The following are health and medical definitions of terms that appear in the Interferon 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.
Acetaminophen: A nonaspirin pain reliever or analgesic. Acetaminophen may be given alone to relieve pain and inflammation or it may be combined with other drugs, as in some migraine medications, which contain acetaminophen, a barbiturate, and caffeine.
Anorexia: An eating disorder characterized by markedly reduced appetite or total aversion to food. Anorexia is a serious psychological disorder. It is a condition that goes well beyond out-of-control dieting. The person with anorexia, most often a girl or young woman, initially begins dieting to lose weight. Over time, the weight loss becomes a sign of mastery and control. The drive to become thinner is thought to be secondary to concerns about control and fears relating to one's body. The individual continues the endless cycle of restrictive eating, often to a point close to starvation. This becomes an obsession and is similar to an addiction to a drug. Anorexia can be life-threatening. Also called anorexia nervosa.
Antihistamines: Drugs that combat the histamine released during an allergic reaction by blocking the action of the histamine on the tissue. Antihistamines do not stop the formation of histamine nor do they stop the conflict between the IgE and antigen. Therefore, antihistamines do not stop the allergic reaction but protect tissues from some of its effects. Antihistamines frequently cause mouth dryness and sleepiness. Newer "non sedating" antihistamines are generally thought to be somewhat less effective. Antihistamine side effects that very occasionally occur include urine retention in males and fast heart rate.
AZT: Azidothymidine, now renamed zidovudine, but still best known by the abbreviation AZT. This antiviral drug is prescribed, usually in combination with protease inhibitors and other drugs, to treat HIV infection in patients with AIDS.
Back pain: Pain felt in the low or upper back. Causes of pain in the low and upper back include conditions affecting the bony spine; discs between the vertebrae; ligaments around the spine and discs; spinal inflammation; spinal cord and nerves; muscles; internal organs of the pelvis, chest, and abdomen; tumors; and the skin.
Bacteria: Single-celled microorganisms that can exist either as independent (free-living) organisms or as parasites (dependent on another organism for life). The plural of bacterium. Examples of bacteria include Acidophilus, a normal inhabitant of yogurt; Gonococcus which causes gonorrhea; Clostridium welchii, the most common cause of gangrene; E. coli, which lives in the colon and can cause disease elsewhere; and Streptococcus, the bacterium that causes the common throat infection called strep throat.
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.
Cancer: An abnormal growth of cells which tend to proliferate in an uncontrolled way and, in some cases, to metastasize (spread).
Cell: The basic structural and functional unit of any living thing. Each cell is a small container of chemicals and water wrapped in a membrane. There are 100 trillion cells in a human, and each contains all of the genetic information necessary to manufacture a human being. This information is encoded within the cell nucleus in 6 billion subunits of DNA called base pairs. These base pairs are packaged in 23 pairs of chromosomes, with 1 chromosome in each pair coming from each parent. Each of the 46 human chromosomes contains the DNA for thousands of individual genes.
Chills: feelings of coldness accompanied by shivering. Chills may develop after exposure to a cold environment or may accompany a fever.
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).
Chronic myelogenous leukemia: A chronic malignant disease in which too many white blood cells belonging to the myeloid line of cells are made in the bone marrow. Early symptoms of this form of leukemia include fatigue and night sweats. The disease is due to the growth and evolution of an abnormal clone of cells containing a chromosome rearrangement known as the Philadelphia (or Ph) chromosome. Chronic myelogenous leukemia is commonly called CML. It is also known as chronic myelocytic leukemia and chronic granulocytic leukemia.
Congestion: An abnormal or excessive accumulation of a body fluid. The term is used broadly in medicine. Examples include nasal congestion (excess mucus and secretions in the air passages of the nose) seen with a common cold and congestion of blood in the lower extremities seen with some types of heart failure.
Cough: A rapid expulsion of air from the lungs, typically in order to clear the lung airways of fluids, mucus, or other material. Also known as tussis.
Depression: An illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts and that affects the way a person eats, sleeps, feels about himself or herself, and thinks about things. Depression is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be wished away. People with depression cannot merely 'pull themselves together' and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people with depression. The signs and symptoms of depression include loss of interest in activities that were once interesting or enjoyable, including sex; loss of appetite, with weight loss, or overeating, with weight gain; loss of emotional expression (flat affect); a persistently sad, anxious, or empty mood; feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness; social withdrawal; unusual fatigue, low energy level, a feeling of being slowed down; sleep disturbance and insomnia, early-morning awakening or oversleeping; trouble concentrating, remembering, or making decisions; unusual restlessness or irritability; persistent physical problems such as headaches, digestive disorders, or chronic pain that do not respond to treatment, and thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts. The principal types of depression are called major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disease (manic-depressive disease).
Diarrhea: A common condition that involves unusually frequent and liquid bowel movements. The opposite of constipation. There are many infectious and noninfectious causes of diarrhea. Persistent diarrhea is both uncomfortable and dangerous to the health because it can indicate an underlying infection and may mean that the body is not able to absorb some nutrients due to a problem in the bowels. Treatment includes drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and taking over-the-counter remedies. People with diarrhea that persists for more than a couple days, particularly small children or elderly people, should seek medical attention.
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.
DNA: Deoxyribonucleic acid. One of two types of molecules that encode genetic information. (The other is RNA. In humans DNA is the genetic material; RNA is transcribed from it. In some other organisms, RNA is the genetic material and, in reverse fashion, the DNA is transcribed from it.)
Edema: The swelling of soft tissues as a result of excess fluid accumulation. Edema is often most prominent in the lower legs and feet toward the end of the day because fluid pools while people maintain an upright position.
Enzymes: Proteins that act as a catalysts in mediating and speeding a specific chemical reaction.
Epithelial: Relating to the epithelium.
Fatigue: A condition characterized by a lessened capacity for work and reduced efficiency of accomplishment, usually accompanied by a feeling of weariness and tiredness. Fatigue can be acute and come on suddenly or chronic and persist.
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.).
Genes: The basic biological units of heredity. Segments of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) needed to contribute to a function.
Genital: Pertaining to the external and/or internal organs of reproduction.
Hair loss: Hair loss is the thinning of hair on the scalp. The medical term for hair loss is alopecia. Alopecia can be temporary or permanent. The most common form of hair loss occurs gradually and is referred to as "androgenetic alopecia," meaning that a combination of hormones (androgens are male hormones) and heredity (genetics) is needed to develop the condition. Other types of hair loss include alopecia areata (patches of baldness that usually grow back), telogen effluvium (rapid shedding after childbirth, fever, or sudden weight loss); and traction alopecia (thinning from tight braids or ponytails).
Hairy cell leukemia: A rare type of chronic leukemia in which the abnormal white blood cells appear to be covered with tiny hairs when examined microscopically. The hairy cells are malignant B lymphocytes. There may be too few normal blood cells of all types because of an exc
Headache: A pain in the head with the pain being above the eyes or the ears, behind the head (occipital), or in the back of the upper neck. Headache, like chest pain or back ache, has many causes.
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 rate: The number of heartbeats per unit of time, usually per minute. The heart rate is based on the number of contractions of the ventricles (the lower chambers of the heart). The heart rate may be too fast (tachycardia) or too slow (bradycardia). The pulse is a bulge of an artery from waves of blood that course through the blood vessels each time the heart beats. The pulse is often taken at the wrist to estimate the heart rate.
Hepatitis: Inflammation of the liver, irrespective of the cause. Hepatitis is caused by a number of conditions, including drug toxicity, immune diseases, and viruses.
Hepatitis B: Inflammation of the liver due to the hepatitis B virus (HBV), once thought to be passed only through blood products. It is now known that hepatitis B can also be transmitted via needle sticks, body piercing and tattooing using un sterilized instruments, the dialysis process, sexual and even less intimate close contact, and childbirth. Symptoms include fatigue, jaundice, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, light stools. Diagnosis is by blood test. Treatment is via anti-viral drugs and/or hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG).
Hepatitis C: Inflammation of the liver due to the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is usually spread via blood transfusion, hemodialysis, and needle sticks. HCV causes most transfusion-associated hepatitis, and the damage it does to the liver can lead to cirrhosis and cancer. Transmission of the virus by sexual contact is rare. At least half of HCV patients develop chronic hepatitis C infection. Diagnosis is made by blood test. Treatment is via antiviral drugs. Chronic hepatitis C may be treated with interferon, sometimes in combination with antivirals. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. Previously known as non-A, non-B hepatitis.
HPV: Human papillomavirus.
Human papillomavirus: HPV. A family of over 100 viruses including those which cause warts and are transmitted by contact. Some types of human papillomavirus are associated with tumors of the genital tract including, notably, cancer of the cervix.
Immune: Protected against infection, usually by the presence of antibodies.
Immune system: A complex system that is responsible for distinguishing a person from everything foreign to him or her and for protecting his or her body against infections and foreign substances.
Interferon: A naturally occurring substance that interferes with the ability of viruses to reproduce. Interferon also boosts the immune system.
Joint: The area where two bones are attached for the purpose of permitting body parts to move. A joint is usually formed of fibrous connective tissue and cartilage. Joints are grouped according to their type of motion: ball-and-socket joint; hinge joint; condyloid joint, which permits all forms of angular movement except axial rotation; pivot joint; gliding joint; or saddle joint. Joints can move in only four ways: gliding, in which one bony surface glides on another, without angular or rotatory movement; angular, a movement that occurs only between long bones, increasing or decreasing the angle between the bones; circumduction, which occurs in joints composed of the head of a bone and an articular cavity, with the long bone describing a series of circles and the whole forming a cone; and rotation, in which a bone moves about a central axis without moving from this axis. Also known as articulation and arthrosis.
Leukemia: Cancer of the blood cells. Strictly speaking, leukemia should refer only to cancer of the white blood cells (leukocytes), but in practice it can apply to malignancy of any cellular element in the blood or bone marrow, as in red cell leukemia (erythroleukemia). Treatment may involve chemo'therapy, radiation therapy, biological therapy, and/or bone marrow transplantation. Also spelled leucemia. See also accelerated phase of leukemia; leukemia, blastic phase of; leukemia, chronic phase of; leukemia, hairy cell; leukemia, lymphocytic; leukemia, myeloid; leukemia, refractory; myelodysplastic syndrome.
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.
Malaise: A vague feeling of discomfort, one that cannot be pinned down but is often sensed as 'just not right.'
Malignant: 1. Tending to be severe and become progressively worse, as in malignant hypertension. 2. In regard to a tumor, having the properties of a malignancy that can invade and destroy nearby tissue and that may spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.
Melanoma: The most dangerous form of skin cancer, a malignancy of the melanocyte, the cell that produces pigment in the skin. Melanoma is most common in people with fair skin, but can occur in people with all skin colors. Most melanomas present as a dark, mole-like spot that spreads and, unlike a mole, has an irregular border. The tendency toward melanoma may be inherited, and the risk increases with overexposure to the sun and sunburn.
Multiple sclerosis: A disease that is characterized by loss of myelin (demyelinization). Abbreviated MS. Myelin, the coating of nerve fibers, is composed of lipids (fats) and protein. It serves as insulation and permits efficient nerve fiber conduction. In MS, demyelinization usually affects white matter in the brain, but sometimes it extends into the gray matter. When myelin is damaged, nerve fiber conduction is faulty or absent, and nerve cell death may occur. Impaired bodily functions or altered sensations associated with those demyelinated nerve fibers give rise to the symptoms of MS, which range from numbness to paralysis and blindness. People with MS experience attacks of symptoms that may last days, months, or longer. For many patients, the disease is progressive and leads to disablement, although some cases enter long, perhaps even permanent, remission. The cause of MS is unknown, although viral activity is suspected. Most patients are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40. Until recently, treatment had focused on preventing attacks. Steroids, interferon, and medications to treat specific symptoms (such as fatigue, depression, and vertigo) are standard, along with lifestyle changes to avoid stress and other triggers. New treatment options involve immune system modulation or support.
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."
Myelogenous: Referring to the nonlymphocytic groups of white blood cells, including the granulocytes, monocytes and platelets.
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.
Osteopetrosis: A genetic disease that is characterized by abnormally dense thick bone. A severe autosomal recessive form of osteopetrosis can occur in infants and children, and a milder autosomal dominant form can occur in teens and adults. In the recessive form, the thickened bone obliterates the marrow cavity, causing anemia, and ?narrows the openings of the skull, causing compression of nerves to the ears and eyes, ultimately resulting in deafness and blindness. Fractures are common in both forms. Also known as marble bone disease.
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.
Perianal: Located around the anus, the opening of the rectum to the outside of the body.
Pharmacy: A location where prescription medications are sold. A pharmacy is constantly supervised by a licensed pharmacist.
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 count: The calculated number of platelets in a volume of blood, usually expressed as platelets per cubic millimeter (cmm) of whole blood. Platelets are the smallest cell-like structures in the blood and are important for blood clotting and plugging damaged blood vessels. Platelet counts are usually done by laboratory machines that also count other blood elements such as the white and red cells. They can also be counted by use of a microscope. Normal platelet counts are in the range of 150,000 to 400,000 per microliter (or 150 - 400 x 109 per liter). These values many vary slightly between different laboratories.
Proteins: Large molecules composed of one or more chains of amino acids in a specific order determined by the base sequence of nucleotides in the DNA coding for the protein.
Recombinant: A person with a new combination of genes, a combination not present in either parent, due to parental recombination of those genes.
Recombinant DNA technology: A series of procedures that are used to join together (recombine) DNA segments. A recombinant DNA molecule is constructed from segments of two or more different DNA molecules. Under certain conditions, a recombinant DNA molecule can enter a cell and replicate there, either on its own or after it has been integrated into a chromosome.
Red blood cell: The blood cell that carries oxygen. Red cells contain hemoglobin and it is the hemoglobin which permits them to transport oxygen (and carbon dioxide). Hemoglobin, aside from being a transport molecule, is a pigment. It gives the cell its red color (and name).
Sarcoma: One of a group of tumors usually arising from connective tissue. Most sarcomas are malignant. Many types are named after the type of cell, tissue, or structure involved, as in angiosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, liposarcoma,and osteosarcoma.
Suicidal: Pertaining to suicide. the taking of ones own life. As in a suicidal gesture, suicidal thought, or suicidal act. An "online lifeline for suicidal undergrads" may help prevent college students from committing suicide.
Therapy: The treatment of disease. Therapy is synonymous with treatment.
Thrombocytopenia: : A low platelet count. Platelets are irregular, disc-shaped element in the blood that assists in blood clotting. thrombocytopenia can arise due to decreased production of platelets in the bone marrow or increased breakdown of platelets in the bloodstream, spleen, or liver. Thrombocytopenia is characterized by easy bruising and increased bleeding.
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.
Triglycerides: The major form of fat stored by the body. A triglyceride consists of three molecules of fatty acid combined with a molecule of the alcohol glycerol. Triglycerides serve as the backbone of many types of lipids (fats). Triglycerides come from the food we eat as well as from being produced by the body.
Tylenol: See: Acetaminophen.
Viral: Of or pertaining to a virus. For example, if a person has a viral rash, the rash was caused by a virus.
Viruses: Small living particles that can infect cells and change how the cells function. Infection with a virus can cause a person to develop symptoms. The disease and symptoms that are caused depend on the type of virus and the type of cells that are infected.
Zidovudine: See: AZT.
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