Glossary of terms

A-C | D-G | H-O | P-Z



adenoma – a benign tumor of a glandular structure or of glandular origin.

adrenal glands – either of a pair of complex endocrine organs near the anterior medial border of the kidney consisting of a mesodermal cortex that produces glucocorticoid, mineralocorticoid, and androgenic hormones, and an ectodermal medulla that produces epinephrine and norepinephrine.

adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) – a protein hormone of the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland that stimulates the adrenal cortex.

artery – any of the tubular branching muscular- and elastic-walled vessels that carry blood from the heart through the body.

benign – of a mild type or character that does not threaten health or life; also, having a good prognosis, responding favorably to treatment.

cardiovascular – of, relating to, or involving the heart and blood vessels.

cholesterol – a steroid alcohol present in animal cells and body fluids that regulates membrane fluidity, functions as a precursor molecule in various metabolic pathways; as a constituent of LDL, it may cause arteriosclerosis.

corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) – a substance secreted by the median eminence of the hypothalamus that regulates the release of ACTH by the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland.

cortisol – a glucocorticoid produced by the adrenal cortex upon stimulation by ACTH that mediates various metabolic processes (such as gluconeogenesis), has anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties, and whose levels in the blood may become elevated in response to physical or psychological stress.

CT (CAT) scan – a sectional view of the body constructed by computed tomography.

Cushing’s disease – Cushing’s syndrome especially when caused by excessive production of ACTH by the pituitary gland.



dexamethasone – a synthetic glucocorticoid also used in the form of an acetate or sodium phosphate, especially as an anti-inflammatory and antiallergic agent.

diabetes – any of various abnormal conditions characterized by the secretion and excretion of excessive amounts of sugar in the urine.

ectopic – occurring in an abnormal position.

endocrinologist – a specialist in endocrinology (the study of the glands and hormones of the body and their related disorders).

endogenous – caused by factors within the body or mind or arising from internal structural or functional causes.

exogenous – caused by factors (such as food or a traumatic factor) or an agent (such as a disease-producing organism) from outside the organism or system.

glucocorticoid – any of a group of corticosteroids (such as cortisol or dexamethasone) that are involved especially in carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism; that tend to increase liver glycogen and blood sugar by increasing gluconeogenesis; that are anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive; and that are used widely in medicine (such as in the alleviation of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis).



hirsutism – excessive growth of facial/body hair of normal or abnormal distribution.

hormone – product of living cells that circulates in body fluids (such as blood) or sap and produces a specific, often stimulatory, effect on the activity of cells usually remote from a hormone’s point of origin.

hypercortisolism – a state of overproduction of cortisol in the body, often a result of tumor(s) in the adrenal or pituitary glands.

hypothyroidism – deficient activity of the thyroid gland; also, a resultant bodily condition characterized by lowered metabolic rate and general loss of vigor.

infertility – not fertile; especially: incapable of or unsuccessful in achieving pregnancy over a considerable period of time (such as a year) in spite of determined attempts by heterosexual intercourse without contraception.

magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – a noninvasive diagnostic technique that produces computerized images of internal body tissues and is based on nuclear magnetic resonance of atoms within the body induced by the application of radio waves.

malignant – tending to produce death or deterioration; especially tending to infiltrate, metastasize, and terminate fatally.

osteoporosis – a condition that especially affects older women and is characterized by decrease in bone mass with decreased density and enlargement of bone spaces, producing porosity and brittleness.



pituitary gland – a small, oval, reddish-gray, vascular endocrine organ that is attached to the infundibulum of the brain and occupies the sella turcica, present in all craniate vertebrates. It consists essentially of an epithelial anterior lobe derived from a diverticulum of the oral cavity and joined to a posterior lobe of nervous origin by a pars intermedia; and that has the several parts associated with various hormones that directly or indirectly affect most basic bodily functions and include substances that exert a controlling and regulating influence on other endocrine organs by controlling growth and development or modifying the contraction of smooth muscle, renal function, and reproduction.

steroid hormone – any of numerous hormones (such as estrogen, testosterone, cortisone, and aldosterone) having the characteristic ring structure of steroids and formed in the body from cholesterol.

triglycerides – any of a group of lipids that are esters formed from one molecule of glycerol and three molecules of one or more fatty acids; they are widespread in adipose tissue and commonly circulate in the blood in the form of lipoproteins.

tumor – an abnormal benign or malignant new growth of tissue that possesses no physiologic function and arises from uncontrolled usually rapid cellular proliferation.

Sources: Merriam-Webster Online Medical Dictionary & Medical-Dictionary The Free Dictionary. Accessed July 9, 2009. Accessed February 25, 2011 and March 16, 2011.