Jargon Buster

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A common chromosomal anomaly where part of the 22nd chromosome is deleted or duplicated. Common problems in this syndrome include nasal speech and problems with the development of speech and language.





Also referred to as termination of pregnancy, an abortion is the process of ending a pregnancy with medical intervention to stop the development of the foetus and consequent birth of a baby.  To find out more about this process and how you can get help with your decision visit our Termination of Pregnancy service webpages .


A pus-filled swelling which can occur in almost any part of the body and usually in spaces between the internal organs.  A common example is a boil which can occur on the skin.

access surgery

Surgery to create dialysis access, either vascular access for haemodialysis, or peritoneal access.

ACE inhibitors

Medicine that reduces the amount of work the heart has to do, helping to improve the flow of blood to the heart muscle in particular for patients with heart failure following a heart attack.  Find out more about ACE inhibitor medication at British Heart Foundation.


The cup shaped socket of the hip joint where the head of the thigh bone (femur) meets the pelvis.

acid reflux

A common condition which occurs when acid from the stomach makes its way back up the oesophagus (gullet) causing indigestion and heartburn.  This usually happens when the muscle joining the stomach and oesophagus is not working or cannot work well because the stomach is very full. Acid reflux can lead to heartburn developing into Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD) which in turn can lead to inflammation of the oesophagus called oesophagitis.  Find out more about this condition at NHS Choices.


A common skin condition which usually occurs during puberty but can develop during adulthood. Acne occurs when the sebaceous glands on the skin produce excessive levels of sebum (a natural oily secretion) which can block the pores and cause inflammation and painful spots. This condition mainly affects the face, back, chest and arms and there are treatments available. Find out more about this condition at NHS Choices.

acoustic neuroma

A rare, benign (non-cancerous) growth which is slow growing and found in the head affecting hearing and balance and sometimes facial nerves.  Find out more about this condition at NHS Choices.


Complementary therapy using needles and pressure points


An illness that appears suddenly

acute renal failure (ARF)

Rapid deterioration of kidney function caused by injury or illness; often reversible.

adaptive equipment

Devices that people can use to complete everyday tasks, including getting dressed, eating, bathing and grooming.

Addison's disease

A rare disorder affecting the adrenal glands which sit above the kidneys and produce hormones which control blood pressure, salt and water balance, and help fight infection.  Addison's disease affects the way these hormones are produced causing an imbalance of chemicals in the body.  Find out more about this condition at NHS Choices.


Operation to remove the adenoids - small lymph glands at the back of the throat, above the tonsils which help to fight infection and are only present during childhood. Sometimes repeated infections in the chest can cause the adenoids to become enlarged and inflamed and if severe enough can be removed.  Find out more about this procedure at NHS Choices.


When parts of the intestine join abnormally causing a blockage or obstruction.

adjuvant chemotherapy

Chemotherapy given as an "add-on" to primary cancer treatment, as in surgery or radiotherapy. Find out more about adjuvant chemotherapy at Cancer Research UK

Adult polycystic kidney disease

Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is a genetic condition that damages the kidneys by causing cysts to grow on them. Find out more about this condition at NHS Choices.


Anxiety attacks caused by open spaces, public places

air embolism

A condition which can occur when air bubbles become trapped in the blood.  Find out more about this condition at NHS Choices.

alcohol misuse or addiction

Heavy drinking of or addiction to alcohol can lead to serious health problems including cirrhosis of the liver and negative effects on mental, sexual and reproductive function.  Find out more about alcohol related problems and moderate drinking at Drink Aware.co.uk.

allergic rhinitis

Inflammation of the lining of the nose


Serious reaction to an allergen. Find out more about allergies, food intolerance and chemical insensitivity at Allergy UK.


The loss of hair, which may include all body hair as well as scalp hair. Find out more about this condition at Alopecia Awareness, Alopecia UK or NHS Choices.

Alzheimer's disease

A progressive condition of mental deterioration leading to loss of memory and difficulty talking.  Symptoms can cause frustration and confusion and develop further with notable changes in personality and behaviour.  Find out more about this condition at NHS Choices.


Often referred to as 'lazy eye', this condition can develop in childhood affecting vision in one or sometimes both eyes. Find out more about this condition at NHS Choices.


Amenorrhoea occurs when a female has no periods (menstruation).  This is usually when no eggs are being produced and is normal before a girl reaches puberty or during pregnancy, breastfeeding or the menopause.  However some women develop amenorrhoea due to other causes. Find out more about this condition at NHS Choices.


A special test carried out during pregnancy to find out if there is a risk of the baby developing genetic conditions such as Down's syndrome or musculo skeletal conditions such as muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis and spina bifida.  Find out more about this test at NHS Choices.

amniotic fluid

Watery liquid surrounding and cushioning a growing foetus (baby).


A shortage of properly functioning red blood cells. Haemoglobin in red blood cells carries oxygen around the body, and anaemia causes tiredness and shortage of breath. Normal kidneys produce erythropoietin, a hormone which stimulates red blood cell production.


Pain relief which is sometimes given during tests or surgery to stop the sensation of pain or other feelings.  A general anaesthetic is given when you need to be unconscious and a local anaesthetic is given to stop sensation in a particular part of the body.  Find out more about the controlled uses of anaesthesia at NHS Choices.

anal fissure

A tear in the lining of the wall of the anus

anal fistula

An abnormal passage between the anal canal and outer skin around the anus


Medical name for painkillers.


An abnormal widening or ballooning of a section of a blood vessel caused by a weakness in the wall. Find out more about aneuryms at NHS Choices.


Heaviness or tightness in the chest, which may spread to the arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach. Caused when the arteries become so narrow that not enough oxygen containing blood can reach the heart muscle when it needs it - such as during exercise. Find out more about this condition at the British Heart Foundation.


Swelling of the deep layers of skin


A test which looks inside the blood vessels (coronary arterties) to see where there might be any narrowing in the arteries.  Find out more about this test at the British Heart Foundation.


A procedure used to unblock or widen a blood vessel (coronary artery) using a process called stenting. Find out more about this procedure at the British Heart Foundation.

Angiotensin II receptor blockers

(ARBs) A class of drug with a similar function to ACE inhibitors, ie reducing blood pressure and improving heart function in heart failure

ankylosing spondylitis

A long-term condition affecting the spine. Ankylosing means inflammation and spondylitis means inflexibility of a joint so it cannot bend.  Find out more about this condition at NHS Choices.

antenatal health and care

Special care for mothers-to-be during the entire period of pregnancy when a multi disciplinary team of healthcare professionals including your Midwife and GP can monitor the development of the baby through antenatal appointments and check ups.  Find out more about antenatal care at NHS Choices.


A type of medicine given for bacteria infections.


A special protein formed when the body comes into contact with an allergen.


A type of medicine that stops the blood from clotting.


A medicine that reduces or prevents seizures or fits.

antidepressant drugs

Drugs to treat depression


A medicine that reduces feelings of sickness.

antihistamine drugs

Drugs that treat symptoms of allergies


The body's main blood vessel.

aortic aneurysm

A balloon-like swelling of the aorta.


Brain disorder affecting language and communication - also known as dysphasia. Aphasia is always due to injury to the brain - most commonly from a stroke. But brain injuries resulting in aphasia may also arise from head trauma, brain tumors, or infections. Find out more about this condition at NHS Choices.


Appendicitis is a serious condition caused by inflammation of the appendix. It is often caught in early stages of development and itis usually treated by surgical removal of the appendix. Find out more about this condition at NHS Choices.


A disorder of the heart rhythm.


Vessels which carry blood from the heart to other parts of the body.


Painful condition of the joints and bones caused by wear and tear of cartilage resulting in the bones of joints rubbing together. The two main types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis and joints most often affected are in the hands, hips, knees and the spine. Find out more about the condition at Arthritis Research UK.


Knee replacement surgery to replace a damaged or worn knee joint with an artificial joint known as an implant. Find out more about this procedure at Arthritis Research UK.


A 'keyhole' surgical procedure using a small tube with a light attached to a tiny camera through a small incision in the skin to inspect and treat problems inside a joint. It can be used to investigate conditions such as arthritis and damage to ligaments and cartilage of joints. Find out more about this procedure at NHS Choices.


A long-term lung condition affecting respiratory function and breathlessness due to scarring caused by inhalation of asbestos fibres. Find out more about this condition at the British Lung Foundation.


A condition that causes the airways of the lungs (the bronchi) to become swollen and irritated often caused by an allergic reaction to substances such as pollen, animal hair, dust mites cold air and chest infections. Find out more about this condition at Asthma UK.


A common and treatable eye condition causing blurred vision and headaches. Treatments include corrective lenses and surgery. Find out more about this condition at NHS Choices.


Describes imperfect control which affects a person's stance or gait. Sensory ataxia is a loss of perception of joint positioning: a high stepping or stamping gait develops. Find out more about this condition at Ataxia UK.


Fatty material that can build up within the walls of the arteries.


A condition where the arteries – the blood vessels that supply oxygen and other nutrients to the body's organs – harden and become narrower.This can restrict the supply of blood. Find out more about this condition at NHS Choices.

atrial fibrillation

An irregular fast heartbeat, at up to 400 beats a minute.


One of the chambers of the heart.


A wasting or decrease in size of body muscle, organ or tissue owing to disease, injury, or lack of use. 

autistic disorders

Autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of conditions including autism and Asperger syndrome which affect communication and in particular how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. Find out more about this condition at the National Autistic Society.

autoimmune disease

A condition when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's tissues rather than a foreign substance. 


Also known as post-mortem, this is an examination of a body following death to determine the cause of death and is carried out by a specialist doctor called a pathologist.


Baker's cyst

A lump which develops behind the knee and fills with joint fluid. A Baker's cyst sometimes occurs after an injury or inflammation of the knee joint. Find out more about this condition at NHS Direct.


A condition affecting the head of the penis (the glans) caused by bacterial infection. Find out more about this condition at NHS Direct.

barium enema

A procedure for examining the large bowel (intestine) using a special x-ray to help diagnose bowel related problems. Normal x-rays do not provide a clear picture of the bowel and so a substance called barium sulphate is put directly into the rectum (enema) which coats the inside of the bowel helping to produce a clearer picture. Find out more about this procedure at the Royal College of Radiologists or NHS Direct.

basal cell carcinoma (BCC)

The most common type of skin cancer (also known as rodent ulcers) that does not behave aggressively and does not spread to other areas but do need to be removed. Find out more about this condition at NHS Choices.

Behcet's disease

A disorder when the immune system becomes over-active causing inflammation in different parts of the body - areas with small blood vessels are mostly affected.  Find out more about this condition at the Behcet's Society.

Bell's palsy

A condition when facial muscles and nerves are affected by paralysis, usually on one side. This can affect smiling, frowning, eating and closing eyelids. Find out more about this condition at the Bells Palsy Association or NHS Direct.


Medicine used to treat conditions such as angina, heart failure and high blood pressure by slowing the heart rate. Find out more about this medication at NHS Direct.


Both sides.

bile duct

Tube that drains bile from the liver and gall bladder into the small intestine. Bile is a digestive fluid produced by the liver to break down fat.

biliary system

Includes the gallbladder, bile ducts inside and outside the liver.  The biliary system creates, transports, stores, and releases bile into the duodenum to help digestion.


A simple method of taking a small sample of tissue for analysis under a microscope to help diagnose a range of conditions. Find out more about biopsies at NHS Choices.

bipolar disorder

Manic depressive illness that affects mood swinging from one extreme to another. Find out more about this condition at NHS Direct.


A muscular sac that holds urine.


A common condition that causes inflammation of the eyelids when the body tries to fight an injury or infection. Find out more about this condition at NHS Direct.

bolus injection

When a drug is injected directly into a vein.

bone marrow transplant (BMT)

Method of transferring bone marrow and stem cells donated by one person to another. The new stem cells take over production of the blood cells in the bone marrow. Find out more at NHS Direct.




Pain in the neck and arm due to nerve root irritation or compression.


A type of radiation therapy is which radioactive materials are placed in direct contact with the tissue being treated.


A slow heart rate.

breech position

Most babies are born headfirst, but at the end of pregnancy, around 3% are found to be in bottom down position.


Bronchiectasis is caused by an abnormal widening of one or more airways in the lungs, and can occur for a number of reasons.  Problems are caused when extra mucus develops in the abnormal airways, making them prone to infection. Find out more about this condition at the British Lung Foundation.


A viral condition which causes inflammation and blockage of the airways during childhood. Find out more about this condition at the British Lung Foundation.


An investigative procedure where a tube (rigid or flexible) is inserted into the airways of the lungs to examine for abnormalities such as bleeding, inflammation or tumours and sometimes biopsies are taken. Find out more about this procedure at the British Lung Foundation.


A bony swelling at the base of the big toe which can be inflamed, swollen and painful. Find out more about this condition and treatment at NHS Direct.

burn, first degree

A superficial burn with similar characteristics to typical sun burn ie the skin is red in color and sensation is painful. Find out more about burns and scalds at NHS Choices.

bypass surgery

An operation to bypass narrowed sections of coronary arteries and improve the blood supply to the heart. Find out more about this condition at the British Heart Foundation.


caesarean section

Procedure where a baby is delivered by cutting through the front wall of the abdomen to open the womb. Find out more about this procedure at NHS Direct


A thin plastic tube that is inserted into a vein to enable medicines or blood to be given.

cardiac arrest

When the heart stops pumping.

cardiac catheterisation

A test to assess the condition of the heart.


A doctor specialising in heart disease. 


Disease of the heart muscle.


A procedure to restore a regular heart rhythm.

carotid doppler

An ultrasound scan of the carotid arteries in the front of the neck to check blood flow to the brain. Find out more about this investigation at The Stroke Association.

carotid endarterectomy

Surgery which is performed on the carotid arteries in the neck to ease blood flow to the brain. Find out more about this operation at NHS Choices or The Vascular Society.

carpal tunnel syndrome

A condition affecting the thumb and fingers caused by pressure on the main nerve in the hand which passes through the carpal tunnel - a narrow space at the front of the wrist containing tendons that bend the fingers. Find out more about this condition at the NHS Choices.


A smooth, connecting tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint. Find out more about conditions affecting cartilage and treatment at NHS Direct.


An eye condition when the lens of the eye (the part that we see through) becomes clouded and makes it difficult to see. Find out more about this condition at RNIB.


A plastic tube inserted into the body to give medicines or drain away fluids.

cerebral palsy

A neurological condition caused by damage to the brain either before, during or soon after birth affecting a child's movement and coordination. Find out more about this condition at Scope.

cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)

The fluid that surrounds the brain and the spinal cord.


Strong cytotoxic medicine used to treat cancer including leukaemia and lymphomas by destroying cancer cells..  Find out more about chemotherapy treatment at the Northern Cancer Network.


Very rare type of cancer affecting the bile ducts. Find out more about this condition at NHS Choices.


A fatty substance mainly made in the body by the liver.  Cholesterol plays a vital role in how every cell in the body works but too much cholesterol in the blood can increase the risk of getting coronary heart disease.


Part of each cell in the body that holds genetic information (DNA).


Severe or persistent (long term) condition.

chronic obstruction pulmonary disease (COPD)

Permanent respiratory disease which occurs as a result of damage to the lungs, usually through smoking. Find out more about COPD at the British Lung Foundation.


Fine hairlike organs on the surface of some cells, particularly the cells lining the upper respiratory tract (lungs and airway).


Scarring of the liver tissue due to injury or long-term disease. Scar tissue cannot do what healthy liver tissue does - make protein, help fight infections, clean the blood, help digest food and store energy. Find out more about cirrhosis at NHS Choices.

cleft lip and palate

A cleft lip is a gap in the upper lip and a cleft palate is a gap in the roof of the mouth. This condition sometimes run in families. Find out more about this condition at NHS Choices.

cochlear implant

An electronic device worn like a hearing aid that gives a 'sensation' of hearing if you are profoundly deaf. It processes sounds into electrical signals which are sent to an internal part surgically implanted in your ear. Find out more about cochlear implants at RNID.

coeliac disease

A common bowel condition caused by an allergic reaction or intolerance to gluten often found in bread, pasta and other foods made with wheat, rye and barley.  Find out more about this condition at Coeliac UK.

cognitive behavioural therapy

A type of talking therapy that can help you to manage problems by changing the way you think and behave.


Part of the large intestine (which also includes the rectum) which conserves water by extracting it from bowel contents (faeces).


A procedure that enables an examiner (usually a gastroenterologist) to screen your colon (large bowel) for abnormalities.


A surgical procedure to create access to the colon via the abdominal wall through an artificial opening called a stoma through which faeces can makes its way to a special colostomy bag.  Find out more about this procedure at the Colostomy Association.


Examination of the cervix (neck of the womb). Find out more about this procedure at The British Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology.


Condition that is present at birth.

congenital heart disease

Heart or circulatory conditions that are present from birth.


A condition affecting the eye caused by inflammation of the transparent membrane covering the eye called the conjunctiva.  Find out more about this condition at Patient UK.


An inability to pass bowel contents (stools or faeces) easily or completely. Stools can become hard causing pain and discomfort and if a short-term problem can be easily treated. Long term difficulties in moving bowel contents may be due to a more serious underlying condition and cause complications and may need specialist treatment. Find out more about this condition at NHS Choices.

contrast medium

Substance used during certain radiological investigations that shows up on x-ray.


Transparent, dome-shaped window (like the crystal on a watch) covering the front of the eye. Find out more about conditions affecting the cornea at the RNIB website.

coronary heart disease (CHD)

When the walls of the arteries become narrowed by a gradual build up of fatty material called artheroma.

Crohns disease

A condition that affects the whole of the gastrointestinal system from the oesophagus (gullet) to the large intestine (bowel). Symptoms include diarrhoea, ulcers and associated pain. Find out more about this condition at the National Association for Colitis and Crohn's Disease or NHS Choices.

CT scan (computerised tomography)

A special scan that uses x-rays and a computer to form pictures of the insides of the body.

cystic fibrosis

A genetic condition which affects the body's ability to control movement of water in and out of cells in the body leading to bodily secretions developing into a thick mucus. This causes difficulty in various parts of the body including the lungs and digestive system. Find out more about this condition at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.


A condition affecting the bladder when the lining becomes inflammed and irritated, usually due to an infection.  Find out more about this condition at NHS Direct.


A procedure using a cystoscope, a thin viewing telescope, to examine the inside of the bladder to help diagnosis of bladder conditions, take biopsies or carry out minor surgery.  Find out more about this procedure at NHS Choices.


The study of cells in terms of structure, function and chemistry.


deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

A condition which develops when a blood clot forms in the vein, usually a deep leg vein in the calf, which can lead to a blockage in blood flow causing difficulty with movement. Development of a blood clot in a vein or artery can be serious and requires immediate treatment. Find out more about DVTs at NHS Choices.


A large electric shock given through the chest wall to the heart, to restore a normal heartbeat.

DEXA or DXA scan

A special scan used to measure bone mineral density and work out whether the readings are significantly lower than normal for your age and sex. These measurements can diagnose the presence or risk of development of osteoporosis and other bone disorders. Find out more about this scan at NHS Direct.


A condition caused by too much glucose in the blood due to the pancreas producing insufficient insulin (a hormone which moves glucose from blood into cells where it is broken down to produce energy). Find out more about diabetes at Diabetes UK or NHS Direct.

diabetic retinopathy

A condition associated with diabetes affecting the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that feed the retina at the back of the eye. Any damage to these capillaries can seriously affect vision and is one of the most common causes of blindness. Find out more about this condition at RNIB or Diabetes UK.


A process to remove waste products from the blood when the kidneys are unable to do this naturally because of a temporary disorder or renal (kidney) failure. Find out more about this process at the National Kidney Federation.


Dome shaped muscle that separates chest from the abdomen (stomach).


Passing of frequent, watery bowel contents usually accompanied by stomach pains, feeling sick and dizzy, and loss of appetite. It can lead ato dehydration which if not treated, especially in children, can become serious. Short term diarrhoea is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection whereas long term problems can be due to a more serious disorder. Find out more about this condition at NHS Direct.

digital hearing aid

Digital hearing aids have a tiny computer inside to process sounds which makes it possible to customise the aid to suit your hearing loss very precisely. Find out more about hearing aids at RNID.


Medicine used to treat heart failure and some abnormalities of the heart rhythm.  Made from the foxglove plant digitalis.

dilatation and curettage (D&C)

A minor surgical procedure to remove a small part of the lining of the womb (uterus) called the endometrium to help diagnose conditions or remove fibroids (non-cancerous tumours). Find out more about this procedure at NHS Direct.

diplopia (double vision)

A visual disorder which causes double vision, ie. seeing two images of a single object at the same time which can affect the ability to read, walk and carry normal day to day tasks. Find out more about diplopia at NHS Direct.


Medicine that encourages the body to produce urine relieving build up of fluid. 


A common condition affecting the large intestine (colon) when small sections called diverticula become infected or inflammed leading to pain and discomfort, often accompanied by either diarrhoea or constipation. If left untreated this condition can develop into more serious problems requiring specialist treatment. Find out more about this condition at Diverticulitis 101 or NHS Direct.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid)

Genetic instructions found in chromosomes.


Part of the small intestine.

Dupuytren's contracture

A progressive condition affecting the hands with the fingers bending towards the palm of the hand due to shortening of the connective tissues. Minor to major surgical treatment is available for severely affected hand function. Find out more about this condition at NHS Direct.


Weakness of muscles involved in speech resulting in slurred speech. Find out more about this condition at Patient UK.


A type of infection which develops in the bowel causing severe diarrhoea (loose, watery stools) usually due to poor hygiene. There are two types of dysentery: bacillary caused by bacteria (most common cause in the UK) and amoebic caused by an amoeba parasite which are usually picked up abroad. Find our more about this condition at NHS Direct.


A condition which affects reading, writing and spelling. Find out more about this condition at the British Dyslexia Association.

dyspepsia (indigestion)

A very common symptom of discomfort or pain after having eaten, usually a large meal or particularly rich food. Often called 'heartburn', a burning sensation is usually experienced in the chest area together with bloatedness or excess wind (burping). Recurrent indigestion may suggest problems with the digestive system needing specialist treatment. Find out more about this condition at NHS Direct.


A symptom of experiencing difficulty, pain or discomfort when swallowing. In severe cases some people are unable to swallow at all due to damage to or a weakening of the muscles and nerves from the mouth, through the throat to the stomach. Find out more about dysphagia at NHS Direct and Patient UK.


A condition when a person has difficulty with coordination, balanace, planning and carrying out sensory tasks. Find out more about this condition at the Dyspraxia Foundation.


A neurological movement disorder where the brain sends the wrong signals to muscles in the body causing involuntary spasms and twitches. Find out more about this condition at the Dystonia Society.


ECG test

A test to record the rhythm and electrical activity of the heart.


An ultrasound  picture of the heart that shows the structure of the heart and how it is working.

ECMO (extra corporeal membrane oxygenation)

Special technique of providing both cardiac and respiratory support oxygen to patients whose heart and lungs are so severely diseased that they can no longer serve their function.

ectopic pregnancy

When a fertilised egg becomes implanted outside of the womb, the majority of which occur in one of the fallopian tubes, and which need to be specially treated. Find out more about this condition at the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust or NHS Direct.


A common condition associated with ageing where the muscles around the eyes become weakened causing the lower lid to drop away from the eye leaving it exposed and vulnerable to infection. Find out more about this condition at NHS Direct.


A common skin condition also known as dermatitis with symptoms of itchiness, heat induced inflammation and dry, flaky skin. Eczema can be caused by allergic reactions and is closely linked to hayfever and asthma. Find out more about this condition at the National Eczema Society.

EEG (electroencephalogram)

A special test that shows brain activity as cells send messages (electrical signals) to each other. The EEG test involves the attachment of electrodes (flat metal discs) to either side of the scalp which record brain waves sending them to the EEG machine where can be shown on a monitor. Find out more about this test at the Brain and Spine Foundation.


See ECG test.

electrophysiological study

A test to detect and give information about abnormal heart rhythms.


Blockage in the bloodstream which can be caused by either a blood clot, particle of fat of bubble of air. Find out more about embolisms at NHS Direct.


A condition where the air sacs in the lungs (alveoli) become rigid and airways become narrowed making it difficult to breathe. Find out more about this condition at the British Lung Foundation.


A condition affecting the brain when there is inflammation and swelling of the tissue caused by either an infection, virus or autoimmune disease (when the immune system attacks the brain instead of an infection). Find out more about this condition at the Encephalitis Society, or the Brain and Spine Foundation.


A relatively uncommon condition caused by an infection of the heart muscle resulting in inflammation of the heart tissue and valves. Find out more about this condition at Patient UK and NHS Direct.

endocrine system

Integrated system of small organs that involve the release of hormones which regulate metabolism, growth and development and tissue function.


Endometrial tissue lines the womb, thickening during the menstrual cycle in preparation for possible pregnancy. When pregnancy does not occur the lining sheds producing bleeding which exists via the vagina known as a period. Sometimes endometrial tissue becomes implanted outside of the uterus and can become trapped causing irritation and inflammation - this is called endometriosis. Find out more about this condition at Endometriosis UK.


A procedure to examine different parts of the body using a long flexible tube with a light source and video camera (endoscope). An endoscopy is normally carried out when you are awake, though you may be given a sedative to relax you. The majority of endoscopies are carried out to help diagnosis of ailments but they can be used to treat certain conditions, such as gallstones. Find out more about this condition at NHS Direct.

enteral feeding

Nutritional supplement given directly into the stomach via a nasogastric tube (gastrostomy).


The medical term for bedwetting during the night-time which is very common in young children. Find out more about this condition at ERIC (Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence).


Proteins that help to stimulate chemical actions in the body.

epidural anaesthesia

Pain relief given between vertebrae in the spine to stop sensation in the lower body - a popular method of pain relief during labour and childbirth. Find out more at the National Childbirth Trust or  NHS Choices.


A common neurological condition defined as a tendency to have recurrent, unprovoked seizures, or sudden disturbances of electrical activity in the brain. There are many causes of epilepsy and special tests are often needed to find out why it has developed and what the best treatment would be. Find out more about epilepsy at the National Society for Epilepsy or NHS Direct.


A procedure to cut in the perineum (area of skin and muscle between the vagina and the anus) which is sometimes carried out during the delivery of a baby to avoid serious tearing in this area. Find out more about this procedure at Patient UK or NHS Direct.

exercise ECG

An ECG recording taken while exercising on an exercise bike or treadmill.


Complication of intravenous infusion when fluid medication leaks from cannula into tissue.


facet joints

Facet joints occur in pairs at the back of each vertebra linking them to form a working unit allowing movement of the spine. The structure of the facet joint is identical to other joints in the body, such as knees and hips.

febrile convulsions

Fits or seizures affecting young children who have a fever related high temperature.



fibreoptic endoscopy

A fibreoptic endoscopy is where a fine tube is passed through the nose so Speech and Language Therapists can see the top of the throat, and observe the structures involved in swallowing.


Twitching or quivering or the heart muscle.


A protein formed by clotting factors in the blood to act as part of the clotting process.


Benign (non-cancerous) growths of smooth muscle and fibrous tissue which develop in the womb. Find out more about this condition and treatments available at Patient UK or NHS Direct.


A long term condition which affects the muscles and ligaments causing pain and fatigue. Find out more about this condition at Arthritis Research Campaign or NHS Direct.


Tubes join together abnormally.

fractions (RT)

The radiotherapy dose is divided into a number of smaller doses (known as fractions) to reduce the risk of side effects.

frozen shoulder

A common condition causing stiffness and pain in the shoulder affecting normal movement. Find out more about this condition at Patient UK or the Arthritis Research Campaign.


gallbladder and gallstones

A small sac which stores bile produced the liver to help with digestion. Sometimes gallstones occur when there is too much cholesterol in the bile and are usually the size of a pea or gravel but can develop into one large stone. Find out more about conditions relating to the gallbladder at Patient UK or NHS Direct.


A very common often very infectious condition caused by a viral or bacterial infection in the stomach and intestines with symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting. Find out more about this condition at NHS Direct.


Known as 'gum disease' this is a condition caused by build up of plaque made up of bacteria which releases toxins causing gums to become red, inflammed and swollen and can cause bleeding on brushing teeth. Find out more about this condition at the British Dental Health Foundation or NHS Choices.


A common eye condition which occurs when the pressure within the eye is too high for the nerves at the back (optic nerve) to obtain an adequate supply of blood. It can lead to loss of eyesight if left untreated. Find out more about this condition at RNIB.


A condition affecting kidney function caused by inflammation of the glomeruli (tiny filters which remove waste products from the blood). This can cause a build up of excess salt and fluid leading to complications such as high blood pressure and kidney failure. Find out more about this condition at the National Kidney Federation.

glue ear

A childhood condition which causes a build up of fluid in the middle ear which if unable to drain away becomes sticky like glue causing blockage of the middle ear and hearing impairment. Common types of treatment include insertion of grommets, removal of the adenoids (adenoidectomy) or autoinflation to open up blocked areas by blowing into a special balloon. Find out more about this condition at RNID or ENT UK.


The term "grading" refers to the appearance of the cancer cells under the microscope. The grade gives an idea of how quickly the cancer may develop.


A tiny tube inserted into the ear following a procedure for 'glue ear' which allows air to flow freely.  Usually drop out of own accord 9-12 months after the procedure.

GTN (glyceryl trinitrate)

Medicine that opens up the blood vessels.  

Guillain-Barre syndrome

A rare but serious disease affecting the nerves which are not part of the central nervous system ie. brain and spinal cord, (known as peripheral nervous system). The syndrome makes the immune system attack these nerves causing widespread inflammation which can result in short-term loss of feeling and movement. Find out more about this condition at the Guillain-Barre Syndrome Support Group or NHS Choices.


The term ‘gut’ is used to describe the whole digestive system. This includes the oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, gallbladder, small and large bowel (colon).



A collection of small blood vessels that produces a lump in the skin sometimes called strawberry marks. Haemangiomas can be superficial (capillary) or deep (cavernous). Find out more about this condition and other birthmarks at NHS Choices.


Collection of blood.


The appearance of blood in the urine.


A condition when too much iron is absorbed by the body and then deposited in other parts of the body, usually around the liver and heart. These deposits can cause symptoms such as nausea, stomach pain, constipation and joint pain and lead to liver damage and heart failure. Find out more about this condition at the Haemochromatosis Society or NHS Choices.


A process to remove waste products from the blood when the kidneys are unable to do this naturally because of a temporary disorder or renal (kidney) failure. Find out more about this process at the National Kidney Federation.


Red fluid in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body.


A rare condition affecting the blood clotting system which means you may bleed for longer than usual or bleed internally. Find out more about this condition at the Haemophilia Society.




Bad breath is most commonly caused by a build up of bacteria in the mouth due to a build up of food, plaque or gum disease.

heart failure

The term used for when the pumping action of the heart becomes less efficient. Find out more about heart failure at the British Heart Foundation.


Total loss of movement or paralysis affecting one side of the body due to damage to the opposite side of the brain. 


Inflammation of the liver which is caused by a viral infection. The most common types are hepatitis A, B and C. Find out more about this condition at the British Liver Trust or NHS Direct.


Passed on from a parent to the child.


When an internal part of the body such as the intestine pushes through a weakness in the muscle or surrounding tissue wall.


The study of the microscopic anatomy of cells and tissues.


HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), a sexually transmitted virus (STI) that attacks the immune system by infecting and destroying cells responsible for fighting infection until the body's immune system stops working. Find out more about this condition at the Terrence Higgins Trust or NHS Choices.


Haematopoietic stem cell transplant: stem cells are transplanted from bone marrow, peripheral blood or cord blood.

Huntington's disease

A hereditary neurological disorder which damages the nerve cells in the brain causing gradual loss of all functions affecting movement, cognition (perception, awareness, thinking, judgement) and behaviour. Find out more about this condition at the Huntington's Disease Association.


Also known as "water on the brain" hydrocephalus occurs when excess fluid builds up in the brain and can cause brain damage. Find out more about this condition at the Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus or NHS Choices.


A water-based treatment that provides a different environment to treat patients. It uses the properties of warm water - such as buoyancy, resistance and turbulence - to help with treatment.


Medical term for high blood pressure. Find out more about this condition at NHS Choices.


A condition when glucose levels in the blood become abnormally low. This occurs in people with diabetes but can also be experienced if you have missed a meal or been drinking alcohol on an empty stomach and can lead to unconsciousness. Find out more about this condition at Diabetes UK or NHS Choices


Medical term for low blood pressure. Find out more about this condition at NHS Choices.


Medical term for an underactive thyroid which means the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones to keep the metabolism functioning effectively. Find our more about this condition at NHS Choices.


A relatively common procedure to surgically remove the womb (uterus) to treat conditions such as heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia), fibroids (non-cancerous tumours) and cancer. Find out more about this procedure at Patient UK and NHS Choices.


ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator)

A device that is implanted in the body to restore a normal heart rhythm.


A surgical procedure to divert the end of the small intestine (ileum) from the colon through a hole made in the abdomen (stoma) where waste products go into an external pouch. Find out more about this procedure at the Ileostomy and Internal Pouch Support Group or NHS Direct.


Also known as vaccinations these are usually given during childhood by injection to help build up the immune system against a range of diseases. Find out more about immunisation at NHS Choices.


A highly contagious bacterial infection affecting the skin which can usually be treated with antibiotic cream. Find out more about this condition at Patient UK or NHS Direct.

in vitro fertilisation (IVF)

A specialist technique to assist people with fertility problems to have a baby and involves an egg being removed from the ovary and fertilised with sperm before being replaced in the uterus. Find out more about IVF at the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority or NHS Choices.

informed consent

Where patients agree to a treatment or randomisation to a clinical trial having a reasonable understanding of it.


International Normalised Ratio (INR) is the clinical system used to measure how long it takes for your blood to clot especially when you are on blood clotting or thinning medication.


A condition which causes disturbance with sleeping and sometimes an inability to sleep at all. Find out more about this condition at Patient UK or NHS Choices.


Proteins produced by the body to regulate cell functions. Interferons are produced in the laboratory in large quantities, and are sometimes used in the treatment of certain cancers.


Through the vein.



A condition caused by a build up of bilirubin (a by product of blood cells usually broken down by the liver) causing a yellowish tinge to the skin and whites of the eyes. Find out more at NHS Choices.


kidney stones

Kidney stones occur when waste products turn into crystals and collect inside the kidney forming a hard stone-like lump. They often become blocked in the urinary system causing pain and sometimes leading to infection. Find out more about this condition and treatment at Patient UK and NHS Direct.

knee replacement

A surgical procedure to replace a damaged or worn knee joint with an artificial joint. Also known as an arthroplasty.



A condition caused by an inflammation of the structures of inner ear called the labyrinth which controls your hearing and balance. Inflammation causes dizziness, vertigo and problems with hearing. Find out more about this condition at NHS Direct.


A procedure to look inside the abdomen using a laparoscope which is a thin tube with a light source and microscope to help diagnosis of a range of conditions, take biopsies or carry out keyhole surgery. Find out more about this procedure at NHS Direct.


Surgical procedure in which the larynx (or ‘voice box’) is removed.

laser therapy

Treatment using a powerful, focused beam of light that produces intense heat used to remove cancerous or damaged tissue.

LCD cholesterol

Low density lipoprotein.  The more 'harmful' cholesterol.


The name for cancers affecting the white blood cells that fight infection in the body. Find out more about this condition at Cancerbackup or NHS Choices.


Lower back pain or aching. Find out more about the causes of back pain and treatment available at the Arthritis Research Campaign.


A long-term autoimmune condition where the body produces antibodies which attack the body's connective tissues. Find out more about this condition at Lupus UK or the Arthritis Research Campaign.


A condition when excess fluid around the tissues of the body builds up and cannot drain away naturally via the lymphatic drainage system leading to chronic swelling (oedema) in the tissues. Find out more about this condition at the Lymphodema Support Network or NHS Choices.


macular degeneration

A painless disorder that affects the macula (central part of the retina) in one or both eyes, macula degeneration causes progressive loss of vision.


Low-dose X-ray use to examine the breast enabling radiologists to look for abnormalities.

mechanical valve

Manufactured valve.


Melanoma is the rarest, but most serious form of skin cancer as it is more likely to spread than other type.

Menière’s disease

A condition affecting the inner ear which results intermittant attacks of vertigo, fluctuating hearing loss and fluctuating tinnitus. You can find out more about Meniere's disease at NHS Choices.


Infection of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). Find out more about meningitis at NHS Choices.


Metabolism refers to all the physical and chemical processes in the body that create and use energy.


Surgery on minute and complex structures such as blood vessels and nerves requiring an operating microscope.


Known as the powerhouses of cells, they take in nutrients, break them down, and create energy for the cell. When this process does not work it can lead to problems with muscular and other sensory function.

MRI scan

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. An MRI scan is a detailed picture of internal organs of the body, which is produced using a magnetic field and radio waves.

MRI scans

A detailed picture of internal organs of the body, produced using a magnetic field and radio waves.


An extra noise in the heart, heard through a stethoscope.


The musculoskeletal system is made up of bones, muscles, cartilage, tedons, ligaments, joints and other connective tissues throughout the body.

myocardial infarction

A heart attack. Find out more about myocardial infarcation at NHS Choices.


Neuromuscular disease resulting in muscular weakness.



Care for newborn children.


Neuroblastoma is a cancer that often begins in early childhood and forms in the nerve tissue usually beginning in the adrenal glands (which sit atop the kidneys) but may also begin in the neck, chest or spinal cord.


Disease or disorder affecting the nerves. Find out more about neuropathy at NHS Choices.


Medicine that opens up the blood vessels.


Injection treatment for back pain due to nerve root irritation due to disc problems.





A long tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach, also known as the gullet and is part of the digestive system.

oral thrush

Fungal infection of the mouth.


This is the branch of medicine relating to the musculoskeletal system, which includes the body's bones, muscles, joints and tendons.


External devices that support limbs or bodies to allow patients to lead the most independent life possible.


Known as 'wear and tear' arthritis, this causes joint related problems including pain, stiffness, inflammation and damage to the joint cartliage and surrounding structures.

osteo-chondral defect (OCD)

Damage to the smooth cartilage covering the joint surface of the ankle bone (talus).


Infection of the bones. 'Osteo' means bone and 'itis' means inflammation or infection.


Infection of the bones. 'Osteo' means bone, and 'itis' means inflammation or infection.



A device that is implanted to stimulate the heart to contract and produce heartbeats.

palliative treatment

Treatment which relieves the symptoms and pain.


When you feel as if you heart is beating abnormally fast, irregularly or heavily.


The pancreas is an organ in the digestive system which produces several important hormones which circulate around the blood. The pancreas also helps the body to digest and absorb nutrients.


A series of connected telescopes used to look at your upper airways.


The sounds that make up language.


Operation to correct protruding ears in children due to a defect in part of the cartilage (gristle) of the ear.


A type of treatment that looks exactly like the treatment being tested, but it does not actually contain any part of that treatment. Some studies compare a new treatment against a placebo to test if the effect of the new treatment is a true one or not.


The placenta (also known as afterbirth) allows your baby to get all its oxygen and nutrients from you.

plantar fasciitis

Inflammation of the plantar fascia - a band of tissue (like a ligament) that stretches from the heel to the middle of the foot.


Tiny blood cells which are important for helping the blood to clot.


Feeling faint due to reduced flow of oxygenated blood to the brain, but without loss of consciousness (syncope).


A gland found in men surrounding the urethra (tube which carries urine from the bladder to the penis). The gland makes a thick white fluid which mixes with sperm to make semen.


Inflammation of the prostate gland.


An artificial limb.

psychosocial assessment

A psychosocial assessment is an evaluation of a patient's mental, physical and emotional health. The assessment looks at physical health as well as the patient's perceptions of themelves, and their place in their community.


Surgical repair of the connection between the kidney and the ureter (tube that drains the urine from the kidney to the bladder).


radioisotope scan

A test that provides pictures of the heart.


Safe use of controlled doses of radiation to treat disease, especially cancer.  Usually given by pointing an X-ray machine at the part of the body to be treated, but can also be given by drinking liquid, having an injection or having a radioactive implant put into your body (brachytherapy).


The process of allowing people who have had a serious injury, illness or surgery to recover and regain strength, skillls and function.

renal adenocarcinoma

Renal cell cancers (RCC) that occur in the kidneys.

renal calculi

Kidney stones which are hardened mineral deposits that develop in the kidney over time.



Bone cancer which is rare affecting only one person in million. It usually occurs at the lower end of the thighbone (femur) or at the knee joint, but it can also appear in other long bones.


Pain down the leg, which is caused by irritation of the main nerve into the leg.


Abnormal curvature of the spine to one side. The chest area (thoracic scoliosis) and lower back (lumbar scoliosis) are the most common areas to be affected. Find out more about this condition at NHS Choices.


Blood poisoning.


Air filled spaces within the skull of the face.

sinus bradycardia

A normal, slow heart rhythm.

sinus node

Part of the heart that produces the electrical impulses that control the heart's pumping action.

sinus tachycardia

A normal fast heart rhythm.

sleep apnoea

A sleep disorder when the upper airway (pharynx) collapses repeatedly, at irregular intervals, during sleep. 

spina bifida

Condition caused by the failure of the embryo's neural tube to develop properly resulting in an incorrectly developed spine.




A small support frame used during an angioplasty procedure and which is placed inside a artery (blood vessel) which has become narrowed or blocked. Find out more about this procedure in our Radiology section under "What is an Angioplasty" or at The Vascular Society.


An opening to the outside of the body formed during surgery.  


When the blood supply to the brain is interrupted either by atheroma in one of the arteries to the brain, or by bleeding from one of these arteries into the brain.  Symptoms can include temporary or permanent loss of the use of one or more limbs, or loss of speech.


Under the tongue.


Stitches, which are sterile, surgical threads used to repair cuts (lacerations).


Loss of consciousness, fainting or 'blackout'.



Clot-dissolving treament given directly into a vein for some life-threatening conditions such ischaemic strokes, heart attacks and pulmonary embolisms.


A blood clot formed in an artery or vein.


TIA stands for transient ischaemic attack, often called a mini-stroke, which happens when the brain’s blood supply is interrupted for a very brief time causing symptoms of stroke but passing very quickly. Find out more about TIAs at The Stroke Association.


Procedure to measure pressure within the eye (intraocular).  One of the tests for glaucoma. Find out more about glaucoma, this and other tests at NHS Choices.


Operation to remove tonsils (glands in the throat which fight germs) due to recurrent sore throats or blocking of the airway causing severe snoring at night. Find out more about tonsil surgery at ENT UK.


A tracheostomy is an artificial opening into the windpipe (trachea) which is held open by a tracheostomy tube helping you to breathe more easily.

transvaginal scan

An ultrasound scan to enable an internal examination of the vagina (birth canal) in order to obtain very detailed pictures.  Find out more on ultrasound scans of the female pelvis in our Radiology section.


Physical injury or emotional shock.


Unintentional trembling or shaking movements in one or more parts of your body.


The process whereby people presenting with diseases or illness are assessed, often by nurses or junior doctors initially and then referred to the appropriate specialist for further treatment when necessary.


A type of fatty substance found in the blood.


ulcerative colitis

This is a long-term condition that affects the colon (large intestine/bowel) with symptoms including diarrhoea and a frequent need to go to the toilet, abdominal pain, and weight loss. Find out more at NHS Choices.


The tubes that connect each kidney to the bladder.


Inflammation of the uveal tract of the eye (group of connected structures inside the eye, made up of the iris (coloured part of the eye), the ciliary body (ring of muscle behind the iris) and the choroid (layer of tissue that supports the retina). Find out more about this condition at RNIB.


velopharyngeal inadequacy (VPI)

A problem with either the palate or the space behind and around the palate leading to problems with nasal sounding speech and/or compensatory articulation difficulties.


Mechanical devices which involve a tube being passed into the mouth or nose to supply air to the lungs.


A chamber of the heart.


A videofluoroscopy swallow study is a moving x-ray examination of the mouth and throat.



Medication taken in tablet form to stop your blood from clotting abnormally (known as anticoagulant). When taking warfarin, you need regular blood tests to check your INR levels.

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