Glossary

Browse through glands, hormones and endocrine conditions.
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Adult-onset growth hormone deficiency

Adult-onset growth hormone deficiency is where the pituitary gland fails to produce enough growth hormone. It can be successfully treated with growth hormone therapy.

assisted reproductive therapy

(ART) processes through which a couple are helped in trying to conceive a child. An example is in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

Adrenocorticotropic hormone

Adrenocorticotropic hormone is produced by the pituitary gland. Its key function is to stimulate the production and release of cortisol from the cortex of the adrenal gland.

Animal research in science

The controlled and regulated use of laboratory animals in medical research has helped to extend our understanding of the healthy and diseased lifecourse, as well as the development of novel and effective therapeutic interventions.

Anti-Müllerian hormone

Anti-Müllerian hormone is a protein hormone which is important in the development of the reproductive tract in a male fetus and is also produced (before birth) by the testes and ovaries.

Anti-diuretic hormone

Anti-diuretic hormone acts to maintain blood pressure, blood volume and tissue water content by controlling the amount of water and hence the concentration of urine excreted by the kidney.

Alzheimer’s disease

a slowly progressive (degenerative) disease of the brain that causes memory loss, confusion and problems with speech. The cause is unknown but it most commonly affects people in mid-to-old age.

autosomal dominant

describes a pattern of inheritance whereby offspring have a 50% chance of inheriting the condition if one of the parents is affected.

Addison's disease

Addison's disease is caused by damage to the adrenal glands, which make hormones to control multiple metabolic processes in the body, and balance body salt and water. Treatment is with hormone replacement tablets and some lifestyle adaptations to ensure patients remain well.

anabolic steroid

a synthetic (artificially made) steroid hormone used to stimulate muscle and bone growth.

Androstenedione

Androstenedione is a steroid hormone that has weak, androgenic actions on the body itself. However, it mainly acts as a stepping stone in the manufacture of testosterone and oestrogen within the body.

anti-epileptics

medication to treat epilepsy (to reduce or prevent epileptic attacks).

anti-psychotics

medication to treat psychosis.

auto-antibodies

proteins produced by the immune system that (mistakenly) attack target proteins (antigens) on cells of the body.

Adipose tissue

Adipose tissue (body fat) is crucial for health. Along with fat cells, adipose tissue contains numerous nerve cells and blood vessels, storing and releasing energy to fuel the body and releasing important hormones vital to the body's needs.

Adrenal glands

The adrenal glands are small structures attached to the top of each kidney. The human body has two adrenal glands that release chemicals called hormones into the bloodstream. These hormones affect many parts of the human body.

adrenal crisis

acute medical problem due to failure of the adrenal glands to produce enough cortisol or a failure to adequately replace cortisol in known adrenal insufficiency. This is a medical emergency and must be treated urgently with steroid injections.

alpha-blockers

a group of medications used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension), and problems with passing urine in men who have an enlarged prostate gland.

antidepressant

medication prescribed by a doctor used to treat depression or mood disorders.

amniocentesis

a surgical procedure performed at around week 16 of pregnancy to detect any genetic abnormalities with the fetus. A hollow needle is inserted into the uterus via the abdominal wall to draw out a sample of amniotic fluid, which is then analysed.

antacid drugs

medication given to neutralise the buildup of acid in the stomach (indigestion)

anaesthetist

a doctor responsible for administering anaesethetic prior to and during surgery. Called an anesthesiologist in the USA.

Aldosterone

Aldosterone is a steroid hormone. Its main role is to regulate salt and water in the body, thus having an effect on blood pressure.

Angiotensin

Angiotensin is a protein hormone that causes blood vessels to become narrower. It helps to maintain blood pressure and fluid balance in the body.

Amenorrhoea

Amenorrhoea is the term used to describe a lack of 'periods' (menstrual cycles) in women. The management of amenorrhoea depends on the underlying cause.

alpha cells

a special group of cells found in the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas. Alpha cells produce the hormone glucagon, which they release into the bloodstream when blood sugar level is low.

amino acids

the building blocks of proteins in our bodies. There are 20 in total; 12 are produced by the body and eight are essential and therefore should be supplied by the diet.

amyloidosis

a condition where an abnormal amount of certain proteins (amyloids) is deposited in the organs and tissues of the body.

anaesthesia

a state of temporary induced loss of sensation or awareness, which may include, pain relief, paralysis, loss of memory and unconsciousness.

anaesthetic

a drug that causes lack of feeling or awareness; used during surgery.

Adrenaline

Adrenaline is a hormone released from the adrenal glands and its major action, together with noradrenaline, is to prepare the body for 'fight or flight'.

Acromegaly

Acromegaly is a condition that develops due to overproduction of growth hormone, usually caused by a benign tumour of the pituitary gland. It leads to an increase in size of the hands and feet, a change in the appearance of the face and enlargement of the internal organs.

absorption

the uptake of a substance by a tissue in the body. For example, nutrients are absorbed through the wall of the intestine following a meal.

adipocytes

specialised cells that store fat. Collectively they make up adipose (fat) tissue.

antibodies

proteins produced by the immune system in response to an infection. They bind to marker proteins (antigens) on foreign bodies such as viruses or bacteria, inactivating them. Singular: antibody.

autoimmune

describes where the body’s immune system attacks itself and destroys healthy tissue. Examples of autoimmune conditions include: Graves’ disease, thyroid eye disease, Hashimoto’s disease.

androgens

a term used to describe a group of hormones that cause development and maintenance of male sexual characteristics such as facial hair, e.g. testosterone.

alopecia

patchy hair loss from the scalp.

analogue

a chemical or drug that has a similar structure to a compound in the body.

anterior

the front part or section of a person or of an organ or gland within a person. For example, the front part of the pituitary gland is referred to as the anterior pituitary.

abdomen

the part of the body between the pelvis and the thorax including the stomach, intestines, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas and bladder. Also referred to as the belly.

adenoma

a non-cancerous (benign) tumour originating in a gland that produces hormones.

anaemia

a decrease in the number of red blood cells and haemoglobin in the blood, leaving a person feeling tired.

apnoea

a temporary interruption of normal breathing, which often occurs during sleep.

acute

referring to a condition that develops rapidly and is in an early stage.

aorta

the main blood vessel (artery) that carries oxygenated blood under high pressure to all the tissues of the body. The aorta originates in the left side of the heart.

acquired immune deficiency syndrome

AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is the name used to describe a number of potentially life-threatening infections and illnesses that happen when your immune system has been severely damaged by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).

acne

inflammation of a sebaceous gland causing pimples or spots usually on the face or back. Can be caused by an excess of male hormones (androgens).


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