Glossary try the best to avoid the use of medical terms that could make it more difficult to understand the information on this website. Still, there are a number of terms that can't be avoided and that are useful to know because they are so often used by the doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals with whom you might speak. The list below includes the terms used on for which we have provided definitions.

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Term Definition

Also known as: Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome

A rare congenital disorder characterized by exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, bone marrow dysfunction, and skeletal abnormalities; it is the second most common cause of inherited pancreatic insufficiency after cystic fibrosis.

Senile plaque

Areas of dead nerve cells and protein deposits in the brain


In the clinical laboratory:
1. a test's ability to correctly identify individuals who have a given disease or disorder;
2. ability of a test to detect small amounts of a substance or to measure a reaction


Serious infection in which disease-causing organisms are present in the blood, usually resulting from spread of an infection from a specific site


Abnormality resulting as a consequence of a disease, injury or treatment


A group of related microorganisms, such as bacteria or viruses, that possess different antigens that are distinguished as unique by the immune system


The liquid portion of blood remaining after a clot forms

Serum Sickness

An allergic reaction to proteins in a foreign serum, usually in response to an injection; it is characterized by symptoms such as fever, skin rash, pain and swelling in one or more joints, and kidney damage


A condition in which blood flow is inadequate to keep critical organs performing properly; it is often recognized by markedly low blood pressure with evidence of poor function of the brain, kidneys, heart, and/or liver. It is a medical emergency that can lead to serious damage and/or death.

Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome

Also known as: SDS

A rare congenital disorder characterized by exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, bone marrow dysfunction, and skeletal abnormalities; it is the second most common cause of inherited pancreatic insufficiency after cystic fibrosis.

Sideroblastic Anemia

An iron disorder and form of anemia resulting from the inability to incorporate iron into hemoglobin in red blood cells (RBCs); it is characterized by the buildup of iron within developing RBCs resulting in abnormal RBCs called sideroblasts. Since the RBCs cannot develop normally, this condition causes anemia.


Examination of the rectum and lower colon with a rigid or flexible lighted instrument


Evidence of a disease or condition perceived by a physician or person other than the patient

Somatic Cells

All body cells, except the reproductive cells


In the clinical laboratory:
1. a test's ability to correctly exclude individuals who do not have the given disease or disorder;
2. a test's ability to correctly detect or measure only the substance of interest and exclude other substances

Spina bifida

A birth defect in which the bones of the spine do not close around the spinal cord (the continuation of brain tissue that normally is surrounded by the spinal bones); this opening may be covered by skin (also called spina bifida occulta, which means hidden), in which case there may be no or mild symptoms. In other cases, the skin does not cover the defect, allowing the covering of the brain and spinal cord, the meninges, to protrude out through the skin (meningocele) or, in some cases, to rupture, exposing the spinal cord itself (meningomyelocyle). These latter two examples may cause severe damage to the nerves of the legs and lower abdomen, causing paralysis and bowel and bladder malfunction.


Any of a group of spiral-shaped bacteria


organ located in the abdomen that functions mainly to store blood cells, remove old blood cells from circulation, produce lymphocytes to fight infection, and filter foreign substances from the blood


An inflammation of the vertebrae


1. Small, usually single-celled reproductive unit of some microorganisms such as fungi.
2. Form assumed by some bacteria that is resistant to heat, drying, and chemicals; an example of a disease caused by spore-forming bacteria is anthrax.


Viscous material that is derived from the lower air passages such as the lungs and bronchi that may contain substances such as mucus, blood, pus and/or bacteria; it is not the saliva that is produced by the glands in the mouth.

  • In medicine, a defined period or phase in the development, progress or extent of a disease or condition; the process of determining the period or phase of a disease or condition. In cancer, the stage is the degree to which the cancer has grown or spread. Generally, lower numbers and/or letters mean less extensive stages.
  • (On a microscope) a raised and usually movable plate on which a slide or object is placed for examination.
  • A raised floor or platform.

A group of drugs that reduce the production of cholesterol and promote the clearance of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) from the blood by the liver.

Stem cells

Cells that are able to develop into many (or all) types of cells


A narrowing or constriction of a passageway in the body, such as in a blood vessel or spinal canal


A group of chemicals derived from cholesterol that typically functions as hormones; common types of steroids include sex steroids (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone), glucocorticosteroids (cortisol, prednisone, dexmethasone), and mineralacorticosteroids (aldosterone).


Under the skin

Suprarenal gland

Also known as: Adrenal Gland

One of a pair of glands located above each kidney that secretes hormones directly into the bloodstream. Each gland has two parts that perform different functions.
1. The adrenal cortex produces and secretes hormones such as cortisol, aldosterone and sex steroids. They are involved in many different body functions.
2. The adrenal medulla produces and secretes catecholamines such as adrenaline (epinephrine) and norepinephrine.


Evidence of a disease or condition experienced or perceived by a patient


Fainting; loss of consciousness


A group of signs and symptoms that are associated with a physical or physiological anomaly; they represent a frame of reference, not a cause.


Affecting the body as a whole, rather than individual parts