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Medical Glossary

Covers medical terms referenced in the full-feature version of Life Expectancy 1.0.

Acute. Having a sudden onset, sharp rise, and short course.

Adnexa. Conjoined, subordinate, or associated anatomic parts (e.g., the eye adnexa include the eyelids and tear glands).

Affective disorder. Any psychiatric disorder featuring abnormalities of mood or emotion.

Amyotrophia. Atrophy of a muscle.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. A rare fatal progressive degenerative disease characterized especially by increasing and spreading muscular weaknesses.

Angina pectoris. Pain in the center of the chest, which is induced by exercise and relieved by rest and may spread to the jaws and arms.

Ankylosing spondylitis. Rheumatoid arthritis of the spine.

Anomaly. A deviation from normal.

Aortic valve. A valve in the heart lying between the left ventricle and the aorta that prevents blood returning to the ventricle from the aorta.

Arachnoid. The middle of the three membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, which has a fine, almost cobweb-like, texture.

Arterioles. A small branch of an artery leading to many smaller vessels.

Artery. A blood vessel carrying blood away from the heart.

Arthritis. Inflammation of one or more joints.

Arthropathy. Disease or disorder involving a joint.

Asthma. A condition characterized by widespread narrowing of the bronchial airways.

Atrial. Of, relating to, or affecting the atrium.

Atrial fibrillation. Very rapid irregular contractions of the muscle fibers of the heart resulting in a lack of synchronism between heartbeat and pulse.

Atrium. A chamber of the heart that receives blood from the veins and forces it into a ventricle or ventricles.

Bile. A thick alkaline fluid secreted by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Bile is ejected intermittently by the gallbladder into the duodenum.

Body mass index (BMI). One of the most commonly used measures of overweight/underweight. It is calculated as weight (in kilograms) divided by the square of height (in meters). The mean BMI for both male and female adults is approximately 25. Mortality rates are lowest for persons with BMIs around 22-23, and rise steadily as BMI increases. Obesity is sometimes defined as a BMI of 30 or more.

Bronchiectasis. Widening of the bronchi or their branches.

Bronchitis. Inflammation of the bronchi (see bronchus).

Bronchus. Any of the air passages beyond the trachea that has cartilage and mucous glands in its wall.

Bundle branch block. A defect in the specialized conducting tissue of the heart that is recognized as an electrocardiographic abnormality.

Calculus. A stone, as in kidney stone.

Capillary. An extremely narrow blood vessel. Capillaries form networks in most tissues.

Cardiac. Having to do with the heart.

Cardiac dysrhythmia. An abnormal rhythm of the heart beat.

Cardiomegaly. Enlargement of the heart.

Cardiomyopathy. Any chronic disorder affecting the muscle of the heart.

Cardiovascular. Having to do with the heart and blood vessels.

Cerebral. Having to do with the brain.

Cerebrovascular. Having to do with the brain (cerebrum) and the blood vessels supplying it.

Chondropathy. A disease of cartilage.

Cirrhosis. A condition in which the liver responds to injury or death of some of its cells by producing interlacing strands of fibrous tissue between which are nodules of regenerating cells. The liver becomes characteristically knobby (due to the nodules).

Coarctation of aorta. A congenital narrowing of a short segment of the aorta.

Colitis. Inflammation of the colon.

Conduction disorder. Any disorder involving the conduction of energy from one part (esp. of the heart) to another.

Congenital. Existing at or dating from birth.

Congenital factor VIII disorder. A disease group that includes antihemophilic globulin deficiency [AHG] and certain types of hemophilia.

Congestion. An excessive accumulation esp. of blood in the blood vessels of an organ or part.

Congestive. Having to do with congestion.

Congestive heart failure. Heart failure in which the heart is unable to maintain adequate circulation of blood in the tissues of the body or to pump out the venous blood returned to it by the venous circulation.

Crohn’s disease. See Regional Enteritis.

Cystic fibrosis. A hereditary disease that affects the exocrine glands (including mucus-secreting glands, sweat glands, and others).

Degenerative disease. A disease characterized by progressive degenerative changes in tissue (e.g. arteriosclerosis, diabetes mellitus, or osteoarthritis).

Diabetes. Any disorder of metabolism causing excessive thirst and the production of large volumes of urine. Used alone, the term most commonly refers to diabetes mellitus.

Diabetes mellitus. A disorder of the carbohydrate metabolism in which sugars in the body are not oxidized to produce energy due to lack of the pancreatic hormone insulin or to resistance to insulin.

Diverticulum. An abnormal sac or pouch opening from a hollow organ (e.g., intestine or bladder).

Dorsopathy. A disease of the spine.

Ductus arteriosus. A short broad vessel in the fetus that connects the pulmonary artery with the aorta and conducts most of the blood directly from the right ventricle to the aorta bypassing the lungs. It normally closes after birth.

Duodenal ulcer. An ulcer in the duodenum, caused by acid and pepsin on the duodenum.

Duodenum. The first (traveling down the digestive tract from the mouth) of the three parts of the small intestines.

Emphysema. Air in the tissues. In pulmonary emphysema, the air sacs of the lungs are enlarged and damaged, which reduces the surface area for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Empyema. Pus in the pleural cavity.

Endocrine. Having to do with an endocrine gland or secretion – endocrine glands include the pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenal glands, the ovary and testis, the placenta, and part of the pancreas.

Enteritis. Inflammation of the intestines, and esp. of the last division of the small intestine (the ileum).

Enterocolitis. Enteritis affecting both the large and small intestines.

Esophagus. The gullet. A muscular tube, about 23 cm long, that extends from the pharynx to the stomach.

Essential. Describing a disorder that is not apparently attributable to an outside cause.

Essential hypertension. Hypertension not apparently attributable to an outside cause.

Fibrillation. See atrial fibrillation.

Fissure. A break or slit in tissue, usually at the junction of skin and mucous membrane.

Fistula. An abnormal passage leading from an abscess or hollow organ to the body surface or from one hollow organ to another and permitting passage of fluids or secretions.

Functional disorder. A condition in which a patient complains of symptoms for which no physical cause can be found. Such a condition is often an indication of a psychiatric disorder. Compare organic disorder.

Gallbladder. A pear-shaped sac lying under the right lobe of the liver, in which bile is stored.

Ganglion. A mass of nerve tissue containing nerve cells.

Gastric. Having to do with the stomach.

Gastric ulcer. An ulcer in the stomach, caused by acid, pepsin, and bile on the stomach lining.

Gastritis. Inflammation of the mucous membrane of the stomach.

Gastrointestinal. Having to do with the stomach or intestines.

Genitourinary system. The urinary and reproductive organs.

Glomerulonephritis. Any of a group of kidney diseases involving the primary site of filtration of waste products from the blood into the kidney.

Glycosuria. Presence of excess sugar in the urine. Also called glucosuria.

Goiter. Enlargement of the thyroid gland which causes swelling of the neck.

Gout. A disease in which a defect in uric acid metabolism causes an excess of the acid and its salts to accumulate in the bloodstream and the joints.

Hematuria. Presence of blood in the urine.

Hemorrhage. The escape of blood from a ruptured vessel, externally or internally.

Hepatomegaly. Enlarged liver.

Hernia. Protrusion of an organ or part through connective tissue or through a wall of the cavity in which it is normally enclosed.

Horn cell. A nerve cell lying in one of the gray columns of the spinal cord.

Hypertension. High blood pressure, i.e. elevated blood pressure above the normal range expected in a particular individual.

Hypertensive. Of, relating to, or having hypertension.

Hypothalamic. Having to do with the hypothalamus.

Hypothalamus. A region of the forebrain containing several important centers controlling body temperature, thirst, hunger, and eating, water balance, and sexual function. It is also connected with emotional activity and sleep and integrates hormonal and autonomic nervous activity through its control of the pituitary gland.

Idiopathic. Arising spontaneously or from an unknown cause.

Ileum. Last division of the small intestine on its way to the colon.

Inguinal hernia. A hernia in a region of the groin.

Intracranial. Situated or occurring within the skull.

Ischemia. Inadequate flow of blood to a part of the body, caused by constriction or blockage of the blood vessels supplying it.

Ischemic. Having to do with ischemia

Lupus. Any of several chronic skin diseases.

Lupus erythematosus. A chronic inflammatory disease of the connective tissue, affecting the skin and various internal organs.

Lymph. The fluid present within the vessels of the lymphatic system.

Lymphatic system. A network of vessels that conveys electrolytes, water, proteins, etc. - in the form of lymph – from the tissue fluids to the bloodstream.

Marfan syndrome. An inherited disorder of connective tissue characterized by excessive height, abnormally long and slender fingers and toes, heart defects, and partial dislocation of the lenses of the eyes.

Mastoid process. The process of the temporal bone behind the ear that is well developed and somewhat conical shaped in adults but inconspicuous in children.

Meniere’s disease. A disease of the inner ear characterized by episodes of deafness, buzzing in the ears, and vertigo.

Metabolic. Of, relating to, or based on metabolism

Metabolism. The chemical changes in living cells by which energy is provided for vital processes and activities and new material is assimilated.

Mitral valve. A valve in the heart consisting of two flaps attached to the walls at the opening between the left atrium and left ventricle. It allows blood to pass from the atrium to the ventricle, but prevents any backward flow.

Motor neuron. A neuron that passes from the central nervous system or a ganglion toward or to a muscle and conducts an impulse that causes movement.

Multiple sclerosis. A chronic disease marked by patches of hardened tissue in the brain or the spinal cord and associated with partial or complete paralysis and jerking muscle tremors.

Myasthenia gravis. A disease characterized by progressive weakness and exhaustibility of voluntary muscles without atrophy or sensory disturbance.

Myocardial infarction. Death of a segment of the heart muscle, which follows interruption of its blood supply. Myocardial infarction is usually confined to the left ventricle. The patient experiences a "heart attack."

Myoneural disorders. Disorders relating to the connection of muscles and nerves.

Nephritic syndrome. Deficiency of albumin in the blood and excretion of albumin in the urine due to altered permeability of certain membranes in the kidney.

Nephritis. Acute or chronic inflammation of the kidney affecting the structure and caused by infection, a degenerative process, or vascular disease.

Nephron. The active unit of secretion in the kidney.

Nephrosis. A noninflammatory disease of the kidneys chiefly affecting function of the nephrons.

Neurosis. A mental and emotional disorder that affects only part of the personality, and is accompanied by a less distorted perception of reality than in a psychosis.

Neurotic disorder. A disorder associated with a neurosis.

Occlusion. The closing or obstruction of a hollow organ or part.

Organic disorder. A disorder associated with changes in the structure of an organ or tissue. Compare functional disorder.

Osteomyelitis. An infectious inflammatory disease of bone.

Osteopathy. A disease of bone.

Otitis media. Acute or chronic inflammation of the middle ear.

Pancreas. A compound gland that secretes several digestive enzymes that make their way to the intestines, and secretes insulin and glucagons into the bloodstream.

Paroxysm. A sudden violent attack, especially a spasm or convulsion.

Paroxysmal. Having to do with paroxysm.

Paroxysmal tachycardia. Tachycardia that begins and ends abruptly.

Patent ductus arteriosus. An abnormal condition in which the ductus arteriosus fails to close after birth.

Peptic ulcer. An ulcer in either the stomach or duodenum.

Perinatal. A period of time from about three months before to one month after birth.

Periosteum. The membrane of connective tissue surrounding all bones except at the joint surfaces.

Periostitis. Inflammation of the periosteum.

Pharynx. A muscular tube, lined with mucous membrane, that extends from the beginning of the esophagus up to the base of the skull.

Phlebitis. Inflammation of the wall of a vein. A segment of the vein becomes painful and tender and the surrounding skin feels hot and appears red. Often a complication of varicose veins.

Pituitary gland. The master endocrine gland, which secretes many different hormones that regulate the activity of other endocrine glands.

Pleura. The covering of the lungs (visceral pleura) and of the inner surface of the chest wall (parietal pleura).

Pleural cavity. A space between the coverings of the outside of the lungs and the inside of the chest wall (the pleura).

Pleurisy. Inflammation of the coverings of the inside of the chest wall and the outside of the lungs (the pleura).

Pneumothorax. Air in the pleural cavity.

Polyarteritis nodosa. A disease of unknown cause in which there is patchy inflammation of the walls of the arteries.

Polycythemia vera. A condition of unknown cause marked by an abnormal increase in the number of circulating red blood cells, characterized by an increase in total blood volume and accompanied by nosebleed, distension of the circulatory vessels, and enlargement of the spleen – also called erythremia, erythrocythemia, Vaquez’s disease.

Proctocolitis. Inflammation of the rectum and colon.

Proteinuria. Presence of excess protein in the urine.

Psychosis. A group of mental disorders in which a patient loses contact with reality.

Psychotic. Having to do with psychosis.

Puerperium. Period after childbirth during which the uterus returns to normal size (about six weeks).

Pulmonary. Having to do with the lungs.

Pyelonephritis. Bacterial infection of the kidney substance.

Pyuria. Presence of pus in the urine, making it cloudy.

Regional enteritis. Enteritis affecting the portion of the small intestines nearest the colon and often spreading into the colon. Also known as Crohn’s disease.

Renal. Relating to or affecting the kidneys.

Rheumatic disease. Any of several diseases characterized by inflammation and pain in muscles or joints.

Rheumatic fever. A disease affecting mainly children and young adults characterized by fever, arthritis progressing from joint to joint, reddish circular patches on the skin, small painless nodules formed on bony prominences such as the elbow, abnormal involuntary movements of the limbs and head and inflammation of the heart muscle, its valves, and the membrane surrounding the heart.

Rheumatic heart disease. Active or inactive disease of the heart that results from rheumatic fever.

Rheumatoid arthritis. A form of arthritis that is the second most common rheumatic disease.

Sacroiliac. Having to do with, or being the joint connecting the spine to the pelvis.

Sacroiliitis. Inflammation of the sacroiliac joint or region.

Sarcoidosis. A chronic disease characterized by the formation of nodules resembling true tubercles esp. in the lymph nodes, lungs, bones, and skin - also known as Boeck’s disease, Boeck’s sarcoid, lupus pernio.

Schizophrenia. A severe mental disorder characterized by a disintegration of the process of thinking, of contact with reality, and of emotional responsiveness.

Sclerosis. Hardening of tissue, usually due to scarring after inflammation.

Septal. Having to do with the septum

Septum. A partition or dividing wall within an anatomical structure.

Spina bifida. A developmental defect in which the newborn baby has part of the spinal cord and its coverings exposed through a gap in the backbone.

Spondylopathy. A disease of the vertebrae.

Stenosis. The abnormal narrowing of a passage or opening.

Subacute. Describing a disease that progresses more rapidly than a chronic condition but does not become acute.

Subarachnoid. Situated or occurring under the arachnoid membrane.

Subcutaneous. Beneath the skin.

Suppurative. Having to do with the formation of, conversion into, or process of discharging pus.

Systemic. Having to do with the body as a whole, rather than individual parts or organs.

Tachycardia. An increase in the heart rate above normal.

Tetrology of Fallot. A form of congenital heart disease in which there is pulmonary stenosis, enlargement of the right ventricle, and a ventricular septal defect. The affected child is blue, and frequently squats. Usually corrected by surgery.

Thrombophlebitis. Phlebitis with secondary thrombosis occurring in the affected segment of the vein.

Thrombosis. A condition in which the blood changes from a liquid to a solid state and produces a blood clot.

Thyroid gland. A large endocrine gland situated in the base of the neck. The thyroid gland plays a role in regulating metabolic rate.

Thyrotoxicosis. Syndrome due to excessive amounts of thyroid hormone in the bloodstream causing a increased metabolic rate

Trachea. The windpipe: the part of the air passage between the larynx and the main bronchi.

Ulcer. A break in the skin or in the mucous membrane lining the digestive tract.

Ureter. A tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder.

Urethra. A tube that carries urine from the bladder to the exterior.

Vascular. Relating to or supplied with blood vessels.

Vein. A blood vessel carrying blood to the heart.

Ventricle. A chamber of the heart which receives blood from a corresponding atrium and from which blood is forced into the arteries.

Ventricular. Having to do with a ventricle.

Vertiginous. Of, relating to, characterized by, or affected with vertigo or dizziness.

Vertigo. A disordered state in which the individual or the individual’s surroundings seem to be constantly moving.

Vestibular system. The vestibule of the inner ear together with the end organs and nerve fibers that function in mediating the sense of balance.

Vestibule. A cavity situated at the entrance to a hollow part. The vestibule of the ear is the cavity of the bony labyrinth that contains the organs of equilibrium.