The following are health and medical definitions of terms that appear in the Aspirin and Antiplatelet Medications article.
Abdominal: Relating to the abdomen, the belly, that part of the body that contains all of the structures between the chest and the pelvis. The abdomen is separated anatomically from the chest by the diaphragm, the powerful muscle spanning the body cavity below the lungs.
Abdominal pain: Pain in the belly. Abdominal pain can be acute or chronic. It may reflect a major problem with one of the organs in the abdomen, such as appendicitis or a perforated intestine, or it may result from a fairly minor problem, such as excess buildup of intestinal gas.
Acute: Of abrupt onset, in reference to a disease. Acute often also connotes an illness that is of short duration, rapidly progressive, and in need of urgent care.
Acute myocardial infarction: A heart attack.
Adenosine: A nucleoside containing adenine as its base. Adenosine acts to dilate the coronary arteries and is employed in the adenosine thallium scan of the heart.
Allergy: A misguided reaction to foreign substances by the immune system, the body system of defense against foreign invaders, particularly pathogens (the agents of infection). The allergic reaction is misguided in that these foreign substances are usually harmless. The substances that trigger allergy are called allergen. Examples include pollens, dust mite, molds, danders, and certain foods. People prone to allergies are said to be allergic or atopic.
Anaphylaxis: Allergic reaction. In severe cases, this can include potentially deadly anaphylactic shock.
Angina: Chest pain due to an inadequate supply of oxygen to the heart muscle. The pain is typically severe and crushing, and it is characterized by a feeling of pressure and suffocation just behind the breastbone. Angina can accompany or be a precursor of a heart attack.
Angioplasty: Procedure with a balloon-tipped catheter to enlarge a narrowing in a coronary artery. Also called Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty (PTCA).
Annals of Internal Medicine: A medical journal especially concerned with information in the field of internal medicine (adult medicine). Designed to be read largely by internists, the Annals states it is "is the leading journal for studies in internal medicine." (Such claims aside, the Annals is without question one of the leading journals in medicine today. It is widely read and well respected. --Editor.)
Artery: A vessel that carries blood high in oxygen content away from the heart to the farthest reaches of the body. Since blood in arteries is usually full of oxygen, the hemoglobin in the red blood cells is oxygenated. The resultant form of hemoglobin (oxyhemoglobin) is what makes arterial blood look bright red.
Arthritis: Inflammation of a joint. When joints are inflamed they can develop stiffness, warmth, swelling, redness and pain. There are over 100 types of arthritis. (see osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, gout, pseudogout).
Aspirin: Once the Bayer trademark for acetylsalicylic acid, now the common name for this anti-inflammatory pain reliever.
Aspirin resistance: 1. The inability of aspirin to protect a person from cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes. This has been called clinical aspirin resistance.
Asymptomatic: Without symptoms. For example, an asymptomatic infection is an infection with no symptoms.
Atherosclerosis: A process of progressive thickening and hardening of the walls of medium-sized and large arteries as a result of fat deposits on their inner lining.
Atrial: Pertaining to the atria, the upper chambers of the heart, as in atrial fibrillation and atrial septal defect.
Blood clot: A mass of coagulated blood. A blood clot can block a major blood vessel, causing stroke or other problems.
Blood clots: Blood that has been converted from a liquid to a solid state. Also called a thrombus.
Blood pressure: The blood pressure is the pressure of the blood within the arteries. It is produced primarily by the contraction of the heart muscle. It's measurement is recorded by two numbers. The first (systolic pressure) is measured after the heart contracts and is highest. The second (diastolic pressure) is measured before the heart contracts and lowest. A blood pressure cuff is used to measure the pressure. Elevation of blood pressure is called "hypertension".
Brain: The portion of the central nervous system that is located within the skull. It functions as a primary receiver, organizer, and distributor of information for the body. It has a right half and a left half, each of which is called a hemisphere.
Breathing: The process of respiration, during which air is inhaled into the lungs through the mouth or nose due to muscle contraction and then exhaled due to muscle relaxation.
Bursitis: Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa. A bursa is a tiny fluid-filled sac that functions as a gliding surface to reduce friction between tissues of the body. The major bursae are located adjacent to the tendons near the large joints, such as the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees.
Bypass: An operation in which a new pathway is created for the transport of substances in the body.
CABG: Coronary artery bypass graft; and Coronary artery bypass grafting.
Cardiovascular: Relating to the circulatory system, which comprises the heart and blood vessels and carries nutrients and oxygen to the tissues of the body and removes carbon dioxide and other wastes from them. Cardiovascular diseases are conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels and include arteriosclerosis, coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, arrhythmia, heart failure, hypertension, orthostatic hypotension, shock, endocarditis, diseases of the aorta and its branches, disorders of the peripheral vascular system, and congenital heart disease.
Cardiovascular disease: Disease affecting the heart or blood vessels.
Carotid: Pertaining to the carotid artery and the area near that key artery, which is located in the front of the neck.
Carotid artery: Either of the two key arteries located in the front of the neck, through which blood from the heart goes to the brain. The right and left common carotid arteries are located on each side of the neck. Together, these arteries provide the principal blood supply to the head and neck. The left common carotid artery arises directly from the aorta. The right common carotid artery arises from the brachiocephalic artery, which, in turn, comes off the aorta. Each of the two divides to form external and internal carotid arteries. Cholesterol plaque on the inner wall of the carotid artery can lead to a stroke.
Carotid endarterectomy: Endarterectomy (a surgical procedure designed to clean out material occluding an artery) done on the carotid artery (a major artery in the neck that supplies blood to the brain) to restore normal blood flow through it to the brain and prevent a stroke.
Cerebral: Of or pertaining to the cerebrum or the brain.
Cerebral vascular: See: Cerebrovascular.
Cerebral vascular disease: See: Cerebrovascular disease.
Chest: The area of the body located between the neck and the abdomen. The chest contains the lungs, the heart, and part of the aorta. The walls of the chest are supported by the dorsal vertebrae, the ribs, and the sternum. Also known as thorax.
Chest pain: Pain in the chest that can be a result of many things, including angina, heart attack (coronary occlusion), and other important diseases. Chest pain is a warning to seek medical attention, so one should try not to ignore chest pain and 'work through it.'
Chickenpox: A highly infectious viral disease also known medically as varicella -- in many countries, this disease is always called "varicella" -- that causes a blister-like rash, itching, fatigue and fever. The rash crops up first on the face and trunk and can spread over the entire body resulting in 250 to 500 itchy blisters.
See the entire definition of Chickenpox
Cholesterol: The most common type of steroid in the body. Cholesterol has a reputation for being associated with an increased risk for heart and blood vessel disease. However, cholesterol is essential to the formation of bile acids, vitamin D, progesterone, estrogens (estradiol, estrone, estriol), androgens (androsterone, testosterone), mineralocorticoid hormones (aldosterone, corticosterone), and glucocorticoid hormones (cortisol). Cholesterol is also necessary to the normal permeability and function of the membranes that surround cells. A diet high in saturated fats tends to increase blood cholesterol levels, whereas a diet high in unsaturated fats tends to lower blood cholesterol levels. Although some cholesterol is obtained from the diet, most cholesterol is made in the liver and other tissues. The treatment of elevated cholesterol involves not only diet but also weight loss, regular exercise, and medications. After the age of 20, cholesterol testing is recommended every 5 years.
Chronic: In medicine, lasting a long time. A chronic condition is one that lasts 3 months or more. Chronic diseases are in contrast to those that are acute (abrupt, sharp, and brief) or subacute (within the interval between acute and chronic).
Circulation: In medicine, the movement of fluid through the body in a regular or circuitous course. The circulatory system, composed of the heart and blood vessels, functions to produce circulation. Heart failure is an example of a problem with circulation.
Clinical trials: Trials to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of medications or medical devices by monitoring their effects on large groups of people.
Coma: A state of deep, unarousable unconsciousness. A coma may occur as a result of head trauma, disease, poisoning, or numerous other causes. Coma states are sometimes graded based on the absence or presence of reflexive responses to stimuli.
Coronary arteries: The vessels that supply the heart muscle with blood rich in oxygen. They are called the coronary arteries because they encircle the heart in the manner of a crown. The word "coronary" comes from the Latin "corona" and Greek "koron" meaning crown. Like other arteries, the coronaries may be subject to arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). There are a number of coronary arteries. Those most often bypassed today include the right coronary artery, the posterior descending coronary artery, the left main coronary artery, the left anterior descending coronary artery and the left circumflex coronary artery. Plaques obstructing the coronary arteries may also be treated by balloon angioplasty, stents, and other techniques.
Coronary artery disease: Impedance or blockage of one or more arteries that supply blood to the heart, usually due to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Abbreviated CAD. A major cause of illness and death, CAD begins when hard cholesterol substances (plaques) are deposited within a coronary artery. The plaques in the coronary arteries can lead to the formation of tiny clots that can obstruct the flow of blood to the heart muscle, producing symptoms and signs of CAD, including chest pain (angina pectoris), heart attack (myocardial infarction), and sudden death. Treatment for CAD includes bypass surgery, balloon angioplasty, and the use of stents.
Cox-1: Cyclooxygenase-1, an enzyme that acts to speed up the production of certain chemical messengers, called prostaglandins, in a variety of areas of the body such as the stomach, kidneys, and sites of inflammation. In the stomach, prostaglandins promote the production of a protective natural mucus lining. They also interact within certain cells that are responsible for inflammation and other functions.
Diabetes: Refers to diabetes mellitus or, less often, to diabetes insipidus. Diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus share the name "diabetes" because they are both conditions characterized by excessive urination (polyuria).
Diabetes mellitus: Better known just as "diabetes" -- a chronic disease associated with abnormally high levels of the sugar glucose in the blood. Diabetes is due to one of two mechanisms:
Diagnosis: 1 The nature of a disease; the identification of an illness. 2 A conclusion or decision reached by diagnosis. The diagnosis is rabies. 3 The identification of any problem. The diagnosis was a plugged IV.
Dizziness: Painless head discomfort with many possible causes including disturbances of vision, the brain, balance (vestibular) system of the inner ear, and gastrointestinal system. Dizziness is a medically indistinct term which laypersons use to describe a variety of conditions ranging from lightheadedness, unsteadiness to vertigo.
Duodenum: The first part of the small intestine. The duodenum is a common site for peptic ulcer formation.
Effective dose: The dose of a drug that will achieve the desired effect.
Elective: In medicine, something chosen (elected). An elective procedure is one that is chosen (elected) by the patient or physician that is advantageous to the patient but is not urgent.
Elective surgery: Surgery that is subject to choice (election). The choice may be made by the patient or doctor.
Embolism: The obstruction of a blood vessel by a foreign substance or a blood clot that travels through the bloodstream, lodging in a blood vessel, plugging the vessel. Foreign substances that can cause embolisms include air bubbles, amniotic fluid, globules of fat, clumps of bacteria, chemicals (such as talc), and drugs (mainly illegal ones). Blood clots are the most common causes of embolisms. A pulmonary embolus is a blood clot that has been carried through the blood into the pulmonary artery (the main blood vessel from the heart to the lung) or one of its branches, plugging that vessel within the lung.
Endarterectomy: An operation to clean out an artery and restore normal blood flow through the artery. An endarterectomy is basically a "Rotorooter" procedure. It removes diseased material from the inside of an artery, and also removes any occluding atheromatous deposits, the aim being to leave a smooth lining within the vessel, so the blood can flow normally.
Enoxaparin: A low-molecular-weight version of heparin that acts like heparin as an anticoagulant medication. Enoxaparin is used to prevent thromboembolic complications (blood clots that travel from their site of origin through the bloodstream to clog another vessel) and in the early treatment of blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary embolisms).
Enzyme: A protein (or protein-based molecule) that speeds up a chemical reaction in a living organism. An enzyme acts as catalyst for specific chemical reactions, converting a specific set of reactants (called substrates) into specific products. Without enzymes, life as we know it would not exist.
Family history: The family structure and relationships within the family, including information about diseases in family members.
Fatty acids: Molecules that are long chains of lipid-carboxylic acid found in fats and oils and in cell membranes as a component of phospholipids and glycolipids. (Carboxylic acid is an organic acid containing the functional group -COOH.)
FDA: Food and Drug Administration.
Fever: Although a fever technically is any body temperature above the normal of 98.6 degrees F. (37 degrees C.), in practice a person is usually not considered to have a significant fever until the temperature is above 100.4 degrees F (38 degrees C.).
Fibrin: The protein that is formed during normal blood clotting and that is the essence of the clot.
Flu: Short for influenza. The flu is caused by viruses that infect the respiratory tract which are divided into three types, designated A, B, and C. Most people who get the flu recover completely in 1 to 2 weeks, but some people develop serious and potentially life-threatening medical complications, such as pneumonia. Much of the illness and death caused by influenza can be prevented by annual influenza vaccination.
Gastritis: Inflammation of the stomach.
Gastrointestinal: Adjective referring collectively to the stomach and small and large intestines.
Glycoprotein: A molecule that consists of a carbohydrate plus a protein.
Gout: Condition characterized by abnormally elevated levels of uric acid in the blood, recurring attacks of joint inflammation (arthritis), deposits of hard lumps of uric acid in and around the joints, and decreased kidney function and kidney stones. Uric acid is a breakdown product of purines, that are part of many foods we eat. The tendency to develop gout and elevated blood uric acid level (hyperuricemia) is often inherited and can be promoted by obesity, weight gain, alcohol intake, high blood pressure, abnormal kidney function, and drugs. The most reliable diagnostic test for gout is the identification of crystals in joints, body fluids and tissues.
Graft: Healthy skin, bone, kidney, liver, or other tissue that is taken from one part of the body to replace diseased or injured tissue removed from another part of the body. For example, skin grafts can be used to cover areas of skin that have been burned.
HDL: High density lipoprotein.
HDL cholesterol: High density lipoprotein cholesterol. Lipoproteins, which are combinations of fats (lipids) and proteins, are the form in which lipids are transported in the blood. HDLs transport cholesterol from the tissues of the body to the liver, so the cholesterol can be eliminated in the bile. HDL cholesterol is therefore considered the 'good' cholesterol: The higher the HDL cholesterol level, the lower the risk of coronary artery disease.The average man has an HDL cholesterol level of 40 to 50 mg/dL. In the average woman, HDL levels range from 50 to 60 mg/dL. An HDL cholesterol of 60 mg/dL or higher gives some protection against heart disease. Regular aerobic exercise, loss of excess weight (fat), and cessation of cigarette smoking increase HDL cholesterol levels. When lifestyle modifications are insufficient, medications can be used.
Heart: The muscle that pumps blood received from veins into arteries throughout the body. The heart is positioned in the chest behind the sternum (breastbone); in front of the trachea, esophagus, and aorta; and above the diaphragm. A normal heart is about the size of a closed fist and weighs about 298 grams or 10.5 ounces. It is cone-shaped, with the point of the cone pointing down to the left. Two-thirds of the heart lies in the left side of the chest, with the balance in the right side of the chest. The heart is composed of specialized cardiac muscle, and it is four-chambered, with a right atrium and ventricle, and an anatomically separate left atrium and ventricle. The blood flows from the systemic veins into the right atrium, thence to the right ventricle, from which it is pumped to the lungs and then returned into the left atrium, thence to the left ventricle, from which it is driven into the systemic arteries. The heart is thus functionally composed of two hearts: the right heart and the left heart. The right heart consists of the right atrium, which receives deoxygenated blood from the body, and the right ventricle, which pumps the deoxygenated blood to the lungs under low pressure; and the left heart, which consists of the left atrium, which receives oxygenated blood from the lung, and the left ventricle, which pumps the oxygenated blood out to the body under high pressure.
Heart attack: The death of heart muscle due to the loss of blood supply. The loss of blood supply is usually caused by a complete blockage of a coronary artery, one of the arteries that supplies blood to the heart muscle. Death of the heart muscle, in turn, causes chest pain and electrical instability of the heart muscle tissue.
Heart disease: Any disorder that affects the heart. Sometimes the term "heart disease" is used narrowly and incorrectly as a synonym for coronary artery disease. Heart disease is synonymous with cardiac disease but not with cardiovascular disease which is any disease of the heart or blood vessels. Among the many types of heart disease, see, for example: Angina; Arrhythmia; Congenital heart disease; Coronary artery disease (CAD); Dilated cardiomyopathy; Heart attack (myocardial infarction); Heart failure; Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy; Mitral regurgitation; Mitral valve prolapse; and Pulmonary stenosis.
Hemorrhage: Bleeding or the abnormal flow of blood.
Hemorrhagic: Pertaining to bleeding or the abnormal flow of blood.
Heparin: An anticoagulant (anti-clotting) medication. Heparin is useful in preventing thromboembolic complications (clots that travel from their site of origin through the blood stream to clog up another vessel). Heparin is also used in the early treatment of blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary embolisms).
High blood pressure: A repeatedly elevated blood pressure exceeding 140 over 90 mmHg. Chronic high blood pressure can stealthily cause blood vessel changes in the back of the eye (retina), abnormal thickening of the heart muscle, kidney failure, and brain damage. No specific cause for high blood pressure is found in 95 percent of patients. Treatment for high blood pressure involves dietary changes, regular aerobic exercise, and medication. There are many types of medications used to treat high blood pressure including diuretics, beta-blockers, blood vessel dilators, and others. Also known as hypertension.
Hypertension: High blood pressure, defined as a repeatedly elevated blood pressure exceeding 140 over 90 mmHg -- a systolic pressure above 140 with a diastolic pressure above 90.
Hypoglycemia: Low blood sugar (glucose). Hypoglycemia may be associated with symptoms such as anxiety, sweating, tremor, palpitations, nausea, and pallor. Hypoglycemia also starves the brain of glucose energy, which is essential for proper brain function. Lack of glucose energy to the brain can cause symptoms ranging from headache, mild confusion, abnormal behavior, loss of consciousness, seizure, and coma. Severe hypoglycemia can cause death. The causes of hypoglycemia include use of drugs (such as insulin), liver disease, surgical absence of the stomach, tumors that release excess amounts of insulin, and pre-diabetes. In some patients, symptoms of hypoglycemia occur during fasting (fasting hypoglycemia). In others, symptoms of hypoglycemia occur after meals (reactive hypoglycemia). Immediate treatment of severe hypoglycemia consists of administering large amounts of glucose and repeating this treatment at intervals if the symptoms persist. Treatment must also be directed at the underlying cause. Treatment of reactive hypoglycemia involves changing the diet, including eating fewer concentrated sweets and ingesting multiple small meals throughout the day.
Hypotension: Any blood pressure that is below the normal expected for an individual in a given environment. Hypotension is the opposite of hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure).
Incidence: The frequency with which something, such as a disease or trait, appears in a particular population or area.
Infarct: An area of tissue death that is due to a local lack of oxygen.
Infarction: The formation of an infarct, an area of tissue death, due to a local lack of oxygen.
Infection: The invasion and multiplication of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites that are not normally present within the body. An infection may cause no symptoms and be subclinical, or it may cause symptoms and be clinically apparent. An infection may remain localized, or it may spread through the blood or lymphatic vessels to become systemic (bodywide). Microorganisms that live naturally in the body are not considered infections. For example, bacteria that normally live within the mouth and intestine are not infections.
Inflammation: A localized reaction that produces redness, warmth, swelling, and pain as a result of infection, irritation, or injury. Inflammation can be external or internal.
Injury: Harm or hurt. To harm, hurt, or wound. The word injure may be in physical or emotional sense. From the Latin injuria meaning injury.
Internal medicine: The medical specialty dedicated to the diagnosis and medical treatment of adults. A physician who specializes in internal medicine is referred to as an internist. Subspecialties of internal medicine include allergy and immunology, cardiology (heart diseases), endocrinology (hormone disorders), hematology (blood disorders), infectious diseases, gastroenterology (diseases of the gut), nephrology (kidney diseases), oncology (cancer), pulmonology (lung disorders), and rheumat-ology (arthritis and musculoskeletal disorders).
Intestine: The long, tubelike organ in the abdomen that completes the process of digestion. It consists of the small and large intestines.
Intracranial: Within the cranium, the bony dome that houses and protects the brain.
Ischemia: Inadequate blood supply to a local area due to blockage of blood vessels leading to that area. Treatment is directed toward increasing the circulation to the affected body area.
Kidney: One of a pair of organs located in the right and left side of the abdomen. The kidneys remove waste products from the blood and produce urine. As blood flows through the kidneys, the kidneys filter waste products, chemicals, and unneeded water from the blood. Urine collects in the middle of each kidney, in an area called the renal pelvis. It then drains from the kidney through a long tube, the ureter, to the bladder, where it is stored until elimination. The kidneys also make substances that help control blood pressure and regulate the formation of red blood cells.
Laboratory: A place for doing tests and research procedures, and for preparing chemicals and some medications. Also known as lab.
Laceration: A cut.
Lancet: A small, pointed knife that is used to prick a finger for a blood test.
LDL cholesterol: Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, commonly referred to as 'bad' cholesterol. Elevated LDL levels are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Lipoproteins, which are combinations of fats (lipids) and proteins, are the form in which lipids are transported in the blood. Low-density lipoproteins transport cholesterol from the liver to the tissues of the body.
Liver: The largest solid organ in the body, situated in the upper part of the abdomen on the right side. The liver has a multitude of important and complex functions, including to manufacture proteins, including albumin (to help maintain the volume of blood) and blood clotting factors; to synthesize, store, and process fats, including fatty acids (used for energy) and cholesterol; to metabolize and store carbohydrates (used as the source for the sugar in blood); to form and secrete bile that contains bile acids to aid in the intestinal absorption of fats and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K; to eliminate, by metabolizing or secreting, the potentially harmful biochemical products produced by the body, such as bilirubin, from the breakdown of old red blood cells and ammonia from the breakdown of proteins; and to detoxify, by metabolizing and/or secreting, drugs, alcohol, and environmental toxins.
Low blood sugar: A low blood level of the sugar glucose. Also called hypoglycemia.
Metabolic: Relating to metabolism, the whole range of biochemical processes that occur within us (or any living organism). Metabolism consists of anabolism (the buildup of substances) and catabolism (the breakdown of substances).
Molecule: The smallest unit of a substance that can exist alone and retain the character of that 'substance.
MPH: Master of public health, a degree designating successful training in analyzing past, present, and future public health issues.
Muscle: Muscle is the tissue of the body which primarily functions as a source of power. There are three types of muscle in the body. Muscle which is responsible for moving extremities and external areas of the body is called "skeletal muscle." Heart muscle is called "cardiac muscle." Muscle that is in the walls of arteries and bowel is called "smooth muscle."
Myocardial infarction: A heart attack. Abbreviated MI.
Nausea: Stomach queasiness, the urge to vomit. Nausea can be brought on by many causes, including systemic illnesses (such as influenza), medications, pain, and inner ear disease.
NSAID: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, a medication that is commonly prescribed or purchased over the counter to treat the inflammation associated with conditions such as arthritis, tendonitis, and bursitis. Examples of NSAIDs include aspirin, indomethacin (brand name: Indocin), ibuprofen (brand name: Motrin), naproxen (brand name: Naprosyn), piroxicam (brand name: Feldene), and nabumetone (brand name: Relafen). People who take certain NSAIDs may have a higher risk of having a heart attack or a stroke than people who do not take these medications. This risk may be higher for people who take NSAIDs for a long time. Other major side effects of NSAIDs are gastrointestinal problems. Some 10 to 50 percent of patients are unable to tolerate NSAID treatment because of these side effects, which include abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, heartburn, and upset stomach.
Nursing: 1) Profession concerned with the provision of services essential to the maintenance and restoration of health by attending the needs of sick persons. 2) Feeding a infant at the breast.
Omega-3 fatty acids: A class of fatty acids found in fish oils, especially from salmon and other cold-water fish, that acts to lower the levels of cholesterol and LDL (low-density lipoproteins) in the blood. (LDL cholesterol is the "bad" cholesterol.)
Onset: In medicine, the first appearance of the signs or symptoms of an illness as, for example, the onset of rheumatoid arthritis.
Orthostatic hypotension: A temporary lowering of blood pressure, usually related to suddenly standing up. Healthy people may experience orthostatic hypotension if they rise quickly from a seated position, especially after a meal. Orthostatic hypotension occurs most commonly in older people. The change in position causes a temporary reduction in blood flow and therefore a shortage of oxygen to the brain. This leads to lightheadedness, dizziness, and, sometimes, a temporary loss of consciousness. Tilt-table testing can be used to confirm a diagnosis of orthostatic hypotension. Tilt-table testing involves placing the patient on a table with a foot support. The table is tilted upward, and blood pressure and pulse are measured while symptoms are recorded in various positions. Also known as postural hypotension.
Pain: An unpleasant sensation that can range from mild, localized discomfort to agony. Pain has both physical and emotional components. The physical part of pain results from nerve stimulation. Pain may be contained to a discrete area, as in an injury, or it can be more diffuse, as in disorders like fibromyalgia. Pain is mediated by specific nerve fibers that carry the pain impulses to the brain where their conscious appreciation may be modified by many factors.
Percutaneous: Through the skin. For example, a percutaneous biopsy is a biopsy that is obtained by putting a needle through the skin in order to obtain tissue within the body for examination.
Perfusion: A chemotherapy technique that may be used when melanoma occurs on an arm or leg. The flow of blood to and from the limb is stopped for a while with a tourniquet, and anticancer drugs are put directly into the blood of the limb. This allows the patient to receive a high dose of drugs in the area where the melanoma occurred.
Peripheral: Situated away from the center, as opposed to centrally located.
Peripheral vascular disease: A disease of blood vessels outside the heart. Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) affects the peripheral circulation, as opposed to the cardiac circulation. PVD comprises diseases of both peripheral arteries and peripheral veins. PVD is sometimes incorrectly used as a synonym for peripheral artery disease (PAD). Intermittent claudication due to inadequate blood flow to the leg is an example of peripheral artery disease (PAD) while varicose veins and spider veins are examples of peripheral vein disease.
Placebo: A "sugar pill" or any dummy medication or treatment.
Platelet: An irregular, disc-shaped element in the blood that assists in blood clotting. During normal blood clotting, the platelets clump together (aggregate). Although platelets are often classed as blood cells, they are actually fragments of large bone marrow cells called megakaryocytes.
Platelet aggregation: The clumping together of platelets in the blood. Platelet aggregation is part of the sequence of events leading to the formation of a thrombus (clot).
Poor circulation: An inadequacy of blood flow. Inadequate blood flow to a particular area of the body can result in too little oxygen being delivered to that area, a condition known as hypoxia. The term poor circulation may be used to refer to peripheral vascular disease (or peripheral arterial disease), a condition that develops when the arteries that supply blood to the internal organs, arms, and legs become completely or partially blocked as a result of atherosclerosis.
Pregnant: The state of carrying a developing fetus within the body.
Prescription: A physician's order for the preparation and administration of a drug or device for a patient. A prescription has several parts. They include the superscription or heading with the symbol "R" or "Rx", which stands for the word recipe (meaning, in Latin, to take); the inscription, which contains the names and quantities of the ingredients; the subscription or directions for compounding the drug; and the signature which is often preceded by the sign "s" standing for signa (Latin for mark), giving the directions to be marked on the container.
Protein: One of the three nutrients used as energy sources (calories) by the body. Proteins are essential components of the muscle, skin, and bones. Proteins and carbohydrates each provide 4 calories of energy per gram, whereas fats provide 9 calories per gram.
PTCA: Percutaneous transluminal coronary 'angioplasty.
Receptor: 1. In cell biology, a structure on the surface of a cell (or inside a cell) that selectively receives and binds a specific substance. There are many receptors. There is a receptor for (insulin; there is a receptor for low-density lipoproteins (LDL); etc. To take an example, the receptor for substance P, a molecule that acts as a messenger for the sensation of pain, is a unique harbor on the cell surface where substance P docks. Without this receptor, substance P cannot dock and cannot deliver its message of pain. Variant forms of nuclear hormone receptors mediate processes such as cholesterol metabolism and fatty acid production. Some hormone receptors are implicated in diseases such as diabetes and certain types of cancer. A receptor called PXR appears to jump-start the body's response to unfamiliar chemicals and may be involved in drug-drug interactions.
Recurrent: Appearing or occurring again. For example, a recurrent fever is a fever that has returned after an intermission, a recrudescent fever.
Resistance: Opposition to something, or the ability to withstand something. For example, some forms of the staphylococcus bacterium are resistant to treatment with antibiotics.
Ringing in the ears: Medically called tinnitus, can be due to many causes including ear infections, fluid in the ears, Meniere syndrome (the combination of tinnitus and deafness), some medications such as aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), aging, and ear trauma (such as from the noise of planes, firearms, or loud music). In rare situations, tinnitus may also be due to an aneurysm or an acoustic neuroma (a benign tumor on the acoustic nerve). Woodwind players are more likely to experience tinnitus than other orchestral players, probably because they usually sit just in front of the brass. If tinnitus persists or its cause is unknown, a hearing test (audiogram) should be done. Measures can be taken to lessen the intensity of tinnitus or to mask it.
Salicylic acid: A substance obtained from plants (white willow back and wintergreen leaves) and also synthesized which is versatile and possesses bacteriostatic, fungicidal, and keratolytic actions.
Small intestine: The part of the digestive tract that extends from the stomach to the large intestine.
Spasm: A brief, automatic jerking movement. A muscle spasm can be quite painful, with the muscle clenching tightly. A spasm of the coronary artery can cause the pain of angina. Spasms in various types of tissue may be caused by stress, medication, and overexercise.
Stent: A tube designed to be inserted into a vessel or passageway to keep it open. Stents are inserted into narrowed coronary arteries to help keep them open after balloon angioplasty. The stent then allows the normal flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. Stents placed in narrowed carotid arteries (the vessels in the front of the neck that supply blood to the brain) appear useful in treating patients at elevated risk for stroke. Stents are also used in other structures such as the esophagus to treat a constriction, the ureters to maintain the drainage of urine from the kidneys, and the bile duct to keep it open.
Stomach: The digestive organ that is located in the upper abdomen, under the ribs. The upper part of the stomach connects to the esophagus, and the lower part leads into the small intestine. When food enters the stomach, muscles in the stomach wall create a rippling motion (peristalsis) that mixes and mashes the food. At the same time, juices made by glands in the lining of the stomach help digest the food. After about 3 hours, the food becomes a liquid and moves into the small intestine, where digestion continues.
Stroke: The sudden death of brain cells due to lack of oxygen, caused by blockage of blood flow or rupture of an artery to the brain. Sudden loss of speech, weakness, or paralysis of one side of the body can be symptoms. A suspected stroke can be confirmed by scanning the brain with special X-ray tests, such as CAT scans. The death rate and level of disability resulting from strokes can be dramatically reduced by immediate and appropriate medical care. Prevention involves minimizing risk factors, such as controlling high blood pressure and diabetes. Abbreviated CVA. Also known as cerebrovascular accident.
Surgery: The branch of medicine that employs operations in the treatment of disease or injury. Surgery can involve cutting, abrading, suturing, or otherwise physically changing body tissues and organs.
The Lancet: A weekly medical journal headquartered in London. Published uninterruptedly and with the same title since 1823, The Lancet is "the longest running medical journal in the world."
Therapeutic: Relating to therapeutics, the branch of medicine that is concerned specifically with the treatment of disease. The therapeutic dose of a drug is the amount needed to treat a disease.
Therapy: The treatment of disease. Therapy is synonymous with treatment.
Thromboxane: A substance made by platelets that causes blood clotting and constriction of blood vessels. It also encourages platelet aggregation. There are two thromboxanes. Thromboxane A2 (TXA2) is active but is very unstable and has a half-life of only 30 seconds before it undergoes hydrolysis to form thromboxane B2 (TXB2) which is inactive. The thromboxanes are derived from arachidonic acid and are related to prostaglandins. Aspirin acts by inhibiting the COX enzyme from synthesizing precursors of thromboxane in platelets thereby reducing platelet aggregation.
Tinnitus: Ringing in the ears. Tinnitus has many causes, including some medications (including aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs), diseases such as M'ni're's disease, aging, and ear trauma.
Toxicity: The degree to which a substance (a toxin or poison) can harm humans or animals. Acute toxicity involves harmful effects in an organism through a single or short-term exposure. Subchronic toxicity is the ability of a toxic substance to cause effects for more than one year but less than the lifetime of the exposed organism. Chronic toxicity is the ability of a substance or mixture of substances to cause harmful effects over an extended period, usually upon repeated or continuous exposure, sometimes lasting for the entire life of the exposed organism.
Ulcer: A lesion that is eroding away the skin or mucous membrane. Ulcers can have various causes, depending on their location. Ulcers on the skin are usually due to irritation, as in the case of bedsores, and may become inflamed and/or infected as they grow. Ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract were once attributed to stress, but most are now believed to be due to infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. GI ulcers, however, are often made worse by stress, smoking, and other noninfectious factors.
Uric acid: A breakdown product of purines that are part of many foods. In gout, there are frequently, but not always, elevated levels of uric acid in the blood (hyperuricemia). However, only a small portion of those with hyperuricemia will develop gout.
Urine: Liquid waste produced by the kidneys. Urine is a clear, transparent fluid that normally has an amber color. The average amount of urine excreted in 24 hours is between 5 to 8 cups or 40 and 60 ounces. Chemically, urine is mainly a watery solution of salt and substances called urea and uric acid. Normally, it contains about 960 parts water to 40 parts solid matter. Abnormally, it may contain sugar (in diabetes), albumin (a protein, as in some forms of kidney disease), bile pigments (as in jaundice), or abnormal quantities of one or another of its normal components.
Vascular: Relating to blood vessels. For example, the vascular system in the body includes all of the veins and arteries. And, a vascular surgeon is an expert at evaluating and treating problems of the veins and arteries.
Vertigo: Aside from being the name of a classic 1958 Alfred Hitchcock film (with Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak), vertigo is a feeling that you are dizzily turning around or that things are dizzily turning about you. Vertigo is usually due to a problem with the inner ear. Vertigo can also be caused by vision problems.
Vessel: A tube in the body that carries fluids. Examples of vessels are blood vessels and lymph vessels.
Vitamins: The word "vitamin" was coined in 1911 by the Warsaw-born biochemist Casimir Funk (1884-1967). At the Lister Institute in London, Funk isolated a substance that prevented nerve inflammation (neuritis) in chickens raised on a diet deficient in that substance. He named the substance "vitamine" because he believed it was necessary to life and it was a chemical amine. The "e" at the end was later removed when it was recognized that vitamins need not be amines.
Warfarin: An anticoagulant drug (brand names: Coumarin, Panwarfin, Sofarin) taken to prevent the blood from clotting and to treat blood clots and overly thick blood. Warfarin is also used to reduce the risk of clots causing strokes or heart attacks.
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