Medical Glossary A-H

Abdominal cavity: The body cavity which lies between the underside of the diaphragm and rib cage and the inner surface of the pelvis. It contains the reproductive organs, the digestive organs, and the urinary organs.

Acupuncture: “Chinese medicine views the body as a complex system of interconnected energy pathways known as meridians. Good health depends on the smooth, harmonious flow of energy and blood through these meridians. The energy, referred to as chi, collects at distinct places (points) on these meridians. Very fine needles are inserted at these points to open the healing pathways.” (Yo San University Clinic brochure.)

Acute pain: Severe pain over a short time.

Addback therapy: The addition of synthetic forms of estrogen and progesterone in an effort to replace those hormones suppressed by GnRH drugs.

Adenomyosis: Disease characterized by the growth of the endometrium into the walls of the uterus.

Adhesions:  Bands of scar tissue sometimes formed due to endo or abdominal surgery, potentially causing inflammation, blockage, and pain.

Addiction: Compulsive, uncontrollable dependence on a substance.

Adnexa: The uterine “appendages,” i.e. the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and uterine ligaments.

Adrenal glands: Two glands positioned on top of the kidneys. They produce adrenal hormones, including cortisol (also called hydrocortisone) which is involved in providing energy in the body, preventing low blood sugar, and other functions; adrenaline (also called epinephrine) which acts as a heart stimulant and blood vessel constrictor; testosterone, a hormone involved in sex drive and food and energy metabolism; and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), an important hormone which is the precursor for other hormones and involved in immune regulation. The adrenal glands are under the direction of the pituitary gland.

Adrenaline: See definition for adrenal glands.

AFS staging system: “The revised staging criteria of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine are based on the location of implants, presence of superficial or deep endometriosis, and presence of filmy or dense adhesions.  Endometriosis may be classified as stage I (minimal), II (mild), III (moderate), or IV (severe) … However, observer variability is high in the evaluation of endometriosis, and a more useful method for staging the disease is being sought.”  The system, established to try to predict fertility, does NOT relate to level of symptoms―stage I can be more painful than stage IV.  In addition, the system is not validated.  Definition from The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, Seventeenth Edition.

Agent Orange: A defoliant mixture of two phenoxyherbicides, one of which contained dioxin, TCDD.

Agonist:  A drug or other substance that can bind with a receptor to produce a reaction similar to another substance. An estrogen agonist, for example, acts like estrogen and has similar effects.  The drug Lupron is a GnRH agonist.

Allergen: A substance causing allergic reaction.

Allergy and hypersensitivity: Used interchangeably. Refers to tissue damage caused by an overreaction of the body’s immune system to antigens that are usually harmless to most people.

Amenorrhea: The absence of menstruation.

Anabolic: Stimulates growth.

Analgesic: A drug to relieve pain.

Analog: Synthetic version of a drug or hormone.

Anaphylaxis: An allergic hypersensitivity reaction of the body to a protein or foreign substance, including drugs. Systemic anaphylaxis involves cells throughout the body; if severe, this reaction can be fatal.

Anastomosis: Surgical connection of two hollow organs, such as intestines.

Androgen: Male sex hormones that promote the development and maintenance of the male sex characteristics.

Angiogenesis: Growth of new blood vessels to supply the blood that endo and cancer tissues need.

Antagonist:  A drug or other substance that exerts an opposite action to that of another or competes for the same receptor sites. An estrogen antagonist, for example, blocks estrogen.  The drug Orilissa, is a GnRH antagonist.

Antagonizing: Exerting an opposite effect.

Anterior cul-de-sac: The area between the front of the uterus and vagina and the back of the bladder.

Antibodies: Various proteins in the blood that are generated in reaction to antigens, which they neutralize, and which produce immunity against certain microorganisms or their toxins.

Anticoagulant: A substance that prevents or delays clotting of the blood, such as heparin.

Antigen: Any substance that, when introduced into the body, is recognized by the immune system.

Antigen-presenting cell (APC): B cells, macrophages, and various other body cells that “present” antigens in a form that T cells can recognize.  (See T cells)

Antiglucocorticoids: Agents that act against any of the hormones of the adrenal cortex that promote mobilization of fat and amino acids.

Antioxidants:  Compounds in the body or in nutrients which slow or prevent the effects of harmful substances called free radicals by converting these free radicals into water and oxygen. Free radicals are highly reactive substances found in air pollution, tobacco smoke, pesticides, foods, and ultraviolet sunlight that are manufactured during normal body processes; they damage cell membranes and result in tissue damage associated with heart disease, cancer, arthritis, premature aging, and other conditions. Antioxidants help slow or prevent these processes and may play a role in the immune system. [Adapted from Nutrition for Women by Elizabeth Somer, New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1993]

Anteverted: Tilted forwards.

Anus: The canal (1½ inches long) from the rectum, through a ring of muscles, and including an opening to the outside of the body through which solid wastes are moved as bowel movements.  

Apoptosis: “Cell suicide,” process by which a damaged cell destroys itself.

Argon laser: A type of laser used in laser surgery and laser laparoscopy. Wave length of the argon is selectively absorbed by the reddish color in some active areas of endo. Penetrates fluids and can coagulate.

Aromatase:  An enzyme that converts androgens into estrogens. Inhibiting its action is one approach to breast cancer prevention and treatment and possibly for endometriosis treatment.

Aspiration: To remove by suction.

Aspiration of cyst: Surgical puncture of a cyst and suctioning out of the old blood and other material inside it.

Assay: The analysis of a substance to determine is constituents.

Asthma: Chronic respiratory disease, often arising from allergies, accompanied by labored breathing, chest constriction, and coughing.

Asymptomatic: The absence of symptoms.

Atopic: Allergic diseases that have a hereditary component including allergies, asthma, atopic eczema, etc.

Atrophy: The wasting away or decreasing in size of tissue or an organ.

Autism:  A neurological disorder typically appearing before the age of three years. The word “autism” means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and non-verbal communication and social interaction. Because of the range of symptoms, this condition is now called autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism spectrum disorder is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.

Autoantibodies: Antibodies which the body makes against its own cells.

Autoimmune disease: One caused by autoantibodies or lymphocytes that attack one’s own tissues or cells.

Autoimmune endocrinopathy: A disease in which parts of the endocrine system are attacked   by the body’s own immune system.

Autoimmune reaction: An abnormal reaction of the immune system whereby it reacts against the cells or tissue of the body as though they were foreign invaders.

Autoimmunity: A disease state that results when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues. Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are examples of autoimmune diseases.

Avascular: Lacking in blood vessels; having a poor blood supply.

B

Barium enema: Lower bowel x-ray in which barium, used to provide contrast, is inserted into the colon through the rectum and x-rays are taken.

Basal body temperature (BBT): The body temperature at rest.

B cells: Immune cells that produce antibodies.

B lymphocytes; B cells: Small white blood cells crucial to the immune defenses. They are derived from bone marrow and produce antibodies.

Bagging: Enclosing a cyst being removed in a secured bag to maintain an airtight seal during surgery to minimize the risk of spill in case the cyst turns out to be cancerous.

Benign: Non-cancerous, when used to refer to a tumor or mass.

Bilateral: Occurring or appearing on two sides.

Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy: Removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes.

Bioaccumulation: Compounds taken up and stored in fatty tissue of animals and humans. The concentration of these compounds in fatty tissues increases with time even with low levels of exposure.

Biochemistry: The chemistry of living organisms and life processes.

Biofeedback: A process whereby electronic monitoring of a normally automatic bodily function is used to train someone to acquire voluntary control of that function.

Bioidentical hormones: Hormones produced by compounding pharmacies which have an identical chemical structure to those made by the body.

Biomagnification: The accumulation of toxins in animals and humans when plants and small animals are eaten by larger animals and the amount of toxins consumed by each higher organism increases.

Biopsy: Removal and examination of a sample of tissue to make a diagnosis.

Bisphenol A: A plastic resin that is estrogenic.

Bladder: The membranous sac that collects and stores urine until it is eliminated.

Blastocyst: Early stage of embryo development during which implantation in the wall of the uterus usually occurs.

Borderline tumors: Also referred to as “low malignancy potential tumor.”  A type of tumor (usually associated with ovarian tumors) which rarely metastasizes or is invasive.

Bowel obstruction: Partial or complete blockage of the intestine.

Breakthrough bleeding: A form of bleeding from the uterus between periods which is associated with taking birth control pills and progesterone-like drugs such as Provera.

Broad ligaments: Folds of peritoneum attached to the sides of the uterus.

Bromocriptine: A drug used to suppress the production of prolactin. Brand name Parlodel.

Butterfly rash: The classic rash of lupus which covers the bridge of the nose and the cheeks in a butterfly pattern.

C

Cancer: An abnormal growth characterized by the uncontrolled growth of cells that are changed in their structure and orientation to each other. This change is characterized by a loss of differentiation and reversion to a more primitive form. Tends to invade surrounding tissue and to spread to distant body sites.

Candidiasis: A condition of allergy to and infection with Candida albicans.

Carbon dioxide laser: A type of laser used in laser surgery and laser laparoscopy.

Carcinogen: A cancer-causing agent.

Carcinoma: General name for tumors arising in the skin and the linings of organs such as the lungs or uterus (also called epithelial tissues).

Case control studies: A retrospective scientific study in which a group of patients with a particular disease is compared with a control group of persons who have not developed that medical problem.

Castration: The surgical removal of the ovaries or testicles.

Catalyst: A substance that influences the rate of a chemical reaction.

Catecholamines:   Any of various compounds that are secretions, or by-products of secretions, of the medulla (inmost portion) of the adrenal gland and affect the sympathetic nervous system.

Cauterize: To burn so as to destroy tissue.

Cecum: The pouch where the small intestine ends and the large intestine begins in the human body.

Cell-mediated immunity: Immune protection provided by the direct action of immune cells (versus humoral immunity).

Centimeter (cm): Part of the metric system of measurement. 1 cm = 0.39 inch (U.S.)

Cephalopelvic disproportion: Situation in pregnancy and labor in which the fetus’ head is too large for the mother’s pelvis.

Cervical atresia: Condition in which the cervix is malformed or absent.

Cervical stenosis: A narrowing or complete blockage of the cervix.

Cervix: The lowest part of the uterus which extends down into and opens into the vagina.

Chemotaxis/chemotactic agent/chemoattractant: A chemical that attracts cells to a specific location. Chemotaxis is the movement of cells to that location in response to the attracting chemical.

Chiropractic: A health profession concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, and the effects of these disorders on the function of the nervous system and general health. There is an emphasis on manual treatments including spinal adjustment and other joint and soft-tissue manipulation.  Chiropractors may also incorporate exercise, nutrition and posture assistance in their treatment approaches.

Chocolate cyst: A mass containing endometrial tissue, often described as a chocolate cyst because of its color, sometimes found in endometriosis.  See endometrioma.

Cholecystitis: Acute or chronic inflammation of the gallbladder.

Cholesterol: A waxy fat essential to life as the precursor of hormones and key in absorption and transport of fatty acids.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS):  A condition characterized by disabling fatigue, accompanied by a constellation of symptoms, including muscle pain, multi-joint pain without swelling, painful swelling of lymph glands in the neck and armpits, sore throat, headache, impaired memory or concentration, unrefreshing sleep, and weakness and discomfort following exertion.  Also called myalgic encephalomyelitis or systemic exertion intolerance disease.  Women with endometriosis have a higher risk for this disease.

Chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis: A progressive disease in which an inherited defect of the immune system (the cell-mediated immune system) only to Candida albicans allows invasion of Candida, causing chronic Candida and viral infections followed by the development of autoantibodies against organs or substances of the endocrine system. Associated diseases can include diabetes, Addison’s disease (a disease of complete failure of the adrenal glands), hypothyroidism, and pernicious anemia.

Chronic pain: Pain that persists for a long time, showing little change.

Chronic toxins: Poisons which can cause adverse effects after long-term exposure, i.e., damage to kidneys, lungs, or liver.

Clear cell:  A type of cell which does not take on a color when stained for microscopic examination.  The principle cell found in kidney (renal) cancer, occasionally found in ovarian cancer.

Clinically diagnosed: To identify disease through direct observation of the patient, (in endo research, this phrase usually means the patients were not given a laparoscopy).

Clomid: The most commonly used fertility drug. Stimulates ovulation.

Clomiphene:  A fertility treatment drug used to stimulate ovulation. Marketed under the trade name Clomid.

Coagulation: Clotting; the process of changing a liquid into a solid, especially of the blood.  This term is frequently used instead of desiccation (the drying of tissue with cellular destruction, which is the effect of using a bipolar or thermal coagulator).

Coelomic epithelium: Tissue in the embryo that develops into the lining of the pelvis.

Coitus: Sexual intercourse.

Collagen disease: A disease of the connective tissue in the body.

Colon: The major tubular part of the large intestine from the cecum to the rectum.

Colonoscopy: A procedure to study the condition of the colon from the inside of the colon. A colonoscope, a long, flexible tube with a fiberoptic lighting system like a laparoscope, is inserted into the colon through the rectum.

Colostomy: Surgical creation of an opening in the abdominal wall for drainage of bowel contents. In temporary colostomy the opening is closed after healing of the cut parts of the intestines and the person returns to normal bowel movements. In permanent colostomy the person uses a bag at the site of the surgical opening or uses a pad over the opening and needs a bag only at the time of bowel movement. (Permanent colostomy is not used for endometriosis of the bowel.)

Colposcopy: Introduction of an optic system through the vagina to visualize the vagina and cervix.

Colpotomy: Surgical procedure in which an incision is made in the vagina just behind the cervix.

Comorbidity: Two or more medical conditions existing at the same time in the same person.

Complement (C’) system: A complex series of blood proteins whose action “complements” the work of antibodies. Complement destroys bacteria, produces inflammation, and regulates immune reactions.

Complete blood count (CBC): A blood test that counts the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and various white blood cell subsets in blood.  The test also looks at the amount of hemoglobin in blood and can be used to look for anemia.

Compromised immune system: An immune system that is injured, impaired, unable to function completely normally.

Congenital: Existing at birth.

Connective tissue: The tissue that binds the body together, found in abundance in every area of the body.

Conservative surgery: Gynecological surgery which preserves the ability to have children.

Constipation: Infrequent or difficult passage of dry, hardened feces.

Corpus luteum: A special gland (a yellow sac) that forms on the ovary after the ovum (egg) has been released from the follicle. It produces progesterone during the second half of the menstrual cycle. It is necessary to prepare the uterine lining for implantation by the fertilized egg.

Correlation: “The extent to which one of a pair of characteristics affects the other in a series of individuals” (Bantam Medical Dictionary, rev. ed. 1990). Example: there is a positive correlation between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

Corticoids: Adrenal gland hormones.

Cortisol:  See definition for adrenal glands.

Credentials: A predetermined set of standards, such as licensure or certification, establishing that a person or institution has achieved professional recognition in a specific field of health care.

Crohn’s disease: A chronic inflammatory bowel disease.

Cross-reaction: The reaction between an antigen and an antibody that was generated against a different antigen.

Cul-de-sac obliteration: Extensive adhesions in the cul-de-sac uniting the cervix or the lower part of the uterus to the rectum.

Cul-de-sac: The space between the back of the uterus and the rectum that forms a pouch.

Cyst: A closed cavity or sac, epithelium-lined, usually containing liquid or semisolid material.  Also see endometrioma.

Cytokines: Powerful chemical substances secreted by immune cells.

Cystectomy: Surgical removal of all or part of the bladder.

Cystitis: Inflammation of the bladder.

Cystoscopy: A procedure in which a scopelike device is inserted through the urethra while the patient is anesthetized, allowing the physician to see the inside of the bladder.

Cytotoxic: Toxic to cells.

Cytotoxic T cell, suppressor T cell: A subset of T lymphocytes that can kill body cells infected by viruses or transformed by cancer; counteract stimulatory effect of helper T cells, shut things down.

D

D & C: Abbreviation for dilation and curettage, a procedure in which the cervix, the opening of the uterus at the top of the vagina, is dilated, widened or stretched with a dilator, and the endometrium, the inside lining of the uterus, is scraped and examined under a microscope. D & Cs are frequently done to determine the cause of and to treat unusual bleeding but are also used for other gynecological reasons.

Danazol: A drug used in the treatment of endometriosis, mostly in the past. Also known as Danocrine.

DDT: (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) A long-lasting chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticide. Federal restrictions were placed on the synthetic pesticide DDT in 1972 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). DDT has been shown to adversely affect the immune and reproductive systems in humans and animals.

Defoliant: A chemical spray that strips growing plants of their leaves.

Depo-Provera: An injectable form of the progesterone-like drug Provera which is sometimes used in the treatment of endometriosis.

Dermal: Referring to the skin.

Dermatomyositis: A disease characterized by chronic inflammation of the skin and muscles.

DES:  Diethylstilbestrol, a synthetic estrogen, was given to pregnant women between 1941 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage. Subsequent research showed that the drug did not prevent miscarriage. DES has since been linked to breast cancer in the mothers, pregnancy complications and a rare form of vaginal cancer in exposed daughters, and fertility problems in both daughters and sons.

Desiccate, desiccation: The drying of tissue with cellular destruction. This is the tissue effect of using a bipolar or thermal coagulator.

Detoxification: The removal of a poison or its effects from a patient.

DHEA: See definition for adrenal glands.

Diabetes: A clinical condition characterized by the excessive excretion of urine as in diabetes insipidus or may be the result of hyperglycemia (a greater than normal amount of glucose in the blood), as in diabetes mellitus.

Diarrhea: Abnormally frequent passage of loose, watery stools. The American Medical Association Family Medical Guide notes, on the topic of constipation and diarrhea, “there is no ‘normal’ pattern for bowel movements. Most people have about one a day, but some have as many as three. At the other extreme, there are people who regularly have only three bowel movements a week….Consider yourself constipated only if your normal pattern changes and you begin to have irregular, unusually infrequent, and/or difficult movements. Similarly, you have diarrhea only if you have unusually frequent and particularly loose bowel movements.”

Dilator: An instrument used to enlarge a small opening.

Dioxin:  TCDD (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin), the most toxic of a group of chemicals prevalent in the environment from herbicides, pesticides, industrial wastes, and other sources; dioxin is a toxic chemical by-product of pesticide manufacturing, bleached pulp and paper products, and hazardous waste burning.

Disability: Loss of ability to carry out specific functions.

Dysbiosis: Imbalance of intestinal microorganisms such as occurs in candidiasis.

Dysfunction: Disturbance in the functioning of an organ or system.

Dysmenorrhea:  Pain in conjunction with menstruation. When severe, can also cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and painful/frequent bowel movements.

Dyspareunia: Painful intercourse.

Dysuria: Painful urination.

E

Ecosystem:  All living and nonliving things that support a chain of life events within a particular area.

Ectopic:  Out of place. Said of an organ or tissue not in the proper position, or of a pregnancy occurring elsewhere than in the cavity of the uterus.

Ectopic pregnancy: Implantation of a fertilized egg in any location other than the uterus; a very dangerous condition that can lead to rupture, internal bleeding, and sometimes even death.

Eczema: An inflammatory condition of the skin characterized by redness, itching, and oozing lesions which become scaly, crusty, or hardened.

Electrocautery: Method for destroying endo by burning it with a wire heated by electric current.

Electrocautery instrument: An electric surgical instrument used to burn and eliminate unwanted tissue.

Electrolytes: Acids, bases, and salts essential for maintaining life.

Electrosurgery: The use of electric current to burn (cauterize), desiccate (coagulate), fulgurate, or excise endometriosis.

Embryo: Any organism in the earliest stages of development.

“Endo”: Short term for endometriosis initiated by the Endometriosis Association in the early 1980s to make the word easier to pronounce and discuss.

Endocrine system: System of glands and other structures that controls hormones; includes thyroid, pituitary, parathyroid, adrenal glands, ovaries and testes, pancreas, pineal body.

Endocrinopathy: Disease of the endocrine system.

Endogenous: Originating from inside the body.

Endometrial biopsy: Removal of tissue from the uterus for microscopic examination.

Endometrioid: A type of cancerous tumor found outside the uterus (i.e. ovary), but closely resembling cancers found in the lining of the uterus.

Endometrioma: A cyst, a mass containing endometrial tissue, usually on the ovary, sometimes found in endometriosis.  Sometimes called a “chocolate cyst” because of its color.

Endometritis: Chronic inflammation of the endometrium.

Endometrium, endometrial: Tissue that lines the inside of the uterus and builds up and sheds each month in the menstrual cycle.

Endometriosis: A puzzling hormonal and immune disease affecting girls and women from as young as eight to postmenopause. The name comes from the word endometrium, which is the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus and builds up and sheds each month in the menstrual cycle. In “endo,” as this disease is called for short, tissue like the endometrium is found outside the uterus in other areas of the body.

Endorphins and enkephalins: Substances produced by the body to lower the perception of pain.

Endoscopy: The visualization of the interior of organs and cavities of the body with illuminated optic instruments such as a laparoscope.

Endothermy: Surgical technique using heat generated by electric current to destroy endo without direct contact.

Enteric: Affecting the intestine.

Enteropathogenic: Causing disease in the intestine.

Enzymes: Proteins produced in a cell that are capable of causing or speeding up reactions in the body.

Epidemiological studies: The study of health and disease events in populations.

Epithelial: Referring to the tissue covering internal and external organs of the body.

Epithelium: The covering of the internal and external organs of the body, including the lining of vessels. It consists of cells bound together by connective material and varies in the number of layers and the kinds of cells.

Erythrocytes: Red blood cells.

Essential fatty acids:  Two fatty acids (linoleic acid and linolenic acid) which the body requires and cannot make from other substances so they must be supplied in our food.

Estradiol: The major estrogen of the menstruating years. Estradiol in menstruating women varies enormously from individual to individual, as well as fluctuating from day to day within the cycle and even within the day. Levels of 40 to 350 picograms per milliliter have been shown in large groups of healthy menstruating women, with an average of 125 to 200 picograms per milliliter over the cycle. Other estrogens are estriol and estrone.

Estriol: A weak form of estrogen found in high concentration in urine.

Estrogen:  A hormone produced by both sexes, however primarily a female sex hormone responsible for such sex characteristics as breast and genital development, and body hair and fat distribution. In the menstrual cycle, prepares the body for fertilization, implantation, and nourishment of the egg.

Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT): Drug therapy which supplies the body with estrogen after menopause.

Et al:  The abbreviation for et alia, a Latin phrase meaning “and others.” Used, for example, in listings of research papers to show that there were other researchers besides the names listed.

Etiology:  The study of all factors that may be involved in the development of a disease; the cause of a disease.

Excise, excision: To cut out.

Exogenous: Originating from outside the body.

F

Fallopian tubes: The two tubes that open out from the upper part of the uterus and transport the ovum from the ovary to the uterus. Normal fertilization takes place within these structures.

Feces: Stool.

Fecundity:  Fertility.

Fibroid: Noncancerous, nonendometriotic tumor of the uterus; also called myoma.

Fibromyalgia:  A syndrome characterized by muscle tenderness, soreness, and pain, sleep disturbance, stiffness, and fatigue. Certain spots called trigger points are painful when pressed and may include sites in the back, shoulders, arms, hands, knees, hips, thighs, legs, and feet.  Women with endometriosis have a higher risk for fibromyalgia.

Fibrosis: A condition marked by an increase of tissues resembling fibers in the spaces between organs.

Fibrositis: Another term for fibromyalgia. 

Fimbria: The fringed outer ends of the Fallopian tubes.

Five-year survival rates: The number of people living five years after diagnosis without a reoccurrence of cancer.

Flank: The fleshy part of the back and side of the body between the ribs and hip. The back area over the kidneys.

Flatulence: Intestinal gas.

Flora: The various bacterial and other microscopic forms of life inhabiting the body.  Also called microbiome.

Follicle: A cyst-like structure on the ovary containing a developing egg.

Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH): A hormone produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates the ovary to ripen a follicle for ovulation.

Follicular phase:  Part of the ovulation process when the egg is still in the follicle (days 1 – 14 of a 28-day cycle: day 1 is the first day of the period).

Free radicals: Unstable oxygen molecules created during metabolism.

Fructooligosaccharides:  Nondigestible, short-chain fructose compounds utilized almost exclusively by the Bifidobacteria in our intestinal tract.  Fructooligosaccharides are widely distributed in vegetables and grains and some fruits; they are also available in supplement form.

Fulguration: Burning of tissue to destroy it by means of electrical sparks.

Functional deficits: Defects or errors in the way the organism works in its metabolic processes.

Fundus: Large upper end of the uterus.

Fungus, fungi: A group of organisms including yeasts, molds, mildews, smuts, and rusts.

Furans:  A group of 135 chemical pollutants with a structure similar to dioxins, with similar toxic and biological effects on animals, and often found in conjunction with dioxins.

G

Gallbladder: A pear-shaped organ about 4 inches long, located under the liver in the right upper corner of the abdomen, which stores the bile manufactured by the liver. Bile is a substance that aids in the digestion and absorption of fats.

Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT): Method of assisted reproduction that involves surgically removing an egg from the woman’s ovary, combining it with sperm, and immediately placing the egg and sperm into the fallopian tube, where fertilization may occur.

Gastric: Pertaining to the stomach.

Gastritis: Acute or chronic inflammation of the lining of the stomach.

Gastroenterologist: A physician who specializes in diseases affecting the gastrointestinal tract.

Gastroenterology: Medical specialty concerned with the stomach and intestines, and the diseases especially affecting them.

Gastrointestinal: Relating to the stomach and intestines.

Gene: The basic physical and functional unit of heredity.

Genetic mutation: A physical or biochemical change in hereditary material (chromosomes, genes).

Genetic:  Pertaining to or relating to genes or heredity.

Genitals: The sex/reproductive organs.

Genitourinary tract: Referring to the genital and urinary systems of the body.

Gestalt: A school of psychology that originated in Germany; noted for emphasis on looking at a whole situation rather than just parts.

Glands:  Any organ in the body that secretes a substance used elsewhere in the body. Hormones, saliva, and blood components are produced by glands.

Gluten: The elastic protein part of certain grains such as wheat.

GnRH agonist: Synthetic hormones similar to the naturally-occurring gonadotropic releasing hormone (GnRH). Examples: Lupron and Synarel.

GnRH antagonist: See Antagonist.

Gonadectomy: Removal of the gonads – ovaries or testicles.

Gonadotropins: Hormones produced by the pituitary gland that stimulate the ovaries.

Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH): A hormone produced in the brain that directs the pituitary gland to release follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone (FSH and LH) to ovaries which causes ovaries to ovulate and produce estrogen and progesterone.

Granules: A small, grain-like body.

Granulocytes: White blood cells filled with granules containing potent chemicals that allow the cells to digest microorganisms or to produce inflammatory reactions. Neutrophils, eosinophils, and basophils are examples.

Growths: Another word, along with nodules and lesions, to describe endometriosis.

Groin: The fold or depression marking the juncture of the lower abdomen and the inner part of the thigh.

Gut: Another word for bowel or intestine.

H

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis:  An autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the thyroid and thyroid hormone. Women with endo have a higher risk for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Helper T cell: A subset of T cells that typically carry the CD4 marker and are essential for turning on antibody production, activating cytotoxic T cells, and initiating many other immune responses – they “help” the immune response in various ways.

Hematopoietic stem cells: Bone marrow cells that are capable of developing into various types of cells.

Hematopoietic system: (he-ma-to-poi-et´ik) System in the body that forms blood or blood cells.

Hematuria: Abnormal presence of blood in the urine.

Hemoglobin: A conjugated protein that gives red blood cells their characteristic color. It combines reversibly with oxygen and is thus very important in the transportation of oxygen to tissues.

Hemorrhagic: Pertaining to bleeding from the blood vessels.

Hemostasis: Arrest of bleeding.

Heparin: A drug that prevents blood from clotting.

High-Density lipoprotein (HDL): A plasma protein containing cholesterol and triglycerides. It may serve to stabilize very low-density lipoprotein and is involved in transporting cholesterol and other lipids from the plasma to the tissues.

Hirsutism: Excessive facial and body hair.

Histamine: A substance found in all body tissues, with the highest concentration being in the lungs. Histamine dilates small blood vessels; contracts smooth muscles; induces increased gastric secretion; and accelerates heart rate. Excess amounts of histamine are released during allergic reactions or shock.

Histological: What tissue structures look like under a microscope.

hMG: Human menopausal gonadotropin, such as the Humegon and Pergonal brands.

HMO: An organization that provides comprehensive health care to voluntarily enrolled individuals and families in a particular geographic area by member physicians with limited referral to outside specialists and that is financed by fixed periodic payments determined in advance – called also health maintenance organization.

Holistic: An approach to health care that considers the whole person, including physical, social, emotional, economic, and spiritual needs, rather than simply symptoms and disease.

Homeopathy: The theory or system of curing diseases with very minute doses of medicine which in a healthy person and in large doses would produce a condition like that being treated.

Hormone: A substance produced by an endocrine gland and carried in the bloodstream to another organ where the hormone stimulates action.

Hormone replacement therapy: Drug therapy which supplies the body with estrogen, progesterone, (and testosterone if the ovaries have been removed) after menopause.

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG): A hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy that is often used with clomiphene or hMG for the treatment of ovulation problems.

Human menopausal gonadotropin (hMG): An ovulation drug, containing follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone, derived from the urine of postmenopausal women.

Humoral immunity: Immune protection provided by soluble factors such as antibodies, which circulate in the body’s fluids, or “humors,” primarily serum and lymph.

Hymen: The membranous fold that partially or wholly occludes the external opening of the vagina in some females.

Hypha, hyphal: Threadlike filaments which make up the body or the mycelium of a fungus.

Hyperparathyroidism: Abnormally increased activity of the parathyroid glands, causing loss of calcium from the bones and excessive secretion of calcium and phosphorus by the kidney. Symptoms include kidney stones, back and joint pains, thirst, nausea, and vomiting.

Hyperplasia: Overgrowth of endometrial tissue that is sometimes a precancerous condition.

Hypnosis: An induced sleep-like state.

Hypoestrogenic: Low levels of estrogen in the body.

Hypoglycemia, Hypoglycemic: Pertaining to or resembling a state of low blood sugar level.

Hypothyroidism:  A disease in which there is decreased production of thyroid hormone. Symptoms can include weight gain, sluggishness, fatigue, dry skin, thinning hair, low body temperature, gastrointestinal disturbances including constipation, arthritis, inability to tolerate heat and cold, and depression.

Hysterectomy: Surgical removal of the uterus.

Hysterosalpingogram: X-ray test in which a dye is injected into the uterus and tubes to determine their condition.

Hysteroscope: Thin, lighted viewing telescope-like instrument inserted through the cervix to examine the inside of the uterus during hysteroscopy.

Hysteroscopy: A procedure in which a scope (called a hysteroscope) thin enough to fit through the cervix with minimal or no dilation, is inserted through the cervix into the uterus.  The inside of the uterus is filled (distended) with a liquid or a gas (carbon dioxide) so the surgeon can see inside.  Diagnostic hysteroscopy and simple operative hysteroscopy are usually done in an office setting.  More complex operative hysteroscopy is done in an operating room.