STD Glossary of Terms
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.
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Abdominal pain: Pain in the belly (the abdomen). Abdominal pain can come from conditions affecting a variety of organs. The abdomen is an anatomical area that is bounded by the lower margin of the ribs above, the pelvic bone (pubic ramus) below, and the flanks on each side. Although abdominal pain can arise from the tissues of the abdominal wall that surround the abdominal cavity (the skin and abdominal wall muscles), the term abdominal pain generally is used to describe pain originating from organs within the abdominal cavity (from beneath the skin and muscles). These organs include the stomach, small intestine, colon, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas.
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Antibiotic: A drug used to treat infections caused by bacteria and other microorganisms. Originally, an antibiotic was a substance produced by one microorganism that selectively inhibits the growth of another. Synthetic antibiotics, usually chemically related to natural antibiotics, have since been produced that accomplish comparable tasks.
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Antiviral: An agent that kills a virus or that suppresses its ability to replicate and, hence, inhibits its capability to multiply and reproduce.
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Anus: The opening of the rectum to the outside of the body.
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Bladder: Any pouch or other flexible enclosure that can hold liquids or gases but usually refers to the hollow organ in the lower abdomen that stores urine — the urinary bladder. The kidneys filter waste from the blood and produce urine, which enters the bladder through two tubes called ureters. Urine leaves the bladder through another tube, the urethra. In women, the urethra is a short tube that opens just in front of the vagina. In men, it is longer, passing through the prostate gland and then the penis. Infection of the bladder is called cystitis.
Blindness: Loss of useful sight. Blindness can be temporary or permanent. Damage to any portion of the eye, the optic nerve, or the area of the brain responsible for vision can lead to blindness. There are numerous (actually, innumerable) causes of blindness. The current politically correct terms for blindness include visually handicapped and visually challenged.
Brain: That part of the central nervous system that is located within the cranium (skull). The brain functions as the primary receiver, organizer and distributor of information for the body. It has two (right and left) halves called “hemispheres.”
Bumps: The raised area of a bump or bruise results from blood leaking from these injured blood vessels into the tissues as well as from the body’s response to the injury. A purplish, flat bruise that occurs when blood leaks out into the top layers of skin is referred to as an ecchymosis.
Chills: feelings of coldness accompanied by shivering. Chills may develop after exposure to a cold environment or may accompany a fever.
Chlamydia: A type of bacteria one species of which causes an infection very similar to gonorrhea in the way that it is spread, the symptoms it produces, and the long-term consequences.
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Cure: 1. To heal, to make well, to restore to good health. Cures are easy to claim and, all too often, difficult to confirm.
2. A time without recurrence of a disease so that the risk of recurrence is small, as in the 5-year cure rate for malignant melanoma.
3. Particularly in the past, a course of treatment. For example, take a cure at a spa.
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Discharge: 1.The flow of fluid from part of the body, such as from the nose or vagina.
2. The passing of an action potential, such as through a nerve or muscle fiber.
3. The release of a patient from a course of care. The doctor may then dictate a discharge summary.
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.).
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Genital: Pertaining to the external and internal organs of reproduction. (Not to be confused with genetic.)
Gonorrhea: A sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoea. Although gonorrhea is known primarily as a sexually transmitted disease (STD), it is not exclusively so, but can also be transmitted to the newborn during the birthing process.
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Heart: The muscle that pumps blood received from veins into arteries throughout the body. It is positioned in the chest behind the sternum (breastbone; in front of the trachea, esophagus, and aorta; and above the diaphragm muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavities. The normal heart is about the size of a closed fist, and weighs about 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 chest.
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Hepatitis: Inflammation of the liver from any cause.
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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).
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Herpes: A family of viruses. Herpes also refers to infection with one of the human herpesviruses, especially herpes simplex types 1 and 2.
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HIV: Acronym for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the cause of AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). HIV has also been called the human lymphotropic virus type III, the lymphadenopathy-associated virus and the lymphadenopathy virus. No matter what name is applied, it is a retrovirus. (A retrovirus has an RNA genome and a reverse transcriptase enzyme. Using the reverse transcriptase, the virus uses its RNA as a template for making complementary DNA which can integrate into the DNA of the host organism).
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HPV: See: Human papillomavirus.
Human papilloma virus: See: Human papillomavirus.
Incurable: Not amenable to a cure. Incapable of being cured, healed and made well again. Many pancreatic cancers are incurable. From the word cure, from the Latin cura meaning care, concern or attention.
Infant: A child up to 2 years (24 months) of age.
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Infection: The growth of a parasitic organism within the body. (A parasitic organism is one that lives on or in another organism and draws its nourishment therefrom.) A person with an infection has another organism (a “germ”) growing within him, drawing its nourishment from the person.
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Itching: An uncomfortable sensation in the skin that feels as if something is crawling on the skin or in the skin, and makes the person want to scratch the affected area.
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Jaundice: Yellow staining of the skin and sclerae (the whites of the eyes) by abnormally high blood levels of the bile pigment bilirubin. The yellowing extends to other tissues and body fluids. Jaundice was once called the “morbus regius” (the regal disease) in the belief that only the touch of a king could cure it.
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Joint: A joint is the area where two bones are attached for the purpose of motion of body parts. A joint is usually formed of fibrous connective tissue and cartilage. An articulation or an arthrosis is the same as a joint.
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Lesion: Pronounced “lee-sion” with the emphasis on the “lee,” a lesion can be almost any abnormality involving any tissue or organ due to any disease or any injury.
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Liver: An organ in the upper abdomen that aids in digestion and removes waste products and worn-out cells from the blood. The liver is the largest solid organ in the body. The liver weighs about three and a half pounds (1.6 kilograms). It measures about 8 inches (20 cm) horizontally (across) and 6.5 inches (17 cm) vertically (down) and is 4.5 inches (12 cm) thick.
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Lubricant: An oily or slippery substance. A vaginal lubricant may be helpful for women who feel pain during intercourse because of vaginal dryness.
Miscarriage: Inadvertent loss of a pregnancy before the fetus is viable. A considerable proportion of pregnancies end in a miscarriage. Also called a spontaneous abortion.
Mouth: 1. The upper opening of the digestive tract, beginning with the lips and containing the teeth, gums, and tongue. Foodstuffs are broken down mechanically in the mouth by chewing and saliva is added as a lubricant. Saliva contains amylase, an enzyme that digests starch. 2. Any opening or aperture in the body. The mouth in both senses of the word is also called the os, the Latin word for an opening, or mouth. The o in os is pronounced as in hope. The genitive form of os is oris from which comes the word oral.
Night sweats: Severe hot flashes which occur at night and result in a drenching sweat. Night sweats can have many different causes including medications, infections, and cancers.
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.
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Painful urination: See: Dysuria.
Papilloma: A small solid benign tumor with a clear-cut border that projects above the surrounding tissue.
Penis: The external male sex organ used to copulate and ejaculate semen and to convey urine outside the body.
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Placenta: A temporary organ joining the mother and fetus, the placenta transfers oxygen and nutrients from the mother to the fetus, and permits the release of carbon dioxide and waste products from the fetus. It is roughly disk-shaped, and at full term measures about seven inches in diameter and a bit less than two inches thick. The upper surface of the placenta is smooth, while the under surface is rough. The placenta is rich in blood vessels.
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Pneumonia: Inflammation of one or both lungs with consolidation. Pneumonia is frequently but not always due to infection. The infection may be bacterial, viral, fungal or parasitic. Symptoms may include fever, chills, cough with sputum production, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
Pregnancy: The state of carrying a developing embryo or fetus within the female body. This condition can be indicated by positive results on an over-the-counter urine test, and confirmed through a blood test, ultrasound, detection of fetal heartbeat, or an X-ray. Pregnancy lasts for about nine months, measured from the date of the woman’s last menstrual period (LMP). It is conventionally divided into three trimesters, each roughly three months long.
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Pregnant: The state of carrying a developing fetus within the body.
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Prenatal: Occurring or existing before birth.
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Rash: Breaking out (eruption) of the skin. Medically, a rash is referred to as an exanthem.
Safe sex: 1. A sexual practice designed to reduce the risk of catching sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). 2. A sexual practice that does not involve the exchange of bodily fluids, including blood, sperm, vaginal secretions, and saliva, to avoid AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. 3. Sex without penetration, or sex using condoms and Nonoxynol-9 spermacide, and/or vaginal dams, with consistency.
In reality, no matter which meaning one ascribes to safe sex, “safer sex” is a more apt term.
Sexually transmitted disease: Any disease transmitted by sexual contact; caused by microorganisms that survive on the skin or mucus membranes of the genital area; or transmitted via semen, vaginal secretions, or blood during intercourse. Because the genital areas provide a moist, warm environment that is especially conducive to the proliferation of bacteria, viruses, and yeasts, a great many diseases can be transmitted this way. They include AIDS, chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts, gonorrhea, syphilis, yeast infections, and some forms of hepatitis. Also known as a morbus venereus or venereal disease.
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Stool: The solid matter discharged in a bowel movement.
Syphilis: A sexually transmitted disease caused by Treponema pallidum, a microscopic organism called a spirochete. This worm-like, spiral-shaped organism infects people by burrowing into the moist mucous membranes of the mouth or genitals. From there, the spirochete produces a non-painful ulcer known as a chancre. There are three stages of syphilis:
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Syphilitic: 1. Relating to syphilis, caused by it, or suffering from it.
2. A person with syphilis. From the French syphilitique.
Trichomoniasis: Infection with trichomonas, in humans with Trichomonas vaginalis.
Vagina: The muscular canal extending from the cervix to the outside of the body. It is usually six to seven inches in length, and its walls are lined with mucus membrane. It includes two vaultlike structures, the anterior (front) vaginal fornix and the posterior (rear) vaginal fornix. The cervix protrudes slightly into the vagina, and it is through a tiny hole in the cervix (the os) that sperm make their way toward the internal reproductive organs. The vagina also includes numerous tiny glands that make vaginal secretions.
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Vaginal discharge: Vaginal discharge is a fluid produced by glands in the vaginal wall and cervix that drains from the opening of the vagina. The amount and appearance of normal vaginal discharge varies throughout the menstrual cycle. An increase in the amount of vaginal discharge, an abnormal odor or consistency of the fluid, or pain that accompanies vaginal discharge can all be signs of infection or other disorders. Such disorders include (this is not an all inclusive list) bacterial vaginosis, yeast vaginitis, and vaginitis.
Virus: A microorganism smaller than a bacteria, which cannot grow or reproduce apart from a living cell. A virus invades living cells and uses their chemical machinery to keep itself alive and to replicate itself. It may reproduce with fidelity or with errors (mutations)-this ability to mutate is responsible for the ability of some viruses to change slightly in each infected person, making treatment more difficult.
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Weight loss: Weight loss is a decrease in body weight resulting from either voluntary (diet, exercise) or involuntary (illness) circumstances. Most instances of weight loss arise due to the loss of body fat, but in cases of extreme or severe weight loss, protein and other substances in the body can also be depleted. Examples of involuntary weight loss include the weight loss associated with cancer, malabsorption (such as from chronic diarrheal illnesses ), and chronic inflammation (such as with rheumatoid arthritis).