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the two pairs of skin-folds that protect the opening of the vagina


the interval from onset of contractions to birth of a baby


inflammation of the fluid-containing chamber of the inner ear (called the labyrinth) that maintains balance; can cause a feeling that one's surroundings are spinning around (known as vertigo)


a torn or ragged wound

Lactase deficiency

an inherited disorder in which a person does not have the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose (the sugar found in dairy products); lactase deficiency leads to lactose intolerance, which means the inability to digest lactose


the production of breast milk after giving birth

Lactation suppression

a decrease in milk production during pregnancy as a result of high levels of oestrogen in the blood

Lactic acid

an acid produced by glucose-burning cells when these cells have an insufficient supply of oxygen


the sugar found in dairy products

Lactose intolerance

inability to break down and absorb the sugar lactose

Lamaze method

a method of preparing for childbirth that stresses physical conditioning, relaxation, and breathing exercises


a surgical procedure that removes part of a vertebra to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or a nerve branching from the spinal cord


a viewing instrument used to examine and treat disorders in the abdominal cavity; consists of a long tube with an eyepiece, a lens, and often a camera, which allows the image to be viewed on a monitor

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy

surgical removal of the gallbladder using a laparoscope


a procedure done to examine the abdominal cavity using a laparoscope, usually to investigate pelvic pain or gynecologic conditions such as infertility

Large intestine

The large intestine is also called the colon. It is responsible for reabsorbing all the fluid that has been pumped into the small intestine during the digestive process. It is responsible for making our bowel motions solid.

Large-cell carcinoma

one of the 4 major types of lung cancer


surgical removal of all or part of the voice box (larynx) as a treatment for cancer


inflammation of the voice box, usually caused by a viral infection; characterised by a hoarse voice


the medical term for the voice box, the organ in the throat that produces voice and also prevents food from entering the airway

Laser treatment

the use of a laser (a concentrated beam of light) to perform medical procedures, such as the destruction of tumours

Latent infection

an infection that lies dormant in the body for months or years but can reappear


on one side


drugs used to clear faeces from the intestines; commonly used to treat constipation

Lazy eye

the common name for the visual defect resulting from untreated strabismus, in which the eyes are not correctly aligned


see Low-density lipoprotein

Lead poisoning

damage to the brain, nerves, red blood cells, or digestive system because of ingestion of lead

Learning disability

any of a variety of disorders, including hyperactivity, dyslexia, and hearing problems, that can interfere with a person's ability to learn

Legionnaires' disease

a form of pneumonia that is mainly spread through air-conditioning systems and water


a noncancerous tumour of smooth muscle


a group of parasitic diseases affecting the skin, mucous membranes, and internal organs; transmitted by the bite of a sandfly


infection by a spiral-shaped bacterium that affects the skin, eyes, muscles, kidneys, and liver; leptospirosis is carried by rodents

Lesch-Nyhan syndrome

a genetic disorder affecting only men that causes mental handicap, self-mutilation, and aggressive behaviour


an abnormality of structure or function in the body


a group of bone marrow cancers in which white blood cells divide uncontrollably, affecting the production of normal white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets


another name for a white blood cells

Leukocyte count

the number of white blood cells in the blood, which is used as a measure of health and possible infection


a group of childhood genetic disorders in which the protective coverings of the nerves are destroyed


white patches that can develop in the mouth or on the penis or the opening of the vagina and are potentially cancerous


Levothyroxine is the synthetic thyroxine (which is chemically identical to T4) that is prescribed within the NHS to treat hypothyroidism.


see Luteinizing hormone

Lichen planus

a common skin disease in which itchy, small, pink or purple spots appear on the arms or legs


a tough, elastic band of tissue that connects bones and supports organs


the process of closing a blood vessel or duct by tying it off


Liothyronine is a synthetic form of the active thyroid hormone T3. It is used in some patients to treat suspected hypothyroidism when problems occur in converting T4 to T3 for use by the body's cells. This may be due to a deficiency in deiodinase enzymes.

Lipid-lowering drugs

drugs taken to lower the levels of specific fats called lipids in the blood in order to reduce the risk of narrowing of the arteries


any disorder in which fats cannot be properly broken down by the digestive system


a group of fats stored in the body and used for energy


a noncancerous tumour of fatty tissue


substances containing lipids and proteins, comprising most fats in the blood


a cancerous tumour of fatty tissue


a surgical procedure in which fat is removed from areas of the body using a suction pump


a rare bacterial infection acquired by eating undercooked infected meat or from infected live animals; can be dangerous to new-borns and the elderly


a procedure done to break up stones in the urinary tract using ultrasonic shock waves, so that the fragments can be easily passed from the body


the largest organ in the body, producing many essential chemicals and regulating the levels of most vital substances in the blood

Liver failure

the final stage of liver disease, in which liver function becomes so impaired that other areas of the body are affected, most commonly the brain


a well-defined, separate part of an organ


surgical removal of a lobe

Local anaesthesia

a method of preventing pain by inducing the loss of sensation in a certain area of the body while the patient remains awake

Locked joint

a joint that cannot be moved because of a disease or a lodged piece of bone or cartilage


a spasm of the jaw muscles that prevents the mouth from opening, such as that caused by tetanus

Locomotor system

the structures of the body that are responsible for its movement


the inward curvature of the spine at the lower back, which is normal to a certain degree; abnormal as a result of certain medical conditions, being overweight, or having muscle problems

Lou Gehrig's disease

see Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Low-density lipoprotein

a type of lipoprotein that is the major carrier of cholesterol in the blood, with high levels associated with narrowing of the arteries and heart disease


dull, aching pain in the lower back

Lumbar puncture

a procedure in which a needle is inserted into the lower region of the spinal canal to take out a sample of spinal fluid or to inject a drug

Lumbar spine

the lower part of the spine between the lowest pair of ribs and the pelvis; made up of five vertebrae


surgical removal of a section of breast containing cancer

Lung collapse

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


two organs in the chest that take in oxygen from the air and release carbon dioxide

Lupus erythematosus

a disorder of the immune system that causes inflammation of connective tissue

Luteinizing hormone

a hormone produced by the pituitary gland that causes the ovaries and testicles to release sex hormones and plays a role in the development of eggs and sperm

Lyme disease

a disease caused by bacteria transmitted through the bite of a tick; characterised by fever, rash, and inflammation of the heart and joints


a milky fluid containing white blood cells, proteins, and fats; plays an important role in absorbing fats from the intestine and in the functioning of the immune system

Lymph node

a small gland that is part of the immune system; contains white blood cells and antibodies and helps fight against the spread of infection


swollen lymph nodes


an X-ray procedure that creates images of the lymphatic system

Lymphatic system

a network of vessels that drain lymph back into the blood


a white blood cell that is an important part of the body's immune system, helping to destroy invading micro-organisms

Lymphocytic leukaemia

a disease in which white blood cells called lymphocytes divide uncontrollably

Lymphogranuloma venereum

a sexually transmitted chlamydial infection; common in countries with a tropical climate


a group of cancer of the lymph nodes and spleen that can spread to other parts of the body


another name for a non-Hodgkin's sarcoma; a cancerous tumour in lymphoid tissue

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