic diseases etiology/etiology, presentation, treatment, outcome, therapeutics and treatment from 1951 to 2011. In excess of 200 articles were recovered. With the clearly defined objectives of analyzing the proposed etiologies and therapeutic regimes, two author(s) (HP and IO) perused the abstracts of all the recovered articles, selecting those that addressed the etiologies and therapeutic approaches to treating the urethral pain syndrome. The number of articles was reduced to 25. The full text of all 25 articles were retrieved and reviewed. Through the present article, we hope to elucidate the most probable etiology of this condition whilst simultaneously, advance a logical explanation for the apparent success in the treatment of this condition using a range of different therapeutic modalities. We have carried out a narrative review, which we hope will reduce some of the confusion around this clinical entity by combining the known facts about the disease.

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