MENUHomeNewsTopics A - Z

Definitions and Pronunciation of Medical Terms

  • Published: 2009-01-11 (Revised/Updated 2015-04-19) : Author: Disabled World : Contact: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Definitions including how to pronounce various medical conditions including medication glossary and terms.

Alphabetical glossary of definitions of medical terms including pronunciation of various diseases and health conditions.


Addiction (say: uh-dik-shun) - This is a condition where you become dependent on, or can't do without, physical substances or an activity to the point that stopping it is very hard and causes severe physical and mental reactions. Substances you can become addicted to include tobacco, alcohol, and drugs (both illegal and prescription drugs). Activities that can be addicting include lying, stealing, and gambling. Addiction can be treated with counseling and, in some cases, medication.

Adolescence (say: add-ul-ess-ence) - The period of life from puberty to adulthood when a young person "grows up."

Adrenal glands (say: a-dree-nal) - A pair of small glands, each of which sits on of the kidneys. These glands produce hormones that help to control the body's heart rate, blood pressure, the way food gets used, and other functions. They make the hormone adrenaline, which the body releases in response to stress.

AIDS (say: ayds) - This disease hurts the immune system, (the body's way of protecting itself), so that it becomes easy to get dangerous infections and cancers. It is caused by the HIV infection.

Albinism (say: al-byn-is-em) - A group of conditions that cause a problem with your body's ability to make melanin, which is the pigment (color) of your skin, hair and eyes. This can make the skin and hair look very white.

Allergies (say: al-ur-jee) - When someone has an allergic reaction to something, the body's immune system (which protects the body from outside substances), gives off a much bigger response than it normally would. The result is to have a reaction, such as sneezing or trouble breathing, to things that are usually not harmful, such as certain foods or animals.

Amenorrhea (say: uh-men-or-ee-uh) - When a woman does not have periods, either ever (after age 16) or they s as a result of: pregnancy, too much exercise, extreme obesity or not enough body fat, or emotional distress.

Analgesics (say: ah-nuhl-jee-zicks) - Analgesics are meant to relieve pain. These pain relievers don't get rid of what causes your pain, rather they block the nerve pathways that send pain signals from the body part to the brain so that you don't hurt as much.

Anemia (say: uh-nee-mee-uh) - When there are fewer red blood cells in the blood, it can cause health problems. This is measured by a decrease in what is called hemoglobin, which both provides the red color and moves oxygen through the body. There are many different types of anemia.

Anorexia nervosa (say: an-or-eck-see-uh nur-vo-suh) - An eating disorder causes people to refuse to stay at a healthy body weight by not eating. People with anorexia have a fear of gaining weight and a picture of what their body looks like in their mind that is not what it really is.

Antibiotic (say: an-ty-by-ah-tiks) - Antibiotics fight bacterial infections by killing bacteria or stopping it from growing. Antibiotics can help your body's immune system fight off infections. If you have ever had strep throat, your doctor probably gave you an antibiotic to take.

Antibodies (say: an-ty-bod-eez) - Proteins produced by white blood cells to fight bacteria, viruses, and other foreign substances.

Arteries (say: ar-tuh-reez) - Thick-walled blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart to other parts of the body.

Attention Deficit Disorder (say: A-D-H-D) - A behavioral condition that makes it hard for people to pay attention and concentrate.

Asphyxiation (say: as-fix-eeh-ay-shun) - Suffocation or smothering.

Asthma (say: az-muh) - When your airways are inflamed, causing you to wheeze, feel shortness of breath, cough and feel a tightness in your chest.

Autism (say: ah-tiz-em) - Disorder in the brain that affects both verbal and nonverbal communication (speaking and non-speaking) skills.


Blood pressure (say: blud presh-er) - As blood is pumped from your heart through your body, the blood exerts force or pressure against the blood vessel walls. Your blood pressure reading is a measure of this pressure. When that reading goes above a certain point, it is called high blood pressure or hypertension, which can be lowered and controlled with medication and changes in lifestyle and diet.

Bone marrow (say: bone mair-oh) - Soft tissue found inside bones from which blood cells are produced and released into the bloodstream.

Bulimia nervosa (say: buh-lee-mee-uh nur-vo-suh) - An illness defined by uncontrollable overeating, usually followed by making oneself throw up or purge (get rid of food) in other ways.


Cancer (say: kan-ser) - When cells that are not normal develop and multiply. There are at least 200 different kinds of cancers, which can grow in almost any organ of the body.

Capillaries (say: kap-il-air-eez) - Tiny blood vessels that branch through body tissues to deliver oxygen and nutrients and carry away waste products.

Carbon dioxide (say: kar-bun dy-ocks-ide) - A body waste product that is a colorless gas.

Celiac disease (say: see-lee-ack diz-eez) - When the small intestine is hurt from eating gluten and other substances like it (gluten intolerance). Glutens are found in wheat, rye, oats, barley and other grains.

Cerebral Palsy (say: se-reeb-rul pahl-zee) - When injuries to the brain cause damage to the nerves and loss of movement. The injuries happen while a baby is growing in the womb or near the time the baby is born.

Cervix (say: sur-vicks) - The narrow entryway between the vagina and the uterus. The muscles of the cervix are flexible so that is can expand to let a baby pass through when he/she is being born.

Chemotherapy (say: key-mo-ther-uh-pee) - Chemotherapy (pronounced: kee-mo-ther-uh-pee), which is often known as chemo, is a term used for medications to treat cancer. Cancer happens when cells in the body develop wrong and grow in an uncontrolled way. Since cancer cells tend to divide very fast, chemotherapy works by getting in the way of these cells dividing and trying to s the cancer from spreading. Sometimes chemo can cure the disease by helping to get rid of all the cancer cells in the body.

Chlamydia (say: kluh-mid-ee-uh) - The most common sexually transmitted (passed) disease in the U.S. Many women do not have symptoms of chlamydia. Untreated, chlamydia can lead to pelvic infection and infertility (inability to become pregnant). People who are sexually active and who have multiple sexual partners are at the highest risk of getting chlamydia. A doctor can test and treat people for chlamydia.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (say: kron-ick fah-teeg) - A very severe and long-term feeling of weakness and being tired, even after getting rest.

Circulatory system (say: sur-kue-la-tor-ee sis-tem) - The heart, the blood, and the system of blood vessels that moves blood through the body.

Cleft lip and palate (say: kleft lip and pal-it) - Abnormal growth of the lip and or roof of the mouth that happens before a baby is born. This can affect the way the lip looks, and also cause problems feeding as an infant and learning to speak.

Clinical depression (say: klin-i-kul dee-presh-un) - Clinical, or major, depression is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way a person functions, eats and sleeps, feels about herself, and thinks about things. Depression is not the same as a passing "down" mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. This condition can be treated with medication and counseling.

Clotting (say: klod-ing) - The process by which the body forms a plug to seal damaged blood vessels and s bleeding.

Cystic Fibrosis (say: sis-tick fy-broh-sis) - A disease that causes both breathing and digesting problems. Cystic fibrosis runs in the family.


Diabetes (say: dy-uh-bee-teez) - When there is too much sugar in your blood. It can be caused by having not enough of the chemical that monitors blood sugar, called insulin, or by having a resistance in your body to insulin.

Douching (say: doo-shing) - Douching is rinsing or cleaning out the vagina, usually with a prepackaged mix of fluids. The water or solutions are held in a bottle and squirted into the vagina through tubing and a nozzle. Health care providers do not suggest douching to clean the vagina. Douching changes the delicate chemical balance in the vagina, which can make a woman more prone to bacterial infections.

Down Syndrome (say: down sin-drohm) - When an extra copy of a chromosome is present when a baby develops. (A chromosome holds a cell's genetic information for a person.) The extra chromosome usually causes mental and physical abnormalities.

Drug dependence (say: drug dee-pend-ins) - An addiction to drugs, or the inability to s using harmful substances despite the harmful problems they cause.

Dysmenorrhea (say: dis-men-or-ee-uh) - Painful menstrual periods that can also go along with nausea and vomiting, and either constipation or diarrhea. Dysmenorrhea is common among adolescents.


Eating disorders - An eating disorder is a severe illness that requires help from a health care provider, the sooner the better. Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder where a person binges, or eats a large amount of food all at once and then purges, or forces themselves to vomit, takes laxatives, or diuretics (water pills). Starving yourself by eating very little or nothing at all is another eating disorder called anorexia nervosa. People who have this condition can have a strong fear of body fat and weight gain. Binge eating disorder happens when a person cannot control her desire to overeat and often keeps the extreme eating a secret. Unlike bulimia, with binge eating disorder, a person does not purge her food. Extreme exercise to control weight is also a type of eating disorder.

Endometriosis (say: en-doh-mee-tree-oh-sis) - A condition where tissue that normally lines the uterus grows in other areas of the body. This can cause pain, irregular menstrual bleeding, and infertility for some women.

Endometrium (say: en-doh-mee-tree-um) - The lining of the uterus.

Epilepsy (say: ep-il-ep-see) - A brain disorder that causes seizures, which are uncontrollable body movements.

Erythrocytes (say: er-ith-roh-syts) - Redblood cells.

Estrogen (say: es-tro-jin) - A female hormone produced by the ovaries. Estrogen plays important roles in puberty, the menstrual cycle, and in reproduction.


Fallopian tubes (say: fa-lo-pee-in) - The organs that connect the ovaries to the uterus. There is a fallopian tube on each side of the uterus. When one of the ovaries releases an egg, it travels through the fallopian tube toward the uterus. Fertilization (when a man's sperm and a woman's egg join together) usually happens in the fallopian tube.


Genes (say: jeans) - Genes come from both parents and are responsible for inherited characteristics, such as eye and hair color. Genes are in all body cells.

Genital region (say: jen-i-tul) - The external reproductive or sex organs (sometimes referred to as a person's private parts).

Gingivitis (say: jin-jih-vyt-is) - Inflammation of the gums, the first stage of gum disease. Gingivitis is caused by plaque deposits, which are made up of bacteria, mucus, and food debris. Injury to the gums from harsh brushing or flossing can also cause inflammation.

Glands (say: glanz) - Special groups of cells that do a certain job. The pituitary gland, for example, makes hormones that affect growth.

Granulocytes (say: gran-you-lo-syts) - White blood cells that are very important in helping the body prevent and fight infections caused by bacteria.


Halitosis (say: hal-i-toe-sis) - Offensive or bad breath.

Hemoglobin (say: heem-oh-glo-bin) - Substance containing iron found in red blood cells, which helps the blood carry and deliver oxygen to body tissues.

Hemophilia (say: heem-o-feel-ee-ah) - A disease that makes it difficult for the blood to clot, which is how the blood sticks together to s flowing. Without clots, a simple cut can cause someone to lose a dangerous amount of blood. This disease affects mostly boys.

Hepatitis (say: hep-uh-tyt-is) - Inflammation of the liver, caused by infections from bacteria, viruses, or toxins such as alcohol or drugs. There are different types of hepatitis, including Hepatitis A, B, C and autoimmune hepatitis.

Herbal supplements (say: er-bul sup-le-ments) - Herbal supplements are different types of medicines that come in a variety forms, such as teas, vitamin pills, or creams. There has not been a lot of research done on herbal supplements to really know how well they work or how safe they are, so it is important that you ask your doctor before taking anything that he or she has not given you.

HIV (say: H-I-V) - HIV stands for the human immunodeficiency virus, which destroys the immune system that protects the body. This makes it hard to fight infections. People who have HIV may not have any symptoms for up to 10 years, but they can give it to others through unprotected sex and sharing drug needles. HIV leads to full-blown AIDS.

Hodgkin's lymphoma (say: hodj-kinz limf-oh-muh) - A type of cancer that affects the tissue found in lymph nodes (glands that protect the fluids in your body), the spleen, the liver, and bone marrow.

Homicide (say: HOM-uh-side) - The killing of one person by another. Homicide is not legal and is a punishable crime.

Hormone (say: HOR-moan) - A hormone is a natural body chemical, such as estrogen, that has effects on or controls other parts of the body. Synthetic hormones, such as birth control pills, are drugs similar to human hormones.

HPV (say: H-P-V) - A sexually transmitted disease that can cause wart-like growths on the genitals. There are many types of HPV, and some types do not cause growths. Regular pap tests or HPV tests can catch the virus. HPV can lead to pre-cancerous sell changes in the cervix, so detection and treatment are important.


Immune system (say: im-yoon) - A complex system whose job is to protect the body against infection and foreign substances. The immune system works to seek out, identify, and kill invaders.

Immunizations (say: im-you-niz-a-shuns) -Immunizations keep people from getting sick by immunizing, or protecting, the body against certain infectious diseases. Vaccines contain parts or products of infectious organisms or whole germs that have been changed or killed. A vaccine gets the body's immune system ready to fight off infection by that germ. Most immunizations that prevent you from catching diseases like measles, whooping cough, and chicken pox are given by a shot.


Leukocytes (say: loo-ko-syts) - Whiteblood cells.

Lupus (say: loo-pus) - One of the diseases that causes the immune system, which normally protects the body, to actually attack it. Lupus can cause problems with the skin, joints and organs on the inside of the body.

Lymphocytes (say: limf-oh-syts) - White blood cells that produce antibodies.


Menarche (say: men-r-kee) - The first menstrual period or beginning of menstruation.

Menopause (say: MEN-o-pawz) - The last menstrual period or end of menstruation. The average age of menopause is 50. After menopause, a woman can no longer become pregnant.

Meningitis (say: men-in-jyt-is) - A dangerous infection that affects the brain and spinal cord.

Menstruation - (say: men-stroo-ay-shun) - The monthly period or menstrual bleeding. During menstruation, the extra blood and tissue that built up inside the uterus during the menstrual cycle is expelled through the vagina, usually over a period of 3-7 days.

Muscular Dystrophy (say: mus-kew-lar dis-trof-ee) - A group of disorders that causes muscles to be weak and causes loss of muscle tissue.


Ovaries (say: o-var-eez) - Two organs (about the size of an almond or grape), one on each side of the uterus, in the pelvis of a female. The ovaries contain eggs (ova) and make female hormones. When one of the ovaries releases an egg about once each month as part of the menstrual cycle, it is called ovulation.

Over-the-Counter - Over-the-counter medicines are medicines you can buy at a pharmacy or store with out a prescription, or an order from your doctor. Examples include cold medicine, medicines for stomach pain, or pain relievers.

Ovulation (say: ov-yoo-lay-shun) - When the ovaries release an egg, about once each month, as part of the menstrual cycle.


Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) (say: P-I-D) - A general term for infection of the lining of the uterus, fallopian tubes, or the ovaries. Most cases of PID are caused by bacteria that causes STD's such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. The most common symptoms include abnormal vaginal discharge (fluid), lower stomach pain, and sometimes fever.

Plasma (say: plaz-muh) - The liquid part of blood, which contains nutrients, proteins, minerals and dissolved waste products.

Platelets (say: playt-lats) - Small cells floating in the blood that play a key role in blood clotting.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (say: P-C-O-S) - PCOS is a mild hormonal imbalance that can cause irregular periods, unwanted hair growth, weight gain, and acne. This is a common condition that begins during the teenage years.

Puberty (say: pyoo-bur-tee) - The process of developing from a child to sexual maturity, when a person becomes capable of having children. In a girl, puberty includes a growth spurt, development of breasts and hips, growth of body hair, and the beginning of menstruation (having periods).


Red blood cells (say: red blud sels) - Small, hemoglobin-filled blood cells that carry oxygen to the body's tissues.

Relaxation techniques -These are techniques, or things that you can do, to help you relax. They are often used for reducing stress. Relaxation techniques include meditation (sitting still, breathing slowly and clearing your mind), yoga, deep breathing, and visualization (closing your eyes and seeing a scene that relaxes you, such as a beach or a mountain lake).

Reproductive organs (say: ree-pro-duck-tiv) - The parts of the body involved in reproduction (producing a baby). In a female, they include the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and vagina.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (say: roo-muh-toyd arth-rytis) - A painful disease that causes joints, tissues, and sometimes other parts of your body, to swell.


Scoliosis (say: sko-lee-oh-sis) - When the spine curves either away from the middle of the body or to the side.

Self-esteem - How you feel about yourself - how you feel about who you are, the way you act, and how you look. When a person does not think too highly of themselves, she is said to have low self-esteem.

Spina Bifida (say: spyna bif-id-uh) - A birth defect that stops the bones of the spine from finishing forming right. It can cause legs to be paralyzed (unable to move) and cause loss of control over the bladder.


Thrombocytes (say: throm-boh-syts) - Platelets, which are in your blood.

Toxic Shock Syndrome (say: T-S-S) - A very rare but dangerous illness that affects the whole body. TSS is caused by bacteria that make toxins (poisons) in the body. Tampon use can make it easier for bacteria to enter the body. Symptoms include high fever that comes on suddenly, dizziness, rash, and feelings of confusion.


Urinary Tract Infection (say: yoor-in-ar-ee trakt in-feck-shun or U-T-I) - An infection that happens in the bladder or tube leading to the bladder. It is usually caused by a type of bacteria.

Uterus (say: yoo-ter-us) - Also called the womb. The uterus is a pear-shaped, hollow organ in a female's pelvis where a baby develops during pregnancy. The uterus is made up of muscle with an inside lining called the Endometrium. The Endometrium builds up and thickens during the menstrual cycle to prepare for a possible pregnancy each month. But if no pregnancy occurs, the extra tissue and blood are shed during menstruation.


Vagina (say: vah-jye-na) - Sometimes called the birth canal. The vagina is a muscular passage that leads down from the cervix, (the lower part of the uterus) to the outside of a female's body. During menstruation, menstrual blood flows from the uterus through the cervix and out of the body through the vagina.

Veins (say: vayns) - Thin-walled blood vessels that receive blood from capillaries and return it to the heart.

Vitamins (say: vy-tuh-mins) - Vitamins and minerals are drugs that replace or fix low levels of important natural substances in your body. You get vitamins and minerals from food. Some types of food have more of these good substances than others. If you need extra vitamins and minerals, you may have to take pills that have them.

Vulva (say: vul-vuh) - The vulva covers the entrance to the vagina and has five parts: mons pubis, labia, clitoris, urinary tract opening, and vaginal opening.


White blood cells (say: white blud sels) - Blood cells that are involved in fighting infection and helping to heal wounds.

Submit disability news, coming events, as well as assistive technology product news and reviews.

Loan Information for low income singles, families, seniors and disabled. Includes home, vehicle and personal loans.

Famous People with Disabilities - Well known people with disabilities and conditions who contributed to society.

List of awareness ribbon colors and their meaning. Also see our calendar of awareness dates.

Blood Pressure Chart - What should your blood pressure be, and information on blood group types/compatibility.

NOTE: Content on Disabled World is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider regarding medical conditions, see our Terms of Service for more information. Your assistance in reporting outdated or inaccurate information is appreciated.

© 2004 - 2018 Disabled World™