Glossary

 

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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.

absorption
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.

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

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

acute
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.

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

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

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

alopecia
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
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.

amniocentesis
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.

anaesthesia
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.

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

anaesthetist
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.

androgens
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
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.

angina
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
Angiotensin helps to maintain blood pressure and fluid balance in the body.

Animal research in science
The use of laboratory animals is essential to medical research. Scientists experiment on animals in order to further our understanding of life and disease and without them many life saving treatments would remain undiscovered.

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 concentration of urine made by the kidneys.

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.

aorta
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).

Association for Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Disorders
AMEND is a patient group committed to supporting all those affected by multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) and its associated endocrine growths.

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