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Abnormal: Not normal. Deviating from the usual structure, position, condition, or behavior. In referring to a growth, abnormal may mean that it is cancerous or premalignant (likely to become cancer).

Amniotic fluid: The fluid bathing the fetus and serving as a shock absorber.

Bilirubin: A yellow-orange compound produced by the breakdown of hemoglobin from red blood cells.

Blood glucose: The main sugar that the body makes from the food in the diet. Glucose is carried through the bloodstream to provide energy to all cells in the body. Cells cannot use glucose without the help of insulin.

Breastfeeding: Feeding a child human breast milk. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, human breast milk is preferred for all infants. This includes even premature and sick babies, with rare exceptions. It is the food least likely to cause allergic reactions; it is inexpensive; it is readily available at any hour of the day or night; babies accept the taste readily; and the antibodies in breast milk can help a baby resist infections.

Carbohydrate: Mainly sugars and starches, together constituting one of the three principal types of nutrients used as energy sources (calories) by the body. Carbohydrates can also be defined chemically as neutral compounds of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.

Diabetes: Refers to diabetes mellitus or, less often, to diabetes insipidus. Diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus share the name "diabetes" because they are both conditions characterized by excessive urination (polyuria).

Diagnosis: 1 The nature of a disease; the identification of an illness. 2 A conclusion or decision reached by diagnosis. The diagnosis is rabies. 3 The identification of any problem. The diagnosis was a plugged IV.

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.

Family history: The family structure and relationships within the family, including information about diseases in family members.

Fasting: going without food or drink. Patients may be advised to fast for a certain period of time prior to surgery, medical procedures, or certain blood tests.

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.

Fats: Plural of the word "fat".

Fetus: The unborn offspring from the end of the 8th week after conception (when the major structures have formed) until birth. Up until the eighth week, the developing offspring is called an embryo.

Fiber: The parts of plants that cannot be digested, namely complex carbohydrates. Also known as bulk or roughage.

Glucose: The simple sugar (monosaccharide) that serves as the chief source of energy in the body. Glucose is the principal sugar the body makes. The body makes glucose from proteins, fats and, in largest part, carbohydrates. Glucose is carried to each cell through the bloodstream. Cells, however, cannot use glucose without the help of insulin. Glucose is also known as dextrose.

Glucose tolerance test: A blood test done to make the diagnosis of diabetes mellitus. The test may also be done for other purposes such as to diagnose hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or a malabsorption syndrome in which sugar is not absorbed properly through the intestines into the bloodstream.

High blood sugar: An elevated level of the sugar glucose in the blood. Also called hyperglycemia.

Hormone: A chemical substance produced in the body that controls and regulates the activity of certain cells or organs.

Hypertension: High blood pressure, defined as a repeatedly elevated blood pressure exceeding 140 over 90 mmHg -- a systolic pressure above 140 with a diastolic pressure above 90.

Hypoglycemia: Low blood sugar (glucose). When symptoms of hypoglycemia occur together with a documented blood glucose under 45 mg/dl, and the symptoms promptly resolve with the administration of glucose, the diagnosis of hypoglycemia can be made with some certainty. Hypoglycemia is only significant when it is associated with symptoms.

Impaired glucose tolerance: A transition phase between normal glucose tolerance and diabetes, also referred to as prediabetes. In impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), the levels of blood glucose are between normal and diabetic. People with IGT do not have diabetes. Each year, only 1-5% of people whose test results show IGT actually develop diabetes. And with retesting, as many as half of the people with IGT have normal oral glucose tolerance test results. Weight loss and exercise may help people with IGT return their glucose levels to normal.

Insulin: A natural hormone made by the pancreas that controls the level of the sugar glucose in the blood. Insulin permits cells to use glucose for energy. Cells cannot utilize glucose without insulin.

Insulin resistance: The diminished ability of cells to respond to the action of insulin in transporting glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into muscle and other tissues. Insulin resistance typically develops with obesity and heralds the onset of type 2 diabetes. It is as if insulin is "knocking" on the door of muscle. The muscle hears the knock, opens up, and lets glucose in. But with insulin resistance, the muscle cannot hear the knocking of the insulin (the muscle is "resistant"). The pancreas makes more insulin, which increases insulin levels in the blood and causes a louder "knock." Eventually, the pancreas produces far more insulin than normal and the muscles continue to be resistant to the knock. As long as one can produce enough insulin to overcome this resistance, blood glucose levels remain normal. Once the pancreas is no longer able to keep up, blood glucose starts to rise, initially after meals, eventually even in the fasting state. Type 2 diabetes is now overt.

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.

Lancet: A small pointed knife; a surgical instrument with a short, wide, sharp-pointed, two-edged blade; a little knife with a small point. Lancets are used today to prick the skin (a finger, foot, ear lobe, etc.) to obtain a small quantity of capillary blood for testing.

Low blood sugar: A low blood level of the sugar glucose. Also called hypoglycemia.

Medical history: In clinical medicine, the patient's past and present which may contain clues bearing on their health past, present, and future. The medical history, being an account of all medical events and problems a person has experienced, including psychiatric illness, is especially helpful when a differential diagnosis is needed.

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.

Morning sickness: Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy.

Oral glucose tolerance test: A test to determine the body's ability to handle glucose .

Organ: A relatively independent part of the body that carries out one or more special functions. The organs of the human body include the eye, ear, heart, lungs, and liver.

Overweight: The term "overweight" is used in two different ways. In one sense it is a way of saying imprecisely that someone is heavy. The other sense of "overweight" is more precise and designates a state between normal weight and obesity.

Pancreas: A fish-shaped spongy grayish-pink organ about 6 inches (15 cm) long that stretches across the back of the abdomen, behind the stomach. The head of the pancreas is on the right side of the abdomen and is connected to the duodenum (the first section of the small intestine). The narrow end of the pancreas, called the tail, extends to the left side of the body.

Pigment: A substance that gives color to tissue. Pigments are responsible for the color of skin, eyes, and hair.

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.

Plasma: The liquid part of the blood and lymphatic fluid, which makes up about half of its volume. Plasma is devoid of cells and, unlike serum, has not clotted. Blood plasma contains antibodies and other proteins. It is taken from donors and made into medications for a variety of blood-related conditions. Some blood plasma is also used in non-medical products.

Polyhydramnios: Too much amniotic fluid.

Posture: The carriage of the body as a whole, the attitude of the body, or the position of the limbs (the arms and legs).

Pound: A measure of weight equal to 16 ounces or, metrically, 453.6 grams. The word "pound" goes back to the Latin "pondo" which meant a "weight" (but one of only 12 ounces). The abbreviation for pound-just to confuse non-pound people-is lb. which stands for "libra" (Latin for pound).

Prenatal: Occurring or existing before birth.

Progressive: Increasing in scope or severity. Advancing. Going forward. In medicine, a disease that is progressive is going from bad to worse.

Protein: A large molecule 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.

Red blood cells: The blood cells that carry 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 cells their red color (and their name).

Resistance: Opposition to something, or the ability to withstand it. For example, some forms of staphylococcus are resistant to treatment with antibiotics.

Sweating: The act of secreting fluid from the skin by the sweat (sudoriferous) glands. These are small tubular glands situated within and under the skin (in the subcutaneous tissue). They discharge by tiny openings in the surface of the skin.

Tablespoon: An old-fashioned but convenient household measure of capacity. A tablespoon holds about 3 teaspoons, each containing about 5 cc, so a tablespoon = about 15 cc of fluid.

The Lancet: A weekly medical journal headquartered in London. Published uninterruptedly and with the same title since 1823, The Lancet is "the longest running medical journal in the world."

Trauma: Any injury, whether physically or emotionally inflicted. "Trauma" has both a medical and a psychiatric definition. Medically, "trauma" refers to a serious or critical bodily injury, wound, or shock. This definition is often associated with trauma medicine practiced in emergency rooms and represents a popular view of the term. In psychiatry, "trauma" has assumed a different meaning and refers to an experience that is emotionally painful, distressful, or shocking, which often results in lasting mental and physical effects.

Trimester: The nine months of pregnancy is traditionally divided into three trimesters: distinct periods of roughly three months in which different phases of fetal development take place.

Umbilical cord: The cord that connects the developing embryo or fetus with the placenta and through which run the umbilical arteries and vein. The matrix (the substance) of the umbilical cord is known as Wharton's jelly and is a rich source of stem cells. At birth the umbilical cord measures about 20 inches (50 cm) in length. The cord is clamped and cut after birth and its residual tip forms the umbilicus (bellybutton).

Urine: Liquid waste. The urine is a clear, transparent fluid. It normally has an amber color. The average amount of urine excreted in 24 hours is from 40 to 60 ounces (about 1,200 cubic centimeters). Chemically, the urine is mainly an aqueous (watery) solution of salt (sodium chloride) and substances called urea and uric acid. Normally, it contains about 960 parts of water to 40 parts of solid matter. Abnormally, it may contain sugar (in diabetes), albumen (a protein) (as in some forms of kidney disease), bile pigments (as in jaundice), or abnormal quantities of one or another of its normal components.

Uterus: The uterus (womb) is a hollow, pear-shaped organ located in a woman's lower abdomen between the bladder and the rectum. The narrow, lower portion of the uterus is the cervix; the broader, upper part is the corpus. The corpus is made up of two layers of tissue.

Vein: A blood vessel that carries blood low in oxygen content from the body back to the heart. The deoxygenated form of hemoglobin (deoxyhemoglobin) in venous blood makes it appear dark. Veins are part of the afferent wing of the circulatory system which returns blood to the heart.

Vitamins: The word "vitamin" was coined in 1911 by the Warsaw-born biochemist Casimir Funk (1884-1967). At the Lister Institute in London, Funk isolated a substance that prevented nerve inflammation (neuritis) in chickens raised on a diet deficient in that substance. He named the substance "vitamine" because he believed it was necessary to life and it was a chemical amine. The "e" at the end was later removed when it was recognized that vitamins need not be amines.