Medical Terms

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abscess
A collection or "pocket" of pus. In patients with IBD, these may form in the abdominal cavity or rectal area.
acute
Sudden, severe, and/or short-lived.
adrenal gland
A gland that is attached to the top of the kidney and produces a variety of hormones, including glucocorticoids. See glucocorticoids.
amylase
An enzyme produced by the pancreas, to help digest food. A high level of amylase in the blood can be a sign of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
anal fissure
A small crack in or around the anus, which may become a site of pain and/or infection.
anastomosis
The surgical joining of two ends of healthy bowel.
anemia
A below-normal level of hemoglobin in the blood.
antibiotic
A medication used to treat or prevent bacterial infections.
antigen
A substance (often a protein) which causes the body to produce antibodies, because it is recognized as "foreign." Reaction between the antigen and its antibody may cause inflammation. See autoimmune disorder.
anti-inflammatory
A medication that works to reduce inflammation.
anus
The opening at the lower end of the gastrointestinal tract, through which stool (feces) is passed.
appendix
A small, naturally-occurring "pouch" of intestine that protrudes from the cecum.
arthralgia
Joint pain.
arthritis
Joint swelling and/or stiffness. It may occur at any time and is usually temporary. It can be an extra-intestinal symptom in IBD.
autoimmune disorder
A condition in which the body's immune system mistakenly produces antibodies against its own, healthy cells. See antigen.
bacteria
Tiny single-celled organisms. Many types are normally present on our skin and in our large intestine — and may cause infections under some circumstances.
barium enema
A liquid suspension of barium sulphate, passed into the rectum and colon via the anus. It allows X-ray pictures of the rectum and colon to be taken, and helps to identify abnormal areas in those regions of the large intestine.
barium meal; barium swallow
A liquid suspension of barium sulphate that is swallowed. It allows X-ray pictures of the esophagus, stomach, and intestines to be taken, and helps to identify abnormal areas in those parts of the GI tract.
barium sulphate ("barium")
A chalky white powder used to make a liquid suspension that can be swallowed or delivered into the colon. It is radio-opaque, and thus acts as a contrast medium when X-rays are taken. When swallowed, this substance coats the inside of the GI tract and helps identify abnormal areas. When given as an enema, it helps identify abnormal areas in the rectum and colon.
barium X-ray
X-ray studies completed with the aid of barium as a contrast medium.
bile; bile acids; bile salts
Bile is greenish-yellow, alkaline fluid produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. It contains water, cholesterol, bile pigments, bile salts, and other components. Eating causes causes bile to be released into the duodenum, where it helps digest the food leaving the stomach.
biopsy
A small tissue sample (obtained, for example, during a colonoscopy or upper endoscopy) sent for examination by a pathologist, to help in diagnosis.
bowel
A synonym for "intestines," which includes the small bowel (duodenum, jejunum, and ileum) and large bowel (colon and rectum).
breath tests
Simple painless, non-invasive tests that help detect certain abnormalities of intestinal function.
CBC; complete blood count
A simple test, using a small quantity of blood, to determine the numbers of white and red cells in the blood. Increases in white blood cell counts may indicate the presence of inflammation in the body. Low red blood cell counts may indicate anemia (which, in IBD patients, may be due to poor diet or blood loss).
cecum
The first 10 to 15 cm of the colon (large bowel).
chronic
Long-lasting or slow to resolve.
colitis
See ulcerative colitis.
colon
The large intestine. It is about 1.5 metres long. Its main function is to reabsorb water into the blood stream.
colonoscopy
An examination of the lining (mucosa) of the rectum and most of the colon, that is performed by passing a flexible telescope (colonoscope) into the anus. This test is similar to a sigmoidoscopy (which can only examine the rectum and lower part of the colon.)
colostomy
Surgery to create an artificial anus (stoma) on the abdominal wall.
constipation
Difficulty in passing stools, or infrequent passage of hard stools.
Crohn's disease
A chronic inflammatory bowel disease of unknown origin, in which any part of the digestive system, from the mouth to the anus, can be involved. Patches of inflammation, separated by regions of healthy tissue, may occur. The inflammation can affect all layers of the bowel tissue. Diagnosis is based on clinical signs, X-ray studies with a contrast medium, and endoscopy. See also IBD and ulcerative colitis.
diarrhea
Frequent passage of loose, watery stools.
digestive system
The parts of the body involved in getting food into, through, and out of the body. Parts include the: mouth, esophagus, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, small intestine, large intestine (colon), and rectum. This system takes nutrients and water out of food and into the body.
dilated; dilation
widened; widening
duodenum
The first section, about 25 cm long, of the small intestine, into which the stomach empties its contents.
edema
Accumulation of excessive amounts of fluid in a tissue.
elemental diet
A specially prepared liquid meal that contains all the necessary nutrients, but no residue.
endoscopy
A procedure to examine the inside of the body by passing a lighted telescope through a natural body opening (eg, gastroscopy, via the mouth; colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy, via the anus).
enema
A liquid inserted into the bowel, via the anus, for diagnosis or treatment.
enteral tube feeding
Delivery of nutrients (in the form of liquid meals) directly into the GI tract by means of a nasogastric or other feeding tube.
enteric
Relating to the intestines.
enteric coated
A special formulation of an oral medication that is treated to pass through the stomach unaltered, so that it can dissolve in the intestines.
esophagus
The muscular tube, about 24 cm long, that connects the throat to the stomach.
exacerbation
A worsening of symptoms, an increase in the activity of a disease, or a relapse.
febrile
Having a fever.
fissure
A crack or split in the skin, often near the anus. See anal fissure.
fistula
An abnormal channel that occurs when an ulcer extends through the bowel wall. This channel may connect an ulcerated section of bowel to another part of the intestine, another organ, or the skin.
folate; folic acid
A vitamin required for the formation of red blood cells. Deficiency may be caused by a poor diet, or by poor absorption from the small intestine.
gallbladder
The organ that stores, concentrates, and releases the bile that the liver produces to help with food digestion of dietary fats.
gastric; gastro-
Relating to the stomach.
gastroenterologist
A physician specially trained to diagnose and treat disorders of the intestine, including IBD.
gastroscopy (upper endoscopy)
A procedure to look inside the esophagus, stomach, and the first part (duodenum) of the small intestine.
gut
The bowel (intestine).
hyperalimentation
A special nutrient formula administered by intravenous infusion.
IBD; inflammatory bowel disease
A general term that describes two different, chronic, inflammatory diseases of the intestine: Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
IBS; irritable bowel syndrome
A common condition caused by abnormal bowel motility, that produces abdominal discomfort and altered bowel movements. IBS is not a form of IBD.
ileum
The last section of the small intestine, which meets the large intestine (colon) at the ileo-cecal valve.
immune
Protected against an infectious disease, either naturally or by receiving a vaccine.
immune system
Special organs and cells in the body that defend against infection and disease.
immunosuppressive
A medication that reduces the activity of the immune system.
intestinal
Relating to the intestines.
intestinal bypass; intestinal resection
Surgery to re-route part of the intestine.
intestine
The portion of the GI tract that connects the stomach to the anus.
intestine, large (colon)
The portion of the intestine between the cecum and the rectum.
intestine, small
The portion of the intestine between the stomach and cecum.
-itis
A suffix that indicates inflammation.
jaundice
Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes, often due to liver problems.
jejunum
The middle section of the small intestine, between the duodenum and ileum.
lactase
An enzyme required to break down lactose (a milk sugar) in the small intestine.
lactose
A sugar present in milk.
lactose intolerance
A common disorder, found in people with low lactase levels. Symptoms include abdominal discomfort, gas, and diarrhea after ingestion of milk or dairy products.
liver
The organ that produces the bile needed to help with food digestion.
malabsorption
Poor absorption or digestion of nutrients from food. It may be accompanied by diarrhea, bloating, cramping, failure to thrive, muscle wasting, or frequent bulky stools.
megacolon; toxic megacolon
Abnormal, massive dilation (blockage and swelling) of the colon that may cause perforation of the colon and serious systemic bacterial infection. Can be a serious complication of ulcerative colitis.
MRE; magnetic resonance enterography
A a noninvasive imaging test to help diagnose and assess IBD in the digestive system.
mucosa
Mucous membranes, such as those found in the lining of the mouth and intestines.
mucus
A slimy, slippery substance that acts as a lubricant. It is present in excess in the stools of patients with colitis.
myalgia
Muscle pain.
nasogastric tube; NG tube
A thin flexible plastic tube passed into the stomach via the nose.
NPO
Abbreviation for "nulla per os," which means "nothing by mouth" in Latin.
obstruction
A blockage. In the intestine, it is often due to narrowing of part of the intestine (see stricture), but may instead be due to reduced GI motility. See also megacolon.
occult blood
Traces of blood that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
pancreas
The organ that produces digestive enzymes and hormones (eg, insulin, and glucagon) to help with food digestion and glucose balance.
pancreatitis
Inflammation of the pancreas.
perforation
An abnormal opening in the bowel wall that allows bowel contents to spill into the abdominal cavity.
peri-
A prefix that indicates "around."
perianal
The area surrounding (around) the anus.
peritoneum
The membrane that lines the inside of the abdominal cavity.
peritonitis
Inflammation of the peritoneum, often due to perforation.
proctitis
Inflammation of the rectum.
prognosis
A prediction of the probable outcome of a disease, based upon the patient's condition and the usual course of the disease.
prophylactic therapy; prophylaxis
Preventative therapy; prevention.
prostaglandins
Hormone-like substances found in body tissues, especially in the presence of inflammation. Some types cause inflammation, pain, and swelling.
rectum
The last portion of the colon (large intestine), about 12 cm long, between the sigmoid colon and the anus.
recurrence; relapse
The return of disease activity and symptoms.
remission
Improvement of disease symptoms and return to good health.
resection
See intestinal bypass.
sigmoidoscopy
An examination of the lining (mucosa) of the rectum and lower colon, performed by passing a flexible telescope (colonoscope) into the anus. This test is similar to a colonoscopy, but can not examine the upper part of the colon.
stomach
The organ that holds and mixes swallowed food, until the food passes into the duodenum.
stool
Waste from the digestive tract that is formed in the intestine and eliminated through the rectum and anus.
stool examination
Stool specimen collected to check for the presence of blood, and of bacteria, viruses, or parasites that may be responsible for diarrhea.
stricture
An irreversible narrowing or closure of the intestine.
symptom
A feeling or physical sign of a particular health condition.
terminal ileum
The final section of the ileum, which joins the colon at the cecum.
total parenteral nutrition; TPN
A special intravenous infusion into a large vein, used to provide all of a patient's nutritional requirements.
ulcer
An open sore anywhere in the GI tract, including the stomach, mouth, and anus.
ulcerative colitis; colitis
A chronic inflammatory bowel disease of unknown origin, involving the lining of the colon and rectum. Diagnosis is based on clinical signs, X-ray studies with a contrast medium, and endoscopy. See also Crohn's disease and IBD.
upper endoscopy
A narrow flexible tube with a light and lens is inserted through the mouth to the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. The doctor is able to see any areas of ulceration often found in Crohn's patients.
upper GI series
A test involving a barium meal and follow-through X-ray examination.
vaccine
Living or killed microorganisms (bacteria or viruses) that are usually given by a needle (injection) to make the person become immune to an infectious disease.
virus
A microorganism that can only replicate inside other cells and does not respond to antibiotic treatment.