totalhealth Medical Terms Dictionary » S

Medical terms and words can be alarming and can make understanding your condition difficult. Your doctor may have given you a diagnosis you do not understand or are unsure about.

At totalhealth we are committed to the aim of helping everyone to take control of their own health and treatment choices; for this reason we have compiled a comprehensive medical terms dictionary that we hope will be of real assistance.

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  • SAseptic arthritis
  • sacrumThe large, triangular bone at the base of the spine connected to the pelvis.
  • sacrumA section of the lower backbone that consists of five vertebrae that are fused together.
  • saddle anaesthesiaLoss of sensation to the buttocks.
  • salpingitisAn infection and inflammation of the fallopian tubes.
  • sarcoidosisA disorder in which inflammed tissue forms nodules or granulomas. It may affect many body systems including the lungs, liver, lymph nodes, glands and skin
  • sarcoidosisA rare disease of unknown cause in which there is inflammation of tissues throughout the body.
  • sarcomaCancer of the connective tissues.
  • scabiesA contagious skin infection caused by a tiny mite.
  • scar tissueA type of connective tissue that forms after a wound heals.
  • scarlet feverAn uncommon infectious disease, most often seen in childhood, that is caused by a strain of the streptococcal bacteria.
  • SCCsquamous cell carcinoma
  • Schirmer's testA test that determines whether the eye produces enough tears to keep it moist.
  • schistosomiasisA parastic disease.
  • schistosomiasis A parasitic disease common in the tropics in which a tiny worm burrows through the skin and spreads around the body, causing a variety of symptoms. It is usually contracted through contact with water infested with a type of snail that harbours the parasite. The alternative name is bilharzia.
  • schizophreniaA psychiatric disorder featuring psychosis along with disordered speech, thinking and behaviour and often accompanied by hallucinations and withdrawal from ordinary social interactions.
  • sciaticaPain that radiates along the sciatic nerve, which is the main nerve in each leg and the largest nerve in the body.
  • scleraThe white of the eye.
  • sclerodermaan autoimmune disease that targets connective tissue.
  • scoliosisCurvature of the spine.
  • screeningA way to identify people who may have a certain condition, among a group of people who may or may not seem to
  • scrotumThe sac that contains the testes.
  • scurvyA condition caused by a deficency of vitamin C.
  • sebaceousRelating to a sebaceous gland, a specialised gland in the skin producing sebum, an oily material that helps to lubricate and protect skin and hair.
  • seborrhoeic dermatitisA red, scaly rash that develops on the face, scalp, chest and back. It often develops during times of stress and is probably caused by an excess growth of yeast on the skin.
  • seborrhoeic eczemaIrritated and inflamed skin, typically starting on the scalp (dandruff) and spreading to the face. It is linked with a yeast infection.
  • seborrhoeic keratosisBenign, wart-like growths on the surface of the skin.
  • seborrhoeic wartBenign warty growths that occur on the skin. They tend to first appear around the age of 40 years.
  • secondary cancerA tumour or abnormal swelling that results from the spread of another malignant (uncontrolled) tumour to a distant part of the body.
  • secondary leukaemiaLeukaemia that has developed as a result of chemotherapy treatment for another cancer.
  • seizureUncontrolled electrical activity within the brain, leading to convulsions or an alteration in mental state.
  • seleniumA trace element in the body.
  • seminal vesicleEither of a pair of glands in the male that produce the components of semen.
  • seminal vesicles<p> A pair of pouch-like glands situated on each side of the bladder in males. These produce the components of semen.</p>
  • seminomaA type of testicular disease.
  • senescenceThe condition or process of deterioration with age / The loss of a cell’s power of division and growth.
  • senile purpuraExtreme susceptibility to bruising, often without cause. It is normally seen in older people whose skin is thinner and connective tissue weaker.
  • sensorineuralDeafness due to problems with the inner ear, nerves or the auditory area of the brain.
  • sepsisInfection of a wound or body tissue with bacteria that leads to the formation of pus or to the multiplication of bacteria in the blood.
  • septic arthritisInflammation of a joint due to a bacterial infection.
  • septicaemiaA serious condition in which there is rapid mulitiplication of bacteria and in which bacterial toxins are present in the blood.
  • seroconversion rash of HIVThe rash commonly seen during the dormant period of HIV.
  • serologyAnalysis of blood serum.
  • serumThe clear fluid that separates from blood when it clots. It contains salts, glucose and proteins.
  • serum calcium testA test that measures the amount of calcium in the blood.
  • Sever's diseaseA painful inflammation of the growth plate in the bone of the heel. It occurs in children aged seven to fifteen years, and it is caused by overuse.
  • Sheehan’s syndromeReduced production of hormones from the pituitary gland (hypopituitarism) due to damage to the gland from blood loss during or after childbirth.
  • shinglesA painful rash caused by reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus many years after chicken pox infection
  • shock (medical)A life-threatening condition in which collapse of the circulation means that oxygen delivery to cells and tissues is compromised. It is a medical emergency and not related to emotional shock.
  • sialogramX-ray of the salivary ducts and glands.
  • sickle cell anaemiaThe anaemia resulting from sickle cell disease.
  • sickle cell crisisA flare up in patients with sickle cell disease
  • sickle cell diseaseA hereditary blood disease in which red blood cells form a sickle shape, and are removed from the circulation.
  • sickle cell traitA condition in which the gene for sickle cell disease is inherited from just one parent rather than both. It is not usually associated with any symptoms.
  • sigmoidoscopeAn instrument with an attached light source and camera or optical system, inserted through the anus in order to examine the lower part of the large intestine.
  • sigmoidoscopyExamination of the lower part of the intestine with a sigmoidoscope, an instrument with an attached light source and camera or optical system.
  • signal transduction inhibitorsSubstances that block signals within a cell, and can impact on many cell functions.
  • single photon emission computerised tomographyAn imaging technique that uses a radioactive tracer and a gamma camera.
  • sinusMay describe one of a set of air spaces within a bone, or an abnormal channel within the body that may contain blood (usually venous blood) or pus (usually a fistula passing from a deeper infection to the surface).
  • sinus bradycardiaA slow, regular heart rhythm.
  • sinus tachycardiaA regular but faster than normal heartbeat of over 100 beats per minute
  • sinusesMay describe the air spaces within a bone, or wide channels within the body that contain blood (usually venous blood).
  • sinusitisInflammation of one or more of the sinuses, air spaces within the facial bones, caused by infection that has usually spread from the nose.
  • Sjogren's syndromeA disorder of the immune system.
  • Sjögren’s syndromeAn autoimmune disease leading to reduced secretion of tears and saliva
  • skeletal muscleA type of muscle responsible for movement that a person controls consciously (a voluntary muscle).
  • skin plaqueA broad, raised area on the skin.
  • skin tagA harmles, small brown or flesh coloured flap of skin that may appear spontaneously, or as a result of poor healing of a wound.
  • skin tagsSmall flaps or growths of excess skin, often occurring in skin folds, possibly due to rubbing. They may also occur around the anus after haemorrhoids (piles).
  • SLEsystemic lupus erythematosus
  • sleep anoeaLapses of breathing during sleep.
  • sleep apnoeaA sleep disorder often associated with snoring in which the affected individual stops breathing for periods during sleep. It is associated with cardiovascular disease.
  • smooth muscleA type of muscle responsible for actions in the body that we are not aware of; for example, the muscles that constrict blood vessels.
  • SOBshortness of breath
  • social workerA person who provides advice and practical help for problems relating to social circumstance.
  • sodiumOne of the chemical components of salt (sodium chloride) and an important blood chemical.
  • solar keratosisA small, thickened, scaly lump on the skin caused by repeated sun damage.
  • solitary rectal ulcer syndromeAn uncommon condition in which a sore or ulcer develops in the rectum, usually following chronic constipation.
  • SORL1 geneA gene that controls distribution of a substance called amyloid precursor protein. Abnormal variations of this gene increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • SPDSymphisis Pubis Dysfunction
  • specific gravity of urineA measure of the concentration of urine, used to assess kidney function.
  • SPECTAn abbreviation for single photon emission computerised tomography, an imaging technique that uses a radioactive tracer and a gamma camera.
  • speculumAn instrument used gently to widen an opening, so that the inside can be more easily seen.
  • speech and language therapistA healthcare professional who aims to treat problems with eating, drinking and speech.
  • speech and language therapyThe treatment of problems with eating, drinking and speech.
  • spermA mature male sex cell.
  • spermatic cordThe tube that runs from the testicle towards the penis in males and contains the vas deferens, blood vessels and nerves.
  • sphincterA ring of muscle around a natural opening or passage that acts as a valve, regulating inflow or outflow.
  • spinal stenosisA condition in which the spinal canal narrows and compresses the spinal cord and nerves.
  • spirometryA painless, non-invasive lung function test using an instrument called a spirometer to measure the volume of air that can be exhaled from the lungs in a certain time, such as one second
  • spleenAn organ situated on the left side of the abdomen that filters out worn-out red blood cells and other foreign bodies from the bloodstream.
  • splenectomyThe surgical removal of the spleen, an organ on the left side of the abdomen that filters out worn-out red blood cells and other foreign bodies from the bloodstream.
  • splenomegalyAn enlarged spleen.
  • spondarthritidesA group of arthritic conditions.
  • spondoarthritidesA group of disorders of the back that share certain clinical features.
  • spondylolisthesisA condition in which a bone in the lower part of the spine slips out of position and onto the bone below.
  • spondylosisA common degenerative joint disease that is due to wear and tear on the bones of the neck and back.
  • sputumA substance coughed up from the respiratory tract.
  • squamousRelating to cells that make up epithelium, the outer layer of cells that covers the open surfaces of the body.
  • SSRIAn abbreviation for selective seratonin re-uptake inhibitors, a relatively new class of drug used to treat depression
  • stapedial reflexA very small muscle in the middle ear that contracts in response to loud sound.
  • staphylococcal infectionA variety of infections caused by the staphylococcal bacteria.
  • statinOne of a class of drugs that inhibit cholesterol formation in the liver.
  • statinsA class of drugs that inhibit cholesterol formation in the liver.
  • STDSexually-transmitted disease.
  • STDsexually transmitted disease
  • stem cellsCells with the ability to specialise into various forms.
  • stenosisNarrowing of a tubular structure or valve.
  • stentA tube placed inside a tubular structure in the body, to keep it patent, that is, open.
  • sternotomySurgical opening of the breastbone.
  • steroidsCompounds with a common basic structure, which occur naturally in the body. The term may also refer to man-made drugs administered because they act like hormones.
  • Stevens-Johnson syndromeA dangerous allergic reaction characterised by severe blisters and bleeding in the muscous membranes of the mouth, eyes, nose and genitals.
  • Stokes-Adams attacksRecurrent episodes of temporary loss of consciousness caused by insufficient bllood flow from the heart to the brain
  • stomachthe organ or the body where food is stored and broken down
  • stomatitisInflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth.
  • stoolFaeces.
  • strangulatedReferring to a constriction that impairs blood supply to a body part and can lead to ischaemia and tissue damage (necrosis)
  • streptococcal infectionInfections caused by bacteria of the Streptococcus group.
  • streptococciAn infection caused by bacterium of the Streptoccus group
  • stressRelating to injury or concern.
  • stress incontinenceIncontinence of urine when the bladder is put under pressure, such as when coughing, sneezing, laughing or using the abdominal muscles in lifting or straining.
  • stress testAn ECG performed while the patient exercises, usually on a treadmill or a stationary bicycle, to look at how the heart performs during physical effort
  • strictureThe narrowing of a tube within the body, such as the bowel or gullet.
  • strictureplastyA surgical procedure to widen a stricture, which is the narrowing of a tube within the body such as the bowel or gullet.
  • stridorA whistling or rasping noise on breathing, most often during inspiration, due to narrowing or partial blockage of the airway
  • strokeAny sudden neurological problem caused by a bleed or a clot in a blood vessel.
  • stromalRelating to the type of supportive tissues surrounding organs and tissues.
  • strontium 89A form of the element strontium, used for pain relief in cancer that has spread to the bones.
  • styeA small, pus-filled abscess at the base of an eyelid, caused by infection.
  • subacuteA term used for a disease that shows symptoms between acute and chronic.
  • subarachnoidA layer of the brain; in between the innermost membrane (pia) and the middle membrane (arachnoid).
  • subarachnoid haemorrhageBleeding into the subarachnoid space surrounding the brain, the area between two of the three layers (meninges) surrounding the brain and spinal cord (the arachnoid mater and the pia mater).
  • subcapsular orchidectomyThe surgical removal of the inner part of the testicle.
  • subclavian aneurysmA weakness or bulging in the wall of the subclavian artery, which is located below the collarbone.
  • subclavian steal syndromeA condition in which blood flow to the brain is periodically partially interrupted due to flow being diverted to the arm when arm muscles are exercised.
  • subduralA layer of the brain; in between the outer most membrane (dura) and the middle membrane (arachnoid).
  • subluxationIncomplete dislocation of a joint, in which the surfaces of the bones remain in partial contact.
  • subtypeA group within a group.
  • subungual melanomaA specific type of melanoma that occurs under the nail bed. It causes a dark coloured stripe to form along the length of the nail.
  • sulphonamidesA group of anti-bacterial drugs.
  • sulphonylureasDrugs used to treat non-insulin dependent (Type 2) diabetes.
  • superinfectionAn infection arising during the course of another infection and caused by a different microorganism, which is usually resistant to the drugs used to treat the primary infection. The infective agent may be a normally harmless inhabitant of the body that becomes pathogenic when other harmless types are removed by the drugs or it may be a resistant variety of the primary infective agent.
  • suppositoryMedicine in a solid preparation administered via the rectum, the last part of the large intestine.
  • suprapubic catheterA urinary catheter or tube used to drain urine from the bladder after being inserted via an incision in the abdominal wall.
  • supraventricular tachycardiaA heart rhythm disorder involving runs of abnormally fast heartbeats that develop in the atria, the upper chambers of the heart
  • SVTsupraventricular tachycardia
  • swabAbsorbent material used to mop up bodily fluids, such as blood, for instance during an operation, or to take a sample for laboratory analysis. The term may also be used as a verb to mean the action of taking a swab
  • sweat chloride testA test used to diagnose cystic fibrosis.
  • sweat testAnalysis of a chemical (chloride) in sweat on the skin, to help diagnose cystic fibrosis
  • sycosis barbaeinflammation of the beard area due to infection of the hair follicles, usually with bacteria contracted from infected razors or towels.
  • symphisis pubis dysfunctionA complication of pregnancy where the pelvic joints become unstable causing pain and difficulty in walking.
  • synovial fluidA fluid material that is found in many of the joints of the body and that acts as a lubricator.
  • synovitisInflammation of the membrane that lines a joint capsule.
  • syphilisA sexually-transmitted disease caused by a bacterium called Treponema pallidum
  • syphilitic aortitisInflammation of the aorta occuring in tertiary, or third stage, syphilis.
  • syringobulbiaA neurological disease in which fluid-filled cavities form in the brainstem.
  • syringomyeliaA condition in which a cyst or a cavity forms within the spinal cord.
  • syringomyeliaA disorder in which a fluid-filled cavity or cyst forms in the spinal cord.
  • system sclerosisA systemic autoimmune disease.
  • systemicAffecting the whole body.
  • systemic lupus erythematosusA chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of connective tissue.
  • systemic mastocytosisAn uncommon condition involving the mast cells of the body,which are located in connective tissue.
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