Browse glossary A-Z


abdomen (abdominal)
the portion of the body that lies between the pelvis and the thorax including the stomach, intestines, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas and bladder. Also referred to as the belly.

the uptake of a substance by a tissue in the body. For example, nutrients are absorbed through the wall of the intestine following a meal.

inflammation of a sebaceous gland causing pimples or spots usually on the face or back. Can be caused by an excess of male hormones (androgens).

Acromegaly is a condition that develops due to overproduction of growth hormone usually caused by a benign tumour of the pituitary gland. It leads to an increase in size of the hands and feet, and a change in the appearance of the face.

Action on Pre-eclampsia
A charity supporting women and families affected by pre-eclampsia.

referring to a condition that develops rapidly and is in an early stage.

Addison's disease
Addison's disease is caused by damage to the adrenal glands, which make hormones to control the body’s response to stress, and balance body salt and water. Treatment is with tablets and some lifestyle adaptations to ensure patients remain well.

Addison's Disease Self-Help Group
The Addison's Disease Self Help Group is the UK support group for men, women and children suffering from Addison's disease (or adrenal deficiency) and for their families.

a non-cancerous (benign) tumour originating in a gland that produces hormones.

specialised cells that store fat. Collectively they make up adipose (fat) tissue.

Adipose tissue
Adipose tissue (body fat) is crucial for health. Along with fat cells, adipose tissue contains numerous nerve cells and blood vessels, storing and releasing energy to fuel the body and releasing important hormones vital to the body’s needs.

adrenal crisis
acute medical problem due to failure of the adrenal glands to produce adequate cortisol. This is a medical emergency and must be treated urgently with steroid injections.

Adrenal glands
The adrenal glands are small structures attached to the top of each kidney. The human body has two adrenal glands that release chemicals called hormones into the bloodstream. These hormones affect many parts of the human body.

Adrenal hyperplasia network
The Adrenal Hyperplasia Network UK has been set up to provide support for all ages with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH), particularly adults and teenagers.

Adrenaline is a hormone released from the adrenal glands and its major action, together with noradrenaline, is to prepare the body for fight or flight.

Adrenocorticotropic hormone
Adrenocorticotropic hormone is produced by the pituitary gland. Its key function is to stimulate the production and release of cortisol from the cortex of the adrenal gland.

Adult growth hormone deficiency
Adult growth hormone deficiency is where the pituitary gland fails to produce enough growth hormone. It can be successfully treated with growth hormone therapy.

ALD LIFE aims to help all affected by or interested in adrenoleukodystrophy and adrenomyeloneuropathy, whether personally or medically.

Aldosterone is a steroid hormone. Its main role is to regulate salt and water in the body, thus having an effect on blood pressure.

patchy hair loss from the scalp.

Am I Normal?
A series of BBC radio 4 interviews by Vivienne Parry exploring health issues that affect our nation.

Amenorrhoea is the term used to describe a lack of ‘periods’ (menstrual cycles) in women. The management of amenorrhoea depends on the underlying cause.

American Association for Klinefelter Syndrome Information and Support
A US charity dedicated to improving education, research, support and understanding of Klinefelter syndrome.

American Diabetes Association
The American Diabetes Association is the US's main non-profit organisation providing diabetes research information and advocacy.

amino acids
the building blocks of proteins in our bodies. There are 20 in total; 12 are produced by the body and eight are essential and therefore should be supplied by the diet.

a surgical procedure performed at around week 16 of pregnancy to detect any genetic abnormalities with the foetus. A hollow needle is inserted into the uterus via the abdominal wall to draw out a sample of amniotic fluid which is then analysed.

anabolic steroid
a synthetic (man-made) steroid hormone used to stimulate muscle and bone growth.

anaemia (anaemic)
a decrease in the number of red blood cells or less than the normal quantity of haemoglobin in the blood, leaving a person feeling tired. A person with anaemia is described as anaemic.

where a person loses sensation and consciousness but does not lose vital functions such as breathing. Anaesthesia is usually brought on by drugs for medical reasons such as during surgery.

a drug that causes lack of feeling or awareness used during surgery.

a doctor responsible for administering anaesethetic prior to and during surgery. Called an anesthesiologist in the USA.

Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome Support Group
This is a group providing information and support to young people and adults with complete and partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, and to parents of AIS children.

a term used to describe a group of hormones that cause development and maintenance of male sexual characteristics such as facial hair, eg testosterone.

Androstenedione is a steroid hormone that has weak, androgenic actions on the body itself. However, it mainly acts as a stepping stone in the manufacture of testosterone and oestrogen within the body.

sudden onset of pain in the chest which may spread to the throat and arms. Usually brought on by exercise and and caused by reduced blood supply to the heart.

Angiotensin is a protein hormone that causes blood vessels to become narrower. It helps to maintain blood pressure and fluid balance in the body.

Animal research in science
The controlled and regulated use of laboratory animals in medical research has helped to extend our understanding of the healthy and diseased lifecourse, as well as the development of novel and effective therapeutic interventions.

Anorchidism Support Group
The Anorchidism Support Group was formed to serve and support any person, or the families of boys, with congenital or acquired absence of the testes.

Anti-diuretic hormone
Anti-diuretic hormone acts to maintain blood pressure, blood volume and tissue water content by controlling the amount of water and hence the concentration of urine excreted by the kidney.

Anti-Müllerian hormone
Anti-Müllerian hormone is important in the development of the reproductive tract in a male foetus and is also produced by the testes and ovaries.

the main blood vessel (artery) that carries oxygenated blood to all the tissues of the body. The aorta originates in the left side of the heart.

assisted reproductive therapy (ART)
processes through which a couple are helped in trying to conceive a child. An example is in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

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