Glossary

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Paget Disease

1) The most common use of the term refers to a bone disorder in which bone is formed and broken down excessively, resulting in weakened bones. This condition can cause bone pain, deformed bones, arthritis, and numerous fractures.

2) Other, less common uses of the term refer to rare forms of cancer involving the nipple of the breast or the skin of other areas such as the perianal region, penis, or vulva (also termed extramammary).

Pallor

Pale skin color

Pandemic

An epidemic that occurs over a wide geographic area (across continents)

Paraganglioma

tumor that releases excess hormones called catecholamines (e.g., dopamine, epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine and their metabolites, such as metanephrines) and usually occurs somewhere in the abdomen but outside the adrenal glands

Paramecium

Any of a genus (Paramecium) of ciliate chiefly freshwater protozoans that have an elongate body rounded at the anterior end and an oblique funnel-shaped buccal groove bearing the mouth at the extremity.

Parasite

One of the four major groups of microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites) that may live freely in nature, live on another organism without harming it, or live at the expense of the host organism

Parenteral

Administration of a substance (e.g., a drug) by injection (under or through the skin) or intravenously but not through the digestive system (not enterally)

Paresthesia

numbness, tingling, or prickling; an alteration in sensation

Parietal

1) Of or pertaining to the cells that line a cavity, such as the chest or abdomen;

2) A specialized cell in the stomach that makes acid to help in food digestion, as well as intrinsic factor, which is needed to absorb vitamin B12

Paroxysmal choreoathetosis

A condition characterized by involuntary, intermittent, and irregular movements of facial muscles and limbs

Pathogen

Organism that causes disease

Pathogenic

Disease-causing

Pathologist

A physician who diagnoses and characterizes disease by examining a patient’s tissues, blood, and other body fluids. Pathologists work in two broad areas:

Anatomic pathology is the examination of the physical appearance and microscopic structure of tissues. Anatomic pathologists look at biopsies and organs removed at surgery (surgical pathology) as well as cells that are collected from brushings or body fluids (cytology). They also perform autopsies to investigate the cause of death (autopsy pathology).

Clinical pathology deals with the measurement of chemical constituents of blood and other body fluids (clinical chemistry), analysis of blood cells (hematology), identification of microorganisms (microbiology), and the collection, preparation and use of blood for transfusion (transfusion medicine). Clinical pathologists direct the laboratories that perform these tests and provide consultation to other doctors on the significance of test results.

Pericardium

Sac-like membrane that surrounds the heart and the base of the blood vessels that lead into it

Peripheral nervous system

All parts of the nervous system except the brain and spinal cord

Peritoneum

Membranes that cover the abdominal cavity and the outside of abdominal organs

pH

Measurement of the acidity or alkalinity of a substance. A pH of 7.0 is neutral. A substance with a pH less than 7.0 is an acid, with increasing acidity as the pH decreases toward zero. Likewise, a substance with a pH greater than 7.0 is a base (alkali), with increasing alkalinity as the pH moves toward 14.0.

Phenotype

The observable physical or biochemical characteristics of a person, as determined by both their genetic makeup and environmental influences

Pheochromocytoma

tumor located in one or both of the adrenal glands that releases excess hormones called catecholamines (e.g., dopamine, epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine and their metabolites, such as metanephrines)

Phospholipid

A substance in the body that contains both lipid (fat) and phosphorous; phospholipids are found in all cells throughout the body because they are a major component of the cell membrane, the outermost layer of a cell.

Pituitary gland

Pea-sized gland located in the center of the head behind the sinus cavity at the base of the brain; the pituitary consists of two parts that produce different hormones: 1) in the anterior portion, growth hormone (GH), adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), lutenizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and prolactin (PRL) are produced; 2) in the posterior portion, oxytocin and antidiuretic hormone (ADH) (produced in the hypothalamus) are stored for release.

Placenta

The organ that connects a pregnant woman with her developing baby in the uterus; blood from the mother and baby do not mix directly, but a thin membrane within the placenta allows nutrients from the mother to pass to the baby and waste products to pass from the baby to the mother for elimination.

Plaque

1. Deposit on the inner arterial walls in atherosclerosis
2. Flat, raised patch on the skin or mucous membrane
3. Deposit of saliva and bacteria on teeth that encourages the development of caries

Plasma

Straw-colored, fluid part of blood and lymph

Plasma cell

Mature lymphocyte (B cell) that produces and secretes antibodies

Pleura

Also known as: Pleurae (plural)


One of the two membranes that surrounds each lung and lines the chest cavity

Pleurae

Also known as: Pleura


One of the two membranes that surrounds each lung and lines the chest cavity

Pneumonitis

An inflammation of the lungs; usually caused by a hypersensitive allergic reaction to repeated exposure to organic particles such as molds, grain dust, and chemicals

Polyclonal antibody

Antibody produced by or derived from many types (clones) of plasma cells

Polycythemia

Increase in the number of erythrocytes (red cells, RBCs) in the blood

Polymer

A large molecule consisting of multiple identical or similar chemical units that are linked together

Polymorphic

Gene having many different possible forms (alleles)

See also: Polymorphism

Polymorphism

Inherited person-to-person variation in the genetic code sequence within a specified DNA segment or gene

See also: Polymorphic

Polymyalgia Rheumatica

A disease that causes pain and weakness in the neck, shoulder muscles and pelvis, and morning stiffness. It commonly affects people over 50 years of age, especially women.

Polyp

A growth, such as on the lining of the mouth or intestines, that is usually benign; examples include uterine polyps and colorectal polyps

Posterior

At or toward the back

Precursor

1. one that comes before or gives rise to another
2. in chemistry, one substance that comes before or gives rise to another often more stable substance

Presumptive

Based on reasonable evidence or assumption; based on early, preliminary or partial results

Prevalence

The number of people with a particular disease at any given time in a population

Preventive Medicine

That branch of medicine concerned primarily with the prevention of disease

Prion Protein

An infectious agent (not bacteria or virus) that is an irregular form of a normal protein; prion proteins cause a variety of infections, including Mad Cow Disease and Creutzfeld-Jacob disease. Prion proteins are thought to induce normal brain proteins to assume an irregular shape, rendering them dysfunctional.

Prognosis

1) prediction about the course or outcome of a disease or illness
2) the likelihood of recovery from a disease or illness

Prophylaxis

(adj. Prophylactic)
1. Measure taken to prevent or protect against disease
2. Antibiotic prescribed to prevent infection

Prostatitis

inflammation of the prostate

Protein

Proteins are large molecules that form the structural part of most organs and make up enzymes and hormones that regulate body functions.

Pruritus

Also known as: Itch


An irritating skin condition that causes a desire to scratch

Pruritus

Also known as: Itch


An irritating skin condition that causes a desire to scratch

Purpura fulminans

Involves severe clotting throughout much of the body, ultimately causing death to the tissues. If not treated immediately, it is a life-threatening condition.

Pus

Collection of fluid, white blood cells, microorganisms, and cellular material that indicates the presence of an infected wound or abscess

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