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Medical
Glossary


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

C.
Caesarean section

an operation performed to remove a foetus by cutting into the uterus, usually through the abdominal wall

Calcification

the depositing of calcium salts in the body, which occurs normally in teeth and bones but abnormally in injured muscles and narrowed arteries

Calcitonin

a hormone made in the thyroid gland that controls calcium levels in the blood by slowing the loss of calcium from bones; used to treat hypercalcaemia (excess calcium in the blood)

Calcium

a plentiful mineral in the body and the basic component of teeth and bones; essential for cell function, muscle contraction, transmission of nerve impulses, and blood clotting

Calcium channel blocker

a drug used to treat chest pain, high blood pressure, and irregular heartbeat by preventing the movement of calcium into the muscle

Callus

a thickened area of skin due to consistent pressure or friction, or the area around a bone break where new bone is formed

Calorie

a unit that is used to measure the energy content in food

Canal

a tunnel-like passage

Cancer

a group of diseases in which cells grow unrestrained in an organ or tissue in the body; can spread to tissues around it and destroy them or be transported through blood or lymph pathways to other parts of the body

Cancer staging

a method to determine how much a cancer has developed

Candidiasis

a yeast infection caused by the fungus Candida albicans; occurs most often in the vagina, but also in the mouth, on moist skin, or on the penis

Canker sore

small, painful sore that usually occurs on the inside of the lip or cheek, or sometimes under the tongue; caused by bacteria, irritation of the area, stress, or allergies

Capillary

a tiny blood vessel that connects the smallest arteries to the smallest veins and allows exchange of oxygen and other materials between blood cells and body tissue cells

Carbohydrate

a substance, mainly sugar and starch, that is a main source of energy for the body and is found in sources such as cereals, breads, pastas, grains, and vegetables

Carbon dioxide

a colourless, odourless gas present in small amounts in the atmosphere and formed during respiration

Carcinogen

anything that can cause cancer

Carcinoma

a cancer that occurs on the surface or lining of an organ

Cardiac arrest

the sudden cessation of the heart's pumping action, possibly due to a heart attack, respiratory arrest, electrical shock, extreme cold, blood loss, drug overdose, or a severe allergic reaction

Cardiogenic shock

a severely dangerous condition involving decreased blood output from the heart, usually as a result of a heart attack

Cardiomegaly

a condition marked by enlargement of the heart, either because of a thickened heart muscle or an enlarged heart chamber; usually a result of the heart having to work harder than normal, as occurs with high blood pressure

Cardiomyopathy

a disease of the heart muscle that results in decreased output and reduced blood flow

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation

the administration of heart compression and artificial respiration to restore circulation and breathing

Cardiovascular system

the heart and blood vessels that are responsible for circulating blood throughout the body

Carditis

inflammation of the heart

Carotene

an orange pigment present in coloured plants such as carrots that is converted by the body to the essential nutrient vitamin A

Carotid arteries

four main arteries that carry blood to the head and neck

Carpal bones

eight bones that together make the wrist

Carpal tunnel syndrome

a condition in which pressure on the median nerve in the wrist causes soreness, tingling, and numbness in the thumb and index and middle fingers

Cartilage

a connective tissue (softer than bone) that is part of the skeletal system, including the joints

Cast

a hard plaster or fibreglass shell that moulds to a body part such as an arm and holds it in place for proper healing

CAT scanning

see Computed tomography scanning

Cat-scratch fever

an illness transmitted to humans through a cat's bite or scratch, which is thought to be caused by an unidentified bacteria; characterised by a swollen lymph node or blister near the bite or scratch, fever, rash, and headache; most commonly occurring in children

Cataract

a disorder in which the lens of the eye becomes less transparent and in some cases a milky white, making vision less clear

Catheter

a hollow, flexible tube inserted into the body to put in or take out fluid, or to open up or close blood vessels

Catheterization

a technique in which a hollow, flexible tube is used to drain body fluids (such as urine), to introduce fluids into the body, or to examine or widen a narrowed vein or artery

Cauliflower ear

a deformed ear caused by repeated injury

Cauterisation

the use of heat, an electric current, or a chemical to destroy tissue or stop bleeding

Cecum

the beginning of the large intestine, which is connected to the appendix at its lower end

Cell

the tiny structures that make up all the tissues of the body and carry out all of its functions

Cellulitis

a skin infection caused by bacteria (usually streptococci); can lead to tissue damage and blood poisoning if untreated; characterised by fever, chills, heat, tenderness, and redness

Central nervous system

the brain and spinal cord

Cerebellum

a region of the brain located at the back; responsible for co-ordination of movement and maintaining balance

Cerebral palsy

a group of disorders of movement and posture resulting from damage to the brain early in a child's development; causes muscle weakness, difficulty co-ordinating voluntary movements, and sometimes complete loss of motion

Cerebrospinal fluid

a clear, watery fluid circulating in and around the brain and spinal column, which contains glucose, proteins, and salts for nutrition

Cerebrovascular disease

a disease affecting any artery supplying blood to the brain; may cause blockage or rupture of a blood vessel, leading to a stroke

Cerebrum

the largest part of the brain and the site of most of its activity, including sensory and motor functions

Cervical cap

a small rubber cup that is placed tightly over the cervix to prevent pregnancy

Cervical dysplasia

changes that occur in the cells on the surface of the cervix that usually precede the stages of cancer

Cervical incompetence

a weakness of the neck of the uterus, which can lead to spontaneous abortion due to an inability to support the weight of the foetus

Cervical smear

a procedure in which cells are scraped off of the cervix and examined to detect changes that might precede the stages of cancer; also called a Pap smear

Cervicitis

inflammation of the cervix

Cervix

a small, round organ making up the neck of the uterus and separating it from the vagina

Chancre

a painless sore that has a thick, rubbery base and a defined edge; usually occurs on the genitals after the contraction of the sexually transmitted disease syphilis

Chemotherapy

the treatment of infections or cancer with drugs that act on disease-producing organisms or cancerous tissue; may also affect normal cells

Chickenpox

a contagious disease that causes a rash and a fever; most commonly occurs during childhood

Chlamydia

micro-organisms that cause several human infections and can be transmitted sexually

Cholecystectomy

the surgical removal of the gallbladder

Cholera

a bacterial infection of the small intestine that causes severe watery diarrhoea, dehydration, and possibly death

Cholesterol

a substance in body cells that plays a role in the production of hormones and bile salts and in the transport of fats in the bloodstream

Chondritis

inflammation of cartilage

Chondroma

a noncancerous tumour that occurs in cartilage

Chondromalacia patellae

painful damage to the cartilage behind the kneecap

Chondrosarcoma

a cancerous cartilage tumour that develops inside of bone or on its surface

Chorionic villus sampling

a method of diagnosing foetal defects in which a small amount of tissue is taken from the placenta and analysed for abnormalities

Choroiditis

inflammation of the blood vessels behind the retina that line the back of the eye

Chromosome analysis

examination of a person's chromosomes either to determine if that person has an abnormality or to investigate one

Chronic

describes a disorder that continues for a long period of time

Chronic obstructive lung disease

a combination of the lung diseases emphysema and bronchitis, characterised by blockage of airflow in and out of the lungs

Cilia

tiny, hair-like structures on the outside of some cells, providing mobility

Circumcision

the surgical removal of the foreskin of the penis

Cirrhosis of the liver

gradual loss of liver function due to cell damage and internal scarring

Claudication

a cramping pain in one or both legs while walking, which can cause limping

Claustrophobia

fear of being confined in an enclosed or crowded space

Clavicle

the medical term for the collarbone

Cleft lip

a birth defect in which the upper lip is split vertically, extending into one or both nostrils

Cleft palate

a birth defect in which the roof of the mouth is split, extending from behind the teeth to the nasal cavity; often occurs with other birth defects such as cleft lip and partial deafness

Clinical trial

carefully monitored and planned testing of a new drug or treatment

Clitoris

a small female organ located near the opening of the vagina that swells when sexually aroused

Clone

an exact copy of a gene, cell, or organism

Closed fracture

a bone break that does not break the skin

Clotting factor

a substance in the blood that is needed for blood to harden and stop a wound from bleeding

Clubfoot

a genetic disorder in which the foot is twisted and misshapen

Cluster headache

severe pain that occurs suddenly and affects one side of the head, including the face and neck

CNS

see Central nervous system

Coagulation

a process that plays a large role in the hardening and thickening of blood to form a clot

Cocarcinogen

a substance that does not cause cancer by itself, but increases the effect of a substance that does cause cancer

Coccyx

four fused bones that form a triangular shape at the base of the spine (also known as the tailbone)

Cochlea

a coiled organ in the inner ear that plays a large role in hearing by picking up sound vibrations and transmitting them as electrical signals

Coeliac Disease

Coeliac disease is an allergic condition of the small intestine caused by the the protein gluten and more specifically gliadin. These proteins cause an intense localised inflammatory and allergic reaction at the surface of the small intestine which strips off the outer layer and all the finger-like villi. This leads to poor absorption of nutrients, fat and fat soluble vitamins leading to diarrhoea, bloating, weight loss, osteoporosis and anaemia. A gluten-free diet completely heals the inflammation.

Coitus

sexual intercourse

Cold sore

a small blister anywhere around the mouth that is caused by the herpes simplex virus

Colectomy

the complete or partial surgical removal of the large intestine (the colon), usually as treatment of a cancerous tumour or a narrowing and blockage of the intestine

Colic

waves of pain in the abdomen that increase in strength, disappear, and return; usually caused by a stone blocking a bile or urine passageway or an intestinal infection

Colitis

inflammation of the large intestine (the colon), which usually leads to abdominal pain, fever, and diarrhoea with blood and mucus

Collapsed lung

a condition in which all or part of a lung cannot expand and fill with air

Colon

the main part of the large intestine, between the cecum and the rectum

Colonoscopy

investigation of the inside of the colon using a long, flexible fibre-optic tube

Colostomy

a surgical procedure in which some part of the colon is cut and moved to the surface of the abdomen so that faeces can be passed into a bag worn outside of the body

Colour blindness

any vision disorder in which the person sees colours abnormally, has trouble distinguishing between them, or cannot see them at all

Coma

a condition in which the area of the brain involved in maintaining consciousness is somehow affected, resulting in a state of unconsciousness in which the patient does not respond to stimulation

Comminuted fracture

a crushed or shattered bone

Common cold

an infection caused by a virus, which results in an inflamed lining of the nose and throat; characterised by a stuffy and runny nose and, sometimes, a sore throat

Communicable disease

a disease that can be passed from one individual to another

Compound fracture

a bone break that breaks the skin

Compression fracture

a break in a short bone in which its soft tissue is crushed

Computed tomography scanning

a technique for producing cross-sectional images of the body in which X-rays are passed through the body at different angles and analysed by a computer; also called CT scanning or CAT scanning

Concussion

disturbance of electrical activity in the brain due to a blow to the head or neck, causing temporary loss of consciousness

Congenital

present or existing at the time of birth

Congestive heart failure

inability of the heart to efficiently pump blood through the body, causing build-up of blood in the veins and of other body fluids in tissue

Conjunctiva

the clear membrane covering the white of the eye and the inside of the eyelid that produces a fluid that lubricates the cornea and eyelid

Conjunctivitis

inflammation of the conjunctiva; commonly called pinkeye

Connective tissue

strong tissue that connects and supports body structures

Constipation

difficult or infrequent bowel movements of hard, dry faeces

Contraindication

an aspect of a patient's condition that makes the use of a certain drug or therapy an unwise or dangerous decision

Contusion

damage to the skin and underlying tissue as a result of a blunt injury; a bruise

Corn

a thickened callus on the foot that is caused by an improperly fitting shoe

Cornea

the clear, dome-shaped front portion of the eye's outer covering

Coronary

describes structures that encircle another structure (such as the coronary arteries, which circle the heart); commonly used to refer to a coronary thrombosis or a heart attack

Coronary arteries

the arteries that branch off from the aorta and supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle

Coronary artery bypass surgery

an operation in which a piece of vein or artery is used to bypass a blockage in a coronary artery; performed to prevent myocardial infarction and relieve angina pectoris

Coronary heart disease

disorders that restrict the blood supply to the heart, including atherosclerosis

Coronary thrombosis

the blockage of a coronary artery by a blood clot

Corpuscle

a tiny, rounded structure in the body, such as a red or white blood cell

Corticosteroids

synthetic drugs that are used to replace natural hormones or to suppress the immune system and help prevent inflammation

CPR

see Cardiopulmonary resuscitation

Creatinine

a waste product that is filtered from the blood by the kidneys and expelled in urine

Croup

a usually mild and temporary condition common in children under the age of 4 in which the walls of the airways become inflamed and narrow, resulting in wheezing and coughing

Cruciate ligaments

two ligaments in the knee that cross each other and help stabilise the knee joint

CT scanning

a procedure that uses X-rays and computers to create cross-sectional images of the body to diagnose and monitor disease

Culture

the artificial growth of cells, tissue, or micro-organisms such as bacteria in a laboratory

Curettage

the use of a sharp, spoon-like instrument (a curet) to scrape away tissue that is abnormal or to obtain a sample that can be analysed

CVS

see Chorionic villus sampling

Cyanosis

a bluish discoloration of the skin, caused by low levels of oxygen in the blood

Cyst

a lump filled with either fluid or soft material, occurring in any organ or tissue; may occur for a number of reasons but is usually harmless unless its presence disrupts organ or tissue function

Cystectomy

surgical removal of the bladder; the bladder is often replaced with a short length of small intestine

Cystic fibrosis

an inherited disorder in which the lungs are prone to infection, and fats and other nutrients cannot be absorbed into the body

Cystoscopy

examination of the urethra and bladder using a long, thin, fibre-optic tube

Cystostomy

the surgical placement of a drainage opening in the bladder

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