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Medical Terms Explained
Sometimes when reading a book or article about how your body works or why you are having various symptoms, you come across words you have not heard before – often a medical term. We hope this list of words and explanations might be useful.
Amenorrhoea is when a woman does not have periods.
Androgens are male hormones, which are also produced in small quantities by women.
Atrophy is when a part of the body reduces in size or thins.
Carcinogen is any cancer-producing substance.
CAM stands for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Cervix is the lower part of the womb at the top of the vagina.
Climacteric is the transition when the ovaries cease to have a regular monthly function.
Collagen is the main supportive protein of the skin, tendons, bone and cartilage.
Corpus luteum is the part of the ovary which produces progesterone after the egg cell has been released.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is when a blood clot forms in the leg, which can be potentially life threatening if it travels to the lungs or brain.
Dysmenorrhoea means having painful periods.
Dyspareunia is when sexual intercourse is painful.
Endometrium is the lining of the womb, stimulated by the hormones from the ovaries, going through monthly cycles of thickening and shedding.
Endometriosis is when there are endometrium cells growing outside the womb, leading to pain at intercourse and possible infertility.
Fallopian tube connects each ovary to the womb and is where the egg cell and sperm meet.
Fibroids are non-cancerous growths of the muscle of the womb.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) is a hormone which stimulates the ovary egg cell development. As ovarian function decreases FSH levels rise and can be tested as an indication of the peri-menopause.
Homeostasis is the body’s ability to maintain a stable internal environment.
Hormone is a chemical messenger produced in one gland of the body, which then stimulates or deactivates another gland or organ.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) replaces the hormones oestrogen and progesterone (and sometimes testosterone) that decline around the menopause.
Hypothalamus is part of the brain closely linked to the pituitary gland, which controls body temperature, appetite, blood pressure and sleep.
Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the womb.
Kyphosis is when the curve in the thoracic spine (between the shoulder blades) increases too much.
Libido means sexual desire, in both women and men.
Luteinising Hormone (LH) is the hormone produced by the pituitary gland to stimulate the ovaries to release an egg cell.
Mastodynia means painful breasts.
Menopause is your last natural period.
Menstrual cycle is when the ovary egg cells develop and are released, which cause the ovaries to produce hormones, which in turn make the womb lining thicken and then shed (the menstrual “period”) if pregnancy has not occurred.
Menstruation is the monthly shedding of the womb lining and bleeding (otherwise known as a “period”), which occurs during reproductive years only.
Oestrogen is a group of female sex hormones (oestrodiol, oestriol and oestrone) produced mainly by the ovaries. (In USA spelt “estrogen”.)
Oocytes are egg cells in the ovaries, which reduce in number and quality as you approach the menopause.
Oophorectomy is the operation to remove an ovary.
Osteoblasts are the bone cells that build new bones.
Osteoclasts are the bone cells that break down bones.
Osteoporosis is the loss of bone density resulting in thin, fragile bones which are more prone to fracture, affecting 1 in 3 women.
Ovarian cyst is a growth from the ovary, which may contain fluid or sometimes solids, and which may be cancerous or non-cancerous.
Ovarian failure is when an ovary stops producing egg cells, ovulation stops, female sex hormones decline and menopause results.
Ovaries are the woman’s reproductive glands which produce egg cells and hormones, mainly oestrogen and progesterone.
Ovulation is when the egg cell is released from the ovary.
Peri-menopause is when ovarian function begins to diminish; periods become irregular and women may have some menopausal symptoms.
Phyto- means (in compound words) relating to plants (e.g.phytoestrogen).
Pituitary gland is the gland at the base of the brain which controls some hormones.
Post-menopause is the time after the menopause.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) describes the monthly symptoms experienced by women as a result of the monthly hormonal fluctuations during reproductive years.
Polycystic Ovaries (PCO) is the condition where ovaries increase in size due to multiple small cysts, which may lead to PCO syndrome. This can result in irregular periods, infertility, irregular body hair, acne and obesity.
Premature menopause is when ovarian failure takes place before a woman is 40 years old.
Progesterone is the female sex hormone produced monthly by the ovaries after the egg cell has been released.
Resistant Ovary Syndrome is an ovary disorder closely linked with premature menopause.
Surgical menopause is the last period caused when the ovaries (usually with a hysterectomy) are removed through an operation.
Testosterone is a male hormone which women have in low levels.
Trans is the prefix used for something altered from its natural state (e.g. trans-fatty acids).
Uterus is the womb.
Vasomotor symptoms are hot flushes and sweats, caused by a woman’s body temperature being controlled through changes to skin blood vessels and sweat glands.
Xeno- means (in compound words) strange or foreign (e.g. xenoestrogen).