Health Glossary


A collection of pus built up within the tissue of the body.

Fluid around the unborn fetus in the uterus

Medication used to cure disease by killing or injuring bacteria

a condition marked by a deficiency of red blood cells or of hemoglobin, a protein responsible for transporting oxygen, in the blood.

Anemia diminishes the capacity of the blood to carry oxygen.  Your provider may order a simple blood test to confirm that you have low amounts of red blood cells or hemoglobin. Patients with anemia may feel tired, fatigue easily, appear pale, develop palpitations, and become short of breath.

A disease in which the body produces antibodies that attack its own tissues, leading to the deterioration and in some cases to the destruction of such tissue.  Common autoimmune diseases include type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

the surgical reconstruction or replacement of a joint.

A condition in which exposure to a substance, such as pollen, latex, animal dander, or a particular food or drug, causes an overreaction by the immune system that results in symptoms such as sneezing, itching, rash, and difficulty breathing or swallowing.

Antibiotics work to cure disease by killing or injuring bacteria.  The first antibiotic was penicillin, discovered accidentally from a mold culture. Today, over 100 different antibiotics are available to cure minor, and life-threatening infections.
See also: culture

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Medicine used to lower blood pressure, treat chest pain and heart failure, and help prevent a heart attack. Beta blockers relieve the stress on the heart by slowing the heart rate and reducing the force with which the heart muscles contract to pump blood.

The removal of a sample of tissue from the body for examination under a microscope to check for cancer cells or other abnormalities.

A round plastic shell that fits around the breast that is used to correct flat or inverted nipples.

Measures how hard the blood is pushing against the walls of the arteries.
Video: How Blood Pressure Works

A greenish-brown fluid that aids in digestion. It is stored in the gallbladder and excreted by the liver.

An orange-yellow pigment formed in the liver by the breakdown of hemoglobin and excreted by bile.


The measure of sugar in the blood. The human body breaks down the food we eat into blood glucose to be used for energy.

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A flexible tube inserted through a narrow opening into a body cavity, particularly the bladder, for removing fluid.  

The surgical removal of the gallbladder.  The procedure can be done laparoscopic (using several small incisions) or by a large open incision. 
See also: Laparoscopy

A procedure in which the infant is delivered through an abdominal incision. Also referred to as a C-section.

Anything you can drink that you can see through. It can have a color. If you hold it up like stained glass you can see through it. It can include tea (sugar, no milk), coffee (sugar, no milk), coke, water, juice, jello, broth.

A type of heart failure which requires seeking timely medical attention, although sometimes the two terms are used interchangeably. Fluid collects in the lungs and interferes with breathing and swelling of tissues in limbs or other body parts due to poor kidney function.

A lung disease characterized by chronic obstruction of lung airflow that interferes with normal breathing and is not fully reversible.  COPD is an umbrella term that describes progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory (non-reversible) asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis. The common symptoms of COPD are increased shortness of breath, frequent coughing, wheezing, and tightness in the chest.

Central venous catheters (CVCs) are also called central venous access devices (CVADs), or central lines. They are used to put medicines, blood products, nutrients, or fluids right into your blood. They can also be used to take out blood for testing.  Many different kinds of CVCs are available. The 2 most common types are the port and the PICC line.

Clostridium difficile [pronounced KloSTRID-ee-um dif-uh-SEEL], also known as “C. diff” [See-dif], is a germ that can cause diarrhea. Most cases of C. diff infection occur in patients taking antibiotics.  The best way to prevent the spread of C. diff is by excellent hand hygiene and environmental cleaning.

Any body tissue or fluid can be evaluated in the laboratory by using culture techniques to detect and identify infectious processes. Culture techniques can be used to determine sensitivity to antibiotics which will help guide your provider(s) in selecting appropriate antibiotics.

A federal agency that runs Medicare for the elderly and disable population. CMS also assists states in running the Medicaid program for low-income individuals. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CMS, is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  

A colonoscopy is an exam designed to detect changes or abnormalities in the colon (large intestine) and rectum. During the exam, a long, flexible tube called the colonoscope is inserted into the rectum. A tiny video camera at the tip of the colonoscope allows the doctor to review the inside of the entire colon. The colonoscopy is used to detect changes and abnormalities, like polyps, and screen for colon cancer.

Generally, a colonoscopy is an exam that is incorporated into a person’s healthcare routine once they turn 50.

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A disease that develops when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high in people with diabetes due to the lack of insulin.
Related terms: insulin, Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes, gestational diabetes

Dialysis is a treatment that simulates the function of the kidney by filtering a person’s blood to remove waste from the body. A special kind of filter is used to remove excess waste, excess salt and water from the blood.

There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal. Hemodialysis filters blood outside of the body using a machine and is then returned. Peritoneal dialysis means the blood is cleaned inside the body using a special fluid that absorbs the waste the kidneys cannot.

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A gram negative bacteria that is commonly found in lower intestine of warm blooded organisms.  E Coli can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever. More severe cases can lead to bloody diarrhea, dehydration, or even kidney failure.

A procedure used to look inside the body with an endoscope.  This scope has a camera and is used to examine the interior of a hollow organ or cavity of the body.

A blood clot, air bubble, piece of fatty deposit, or other object that has been carried in the bloodstream to lodge in a vessel and cause an embolism. When this happens, the blood flow is stopped by the embolus. An embolus is often a small piece of a blood clot that breaks off (thromboembolus).
Video: Embolism Explained in 2 Minutes


Pregnancy that is not in the uterus. Most common in fallopian tubes.

A condition when breasts are overfilled with milk. Breasts can be swollen, hard, and sore. Can lead to clogged milk ducts.

A procedure used to look inside the body with an endoscope.  This scope has a camera and is used to examine the interior of a hollow organ or cavity of the body.

An ultrasound of the heart, used for the diagnosis or monitoring of heart disease. Also called an ECHO.
See also: ultrasound

A condition where retained water increases swelling in the body’s tissues.

A type of anesthesia that numbs your spinal nerves and prevents pain signals from traveling to your brain. An epidural is an injection that goes into your “epidural space”, which is right outside of the membrane that protects your spinal cord. Epidurals may give you longer-lasting pain relief while helping you stay more alert and mobile.

Emergency Medical Services, more commonly known as EMS, is a system that provides emergency medical care. EMS is most easily recognized as an ambulance or helicopter  responding to an emergency incident.

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Tubes in the female abdomen that run from the ovaries to the uterus.

A type of catheter that is inserted into the bladder to drain urine.

A benign tumor of muscular and fibrous tissue, typically in the uterus.

Type of medical imaging that shows a continuous X-ray image on a monitor, like a video, used to diagnose and treat patients by displaying the movement of a body part, instrument or dye (contrast agent) through the human body.

Anything you can drink. It does not matter if you can see through it through it or not. This would include milk, orange juice, and ice cream

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A pear shaped organ that sits just below your liver on the upper right side of your abdomen.  The gallbladder collects and stores bile.

A G Tube is placed through the patient’s abdominal wall into the stomach so the patient can have a means of feeding.  This procedure usually takes place when oral intake is not adequate.

A type of bacterial infection often found in the pregnant women’s vagina or rectum. Must take antibiotics during labor for the safety of newborn.

Diabetes during pregnancy caused by higher levels of blood glucose (blood sugar) and insulin resistance

A gallstone is a stone formed from an accumulation of bile, a digestive fluid, that hardens in the gallbladder.

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A calcium scoring test using a CT scan to detect hardening or “calcified” plaque inside the arteries of the heart. In many cases, this test is considered preventative as it helps patients and providers understand the patients’ risk for heart disease or heart attack.

A myocardial infarction, also known as a heart attack, is a medical emergency. A heart attack usually occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the heart. Without blood, tissue loses oxygen and dies. Treatment ranges from lifestyle changes and cardiac rehabilitation to medications, stents, and bypass surgery.

Hand hygiene is any method that removes or destroys microorganisms on hands – use soap and water, especially if your hands are visibly soiled and after using the bathroom, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer often. It is well-documented that the most important measure for preventing the spread of germs is effective handwashing. 

About Hand Hygeine: Center for Disease Control and Prevention | World Health Organization

A form of dialysis that diverts blood from the arteries before it reaches the kidneys to filter waste and remove excess salt and water from the blood. 

The hospitalist team includes doctors and nurse practitioners who manage your hospital experience from admission until discharge, serving as your primary provider during your stay. They work in close consultation with your primary care provider and specialists.

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An examination of the kidneys, ureters and urinary bladder that uses contract (dye) injected into veins and can be seen on X-ray images.

Intravenous therapy (IV) is a therapy that delivers liquid substances directly into a vein. The intravenous route of administration can be used for injections or infusions. Intravenous infusions are commonly referred to as drips.

Medication that it used to control your sugar levels in your blood.  This medication is given by injection in abdomen or upper arm.

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Yellowing of skin or whites from the eyes caused by the excess of bilirubin. Can be caused by a blocked bile duct, by liver disease, or by excessive breakdown of red blood cells.

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A rough, scaly patch on the skin caused by years of sun exposure.

the surgical filling of an injured or collapsed vertebra. This procedure restores original shape and configuration and relieves pain from spinal compression.

The kidney is an organ in the abdominal cavity of the body responsible for filtering waste from the blood that is removed from the body through urine. Most people are born with two kidneys.

A kidney stone occurs when substances in the urine form crystals. Kidney stones have sharp edges and can be very painful.

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A cancer involving the lymphatic system and lymph nodes.

Laparoscopic surgery, also called minimally invasive surgery (MIS), bandaid surgery, or keyhole surgery, is a modern surgical technique in which operations are performed through small incisions (usually 0.5–1.5 cm) elsewhere in the body.

The breakdown of the membrane of a cell

White blood cell

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A surgical procedure removing fibroids from the uterus.

Painful inflammation or infection in the breast tissue. Most often occurs in women that are breastfeeding.

A myocardial infarction, also known as a heart attack, is a medical emergency. A heart attack usually occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the heart. Without blood, tissue loses oxygen and dies. Treatment ranges from lifestyle changes and cardiac rehabilitation to medications, stents, and bypass surgery.

Medicare is the federal health insurance program for:

  • People who are 65 or older
  • Certain younger people with disabilities
  • People with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant, sometimes called ESRD)

The different parts of Medicare help cover specific services:

  • Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance)
  • Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance)
  • Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage Plans)
  • Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage)

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacteria that is resistant to many antibiotics. Staph and MRSA can cause a variety of problems ranging from skin infections and sepsis to pneumonia to bloodstream infections.


MDROs are defined as microorganisms, predominantly bacteria, that are resistant to one or more classes of antimicrobial agents. Although the names of certain MDROs describe resistance to only one agent (e.g., MRSA, VRE), these pathogens are frequently resistant to most available antimicrobial agents.

About MRDOs

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A flexible silicone nipple that fits on the breast to help with latching specifically with preterm babies.

Disease or malfunction of the nerves. Peripheral neuropathy is most common.

Nothing by mouth to eat or drink; derived from latin phrase nil per os

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The medical term for ovary removal.

Surgical removal of one or both testicles.  

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Prognosis is a medical term for predicting the likelihood of a person’s survival.

A pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure, kidney damage, and other issues.

Weakness, numbness, and pain from nerve damage, usually in hands and feet.

A Port-a-cath (also known as a Port) is a surgically implanted device giving access to veins for patients who need regular long-term administration of antibiotics or chemotherapy drugs.

A catheter inserted into a peripheral vein and guided to a central vein is called a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC line). Treatments, such as IV medications, can be given through a PICC line. Blood for laboratory tests can also be withdrawn from a PICC line.

Paralysis that affects all or part of the trunk, legs, and pelvic organs. Paraplegia can occur after a spinal cord injury. It’s caused by damage to the vertebrae, ligaments, or disks of the spinal column.  Paraplegia is the loss of muscle function in the lower half of the body, including both legs.

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.  Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe. After cough fits, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths, which result in a “whooping” sound. Pertussis can affect people of all ages, but can be very serious, even deadly, for babies less than a year old. The best way to protect against pertussis is by getting vaccinated.

See also: Whooping Cough

A condition in which skin cells build up and form scales and itchy, dry patches. Psoriasis is thought to be an immune system problem. Triggers include infections, stress, and cold.

The most common symptom is a rash on the skin, but sometimes the rash involves the nails or joints.

A form of dialysis in which a thin tube (catheter) is placed into the belly. Special fluid is added into the belly. This fluid stays in the belly for a certain amount of time (dwell) before it is drained and refilled with clean fluid (exchange).

A primary care provider (PCP) is a healthcare practitioner who provides, coordinates or helps a patient access a range of healthcare services. Generally, they provide primary care (regular checkups, preventive care, etc.) to patients and act as a connector to other medical services and specialists for a range of healthcare services and needs.

A PCP can be a doctor (MD, DO), nurse practitioner (NP, FNP, AGNP) or a physician assistant (PA).

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Paralysis of all four limbs, both arms and both legs, as from a high spinal cord accident or stroke.  

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Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes.

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death.  

About Rabies

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A stroke occurs when blood flow to part of the brain is cut off. When blood flow is cut off from the brain, cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die.
Video: What is a Stroke?

Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection that can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. In other words, it’s your body’s over active and toxic response to an infection. Some people are at higher risk of developing sepsis because they are at higher risk of contracting an infection. These include the very young, the very old, those with chronic illnesses, and those with a weakened or impaired immune system.

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that can make your throat feel sore and scratchy. Strep throat accounts for only a small portion of sore throats.  Strep throat is most common in children, but it affects people of all ages. For more information, including when to see a doctor follow this link:

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Low blood platelet count.

A chronic condition in which the pancreas produces very little to no insulin. Also known as juvenile diabetes.
See also: insulin

Medical condition where the body is insulin resistant, so excess glucose is not properly absorbed and results in increase blood sugar levels.
See also: insulin

Total knee replacement, or total knee arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure in which parts of the knee joint are replaced with artificial parts (prostheses). A normal knee functions as a hinge joint between the upper leg bone (femur) and the lower leg bones (tibia and fibula).

A total hip replacement is a surgical procedure to repair the hip-joint by partly (Hemi arthroplasty) or fully (Bipolar-hemi arthroplasty) replacing the original hip joint with prosthetic substitutes.

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The use of sound waves to produce images of internal structures, like the human body.

In urinary catheterization a latex, polyurethane, or silicone tube known as a urinary catheter is inserted into a patient’s bladder via the urethra. Catheterization allows the patient’s urine to drain freely from the bladder.


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Vancomycin-resistant Enterococci are specific types of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria that are resistant to vancomycin, the drug often used to treat infections caused by enterococci. Enteroccocci are bacteria that are normally present in the human intestines and in the female genital tract and are often found in the environment. These bacteria can sometimes cause infections. Most vancomycin-resistant Enterococci infections occur in hospitals.


Vasectomy is a form of male birth control that cuts the supply of sperm to your semen. It’s done by cutting and sealing the tubes that carry sperm. Vasectomy has a low risk of problems and can usually be performed in an outpatient setting under local anesthesia. Vasectomy offers no protection from sexually transmitted infections.

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A WBC count is a blood test to measure the number of white blood cells (WBCs) in the blood. WBCs are also called leukocytes. They help fight infections.

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.  Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe. After cough fits, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths, which result in a “whooping” sound. Pertussis can affect people of all ages, but can be very serious, even deadly, for babies less than a year old. The best way to protect against pertussis is by getting vaccinated.

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A photographic or digital image taken using x-rays, a type of high-energy electromagnetic radiation. X-rays are used to diagnose diseases.

Any of various diseases characterized by extreme dryness of the skin, especially a mild form of ichthyosis.

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A vaginal yeast infection is a fungal infection that causes irritation, discharge and intense itchiness of the vagina and the vulva — the tissues at the vaginal opening. It’s a type of vaginitis, or inflammation of the vagina.

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Zoonotic diseases are caused by infections that are shared between animals and people. They  are caused by harmful germs like viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi. These germs can cause many different types of illnesses in people and animals ranging from mild to serious illness and even death. Some animals can appear healthy even when they are carrying germs that can make people sick.

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