A-Z Medical Dictionary
Find all our medical terms below from A-Z.
The Abdomen is the area of the body between the chest and pelvis. It contains many key organs including the stomach, intestines, kidney and bladder.
This is a condition where the body produces too much growth hormone in the pituitary gland. Over time it can lead to excess body growth such as large hands and feet, bigger facial features, enlarged tongue, abnormally tall height.
This is a rare condition of the adrenal glands and is thought to affect over 8000 people in the UK. It can be treated with medication to replace missing hormone.
This is the most common form of dementia. The condition is progressive and affects brain functions especially memory. The exact cause is unknown but factors including age, previous brain injury and cardio-vascular disease all increase the risk of onset.
This is a type of test that can be carried out during pregnancy if the baby is at risk of developing serious conditions. The unborn baby is surrounded by amniotic fluid in the womb. The amniocentesis test can diagnose a number of conditions including Down’s Syndrome, Spina Bifida and Muscular Dystrophy.
This condition is when a lack of iron in the body results in a reduction of red blood cell count. There are a number of symptoms of anaemia with the most common being tiredness.
This is where the body has a ‘lack of sensation’. For instance ‘saddle’ (bottom)anaesthesia in cauda equina syndrome.
These are medications given to reduce sensation in certain areas or induce sleep. They work by stopping nerve signals. There are few types of anaesthetics: local, general, regional, epidural, spinal, and sedation. If in a surgical setting, anaesthetics are administered by an anaesthetist.
This is an allergic reaction that can quickly develop into a life threatening situation. Anaphylaxis is caused by a ‘trigger’ such as insect sting or food allergy, although there are many causes. Anaphylaxis should always be treated as a medical emergency.
This is a heart condition which causes severe chest pain. Over time the arteries become blocked and this results in poor blood flow. In the UK one in seven men are affected and one in every twelve women.
These are types of medication used to treat some types of allergic reaction. (see Anaphylaxis). They may also be used to treat other medical conditions such as stomach ulcer.
These are a type of medication used in the treatment of inflammation, high-temperature and also to reduce pain.
This condition is a painful swelling of the appendix (a small, thin pouch in the abdomen about 5-10cm long). Sometimes the pain is progressive and should be treated as a medical emergency which requires surgery known as Appendectomy.
Arthritis is a common condition, with more than 10m sufferers in the UK. Arthritis causes pain and inflammation in a joint. The two most common types are: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Other types include Ankylosing spondylitis, Cervical spondylosis, Fibromyalgia, Gout, Lupus, Psoriatic arthritis, Enteropathic arthritis, Reactive arthritis, Secondary arthritis, and Polymyalgia rheumatic.
This is a type of keyhole surgery used to diagnose and treat joint problems.
This is a complex condition that causes the sufferer to have problems with communication, social interaction and behaviour. More boys are affected by the condition and while there is no known cure there are interventions that can help, such as speech and language therapy.
This is a common medication used to reduce pain, inflammation or temperature. It is also used to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and other medical conditions.
This is a long term health problem which affects the bronchi (small tubes which carry air in and out of the lungs). A ‘trigger’ causes irritation to the lung and results in the airways becoming blocked. Common triggers include house dust mites, animal fur, cigarettes, pollen, and exercise.
Asthma can be treated by use of an inhaler but it is important to identify triggers in order to reduce risk. Severe cases can be life-threatening.
This is a term for a group of disorders that affect co-ordination, balance and speech. The condition can onset as a result of damage to the brain or another part of the neurological system.
A post-mortem examination, also called an autopsy, is the examination of a body after death. The aim is to determine the cause of death and will be carried out by a pathologist.
This is a medical procedure designed to treat people who are dangerously obese. It is usually offered if other types of treatment have failed.
There are three types of surgery available; gastric band, gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy. Like all surgeries, it presents with risk.
This is a another name for pressure ulcers, however the term is wrongly used as pressure ulcers do not only develop in bed. See Pressure Ulcers.
This is a medical procedure whereby body tissue is taken and then investigated in the pathology lab so that a diagnosis can be given. Most biopsies are conducted under local anaesthetic. There are a number of types of biopsy including: Punch, Needle, Endoscopic, Excision and Perioperative.
This medical condition was previously known as manic depression, and is a disorder that can make provide the sufferer with mood swing from one extreme to another. It is estimated that one in every hundred people in the UK are affected. There is a range of treatments available.
The Bladder is the organ in your body which receives urine from the kidneys and stores it until urination.
This condition occurs when cells in the bladder mutate and become tumourus. Most bladder cancers are caused by exposure to dangerous substances with over half attributed to smoking tobacco.
The bowel is the part of the digestive system that is situated between the stomach and anus and includes the small and large intestines. Its purpose is to expel from the body the waste we produce after we have processed our food.
This condition is when cancerous cells develop, mostly in the large intestine. It is estimated there are over 40,000 new cases each year.
Bowel cancer can be termed colon, of the large intestine or rectal, of the rectum.
The organ of the human body which is located in the skull and consists of soft nervous tissue. The brain acts as the coordinating centre of sensation and intellectual and nervous activity.
This is where a blood vessel becomes damaged and develops a bulge due to a weakness in the blood vessel wall. Although aneurysms can occur throughout the body, the two most common places they are found is in the abdomen (in the artery which takes away blood from the heart) which is called the abdominal aortic aneurysm and in the brain which is called the intracranial or cerebral aneurysm.
If an aneurysm ruptures there is a high risk of death. It is thought that 1 in 12,500 people in England have a ruptured brain aneurysm.
The breasts are twin fatty lobes which protrude from the chest. Milk is produced in the breasts when a woman is pregnant and following birth.
This condition is the most frequent type of cancer in the UK with 58,000 people developing the condition. 1 in 8 women develop breast cancer, and 1 in 870 men.
This is a common lower respiratory tract infection which affects babies and young children usually under two years old. This condition often presents with cold like symptoms and can rapidly develop into breathing and feeding difficulties. A small number of babies who have bronchiolitis will need to be admitted to hospital especially if they were born prematurely.
This condition is an eating disorder and associated with mental health issues. People with Bulimia tend to try to restrict the amount of food they eat, or purge it from the system by vomiting or laxatives.
Bulimia is associated with low self-esteem, depression, alcoholism or self-harm.
This is an infection of the bowel, usually treated by antibiotics, however C Diff as it is sometimes know can be life-threatening or fatal. Patients who have had surgery, the elderly or those with other conditions are at increased risk of developing the infection. If C Diff was developed in a hospital setting it can be called a hospital acquired infection.
This is a surgical operation to deliver a baby. It involves making a cut in the front wall of a woman’s abdomen and womb. Sometimes the surgery is because of an emergency, i.e. because the baby is distressed, often it is because mum has requested and this is known as elective. It usually takes a woman who has had a caesarean section longer to recover than a women who has had a vaginal birth.
This is a medical condition where cells in a part of the body grow and reproduce uncontrollably. The cancerous cells can invade and destroy surrounding healthy tissue, including organs or even travel to another area of the body. Survival rates for patients with cancer have improved recently, however survival rates of some types of cancer remain poor. Early and accurate diagnosis is important to improve the chances of either a full recovery or stabilisation.
Urinary catheterisation is a procedure used to drain the bladder and collect urine, through a flexible tube called a catheter. Catheters are used to help people who have difficulty passing urine which can be for a variety of reasons.
The risk of infection from catheters is something that the NHS are trying to reduce.
A group of neurological conditions that affect movement and co-ordination are described as cerebral palsy. Cerebral Palsy is caused by damage to an area of the brain which controls muscles and movement. The time span for cerebral palsy to occur is shortly before, during and shortly after birth.
Cerebral Palsy can be caused by a number of factors including; lack of oxygen, an infection to the mother during pregnancy, premature or difficult birth, changes in baby’s genes. The condition is frequently diagnosed when a child misses developmental milestones. It is thought that 1 in 400 babies born in the UK are affected by cerebral palsy.
The condition is a type of cancer which develops in a woman’s cervix which is the entrance to the womb from the vagina.
Almost all cervical cancers are caused by the HPV virus.
There is a significant screening programme for this type of cancer and if diagnosed in the early stage a positive prognosis is possible.
This is a medical treatment designed to kill cancerous cells by stopping them reproducing. Chemotherapy is used if cancer has spread or is likely. Treatment can be either injected into veins or as a tablet.
Because chemotherapy cannot distinguish between some cells there is a high risk of side effects such as feeling tired and sick. Hair loss is another side effect.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
This is the name for a group of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease. COPD is a common disease in the UK and it’s thought that there are 3,000,000 people living with the disease. The main cause of COPD is smoking, other factors such as exposure to asbestos are also known triggers.
Over time inflammation of the lungs develops and causes the lungs to lose their elasticity, Breathing is severely hampered. COPD causes 25,000 deaths in the UK each year.
This condition develops in the large intestine. See Bowel Cancer.
This is a surgical procedure to divert the line of the large intestine through the wall of the tummy and to complete it with a ‘stoma’. A pouch is placed over the stoma and waste products, rather than exiting the body through the anus, collect in the pouch. There are many reasons that a colostomy is carried out. For example, bowel cancer, crohn’s disease, vaginal or cervical cancer, injury or diverticulitis.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
This condition is poorly understood, however it is thought that CRPS is caused by the body having an abnormal reaction to an injury.
There are around 4000 cases of this condition diagnosed each year in the UK.
This is a procedure designed to improve someone’s appearance. It should not be confused with reconstructive plastic surgery which is done to repair damage after accident or illness.
Cosmetic surgery is rarely available on the NHS. There are many types of cosmetic surgery including; breast enhancement, breast reduction, nose job, eyelid surgery, tummy tuck, liposuction and ear reshaping.
There is a large range of non surgical procedures available and these is currently no requirement for the provider to be regulated. The procedures include: botox injections, dermal fillers and laser and intense light treatment. There is no regulation currently for non surgical procedures.
It is always a good idea to discuss plans about cosmetic surgery with your GP.
This long term condition causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system, most commonly the small and large intestines. The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown but factors such as smoking, genetics and diet may be responsible. Symptoms of the condition include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, tiredness and blood and mucus in stools. People with the condition can have lengthy periods of time without symptoms, known as remission.
There is no known cure but treatment includes steroids and anti inflammatories, surgery may be needed.
This condition is where a person’s lips turn blue. This is caused by low levels of oxygen in the blood or poor circulation. Medical advice should be sought.
Deep Vein Thrombosis
This condition is also known as DVT. DVT is a blood clot that occurs in one of the deep veins in the leg in either the calf or thigh. Symptoms of DVT include pain in one leg, usually the calf, the affected area may suffer tenderness, be warm to touch and become red and inflamed.
A complication of DVT is the development of a pulmonary embolism. Treatment for this condition is anticoagulant medicines and compression stockings.
This is when fluid intake is lower than usage and results in an imbalance.
The human body is made up of two thirds water therefore a loss of fluid can have a significant impact on its function.
Dehydration can happen if you are exercising, suffer diarrhoea or sickness, have a fever or on a hot day.
Babies are particularly at risk if suffering dehydration. In extreme cases someone can suffer seizures, brain injury and death.
Dementia is not a single condition but a group of symptoms that reduce a sufferer’s mental ability. The types include: Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia and advanced dementia. It is estimated that in the UK one million people will have dementia by 2025.
These are injections which help to fill out wrinkles and creases in order to give skin a smoother appearance. They are also used to enhance volume on the lips. It is not a legal requirement for people carrying out this treatment to be regulated.
This life-long condition causes an increase of glucose in the blood.
Insulin, produced by the pancreas, helps to control the amount of glucose in the blood by breaking it down and moving it on to produce energy. This process is hampered if someone has diabetes.
There are two types of Diabetes; type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is where the body’s immune system destroys the insulin. This type of diabetes often develops in teenage years and will leave the sufferer reliant on insulin injections for the rest of their life.
Type 2 is more common than type 1. It is estimated that nearly 4 million people in the UK have type 2 diabetes. This condition is where the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin.
Symptoms of diabetes include: feeling thirsty, passing urine more often especially at night, tiredness, weight loss, itching around the genitals, slow healing cuts and blurred vision.
A change in diet may help to control symptoms or medication may be required.
Pregnant women may also develop Gestational diabetes.
This is a genetic condition that causes learning difficulties. An extra copy of chromosome 21 is the cause of the condition. Around 800 babies in England and Wales are born with Down’s Syndrome each year.
The characteristics of the condition are Hypotonia, a reduced muscle tone leading to floppiness, eyes slanting upwards and outwards, small mouth with protruding tongue, flat back of the head and below-average weight and length at birth.
The older a woman is in pregnancy the higher risk of baby being born with Downs Syndrome.
Screening a baby during pregnancy will help identify the risk of Downs Syndrome and further test can be carried out to confirm diagnosis.
This is a diagnostic tool similar to an ultrasound scan that can detect heart problems. Among some of the conditions it is used to monitor is damage following heart attack, heart failure, congenital heart disease, cardiomyopathy and endocarditis.
An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilised egg embeds itself outside the womb, commonly in a fallopian tube. When this happens the baby will not develop, and this presents a risk to the pregnant woman. It is not clear what is the cause but narrow and blocked fallopian tubes are sometimes to blame. Most women who have had an ectopic pregnancy will be able to get pregnant again.
It is estimated that in the UK there are over 12,000 ectopic pregnancies each year.
EEG as it’s often called is diagnostic recording of a patient’s brain activity. Sensors are attached to the skull and these pick up the electrical signals in the brain. This recording is read by a clinical neurophysiologist and is used to diagnose a number of conditions such as epilepsy, dementia, head injuries, brain tumours, and obstructive sleep apnoea.
An ECG is a simple diagnostic test of the heart. Sensors are placed over the chest and heart beats are recorded The test can be used to investigate symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath and palpitations. An ECG can help diagnose a number of conditions including arrhythmias, coronary heart disease, heart attacks and cardiomyopathy,
This condition is where a blood clot, air bubble or foreign body blocks an artery. Two serious conditions which can result are stroke and pulmonary embolism. Risk factors include obesity, smoking, age over 60 years, heart disease and long periods of immobility. Embolisms are treated with anti coagulant medication such as warfarin, and surgery. Treatment also includes a hyperbaric chamber if blockage is due to air bubble.
This is a medical investigation using a video camera and light placed on the end of a long tube. The endoscope can traverse the body through mouth, anus or an incision made through keyhole surgery. Endoscopy can also be used to carry out surgery like removing appendix or gall bladder.
Endometriosis is a disease in which tissue that normally grows inside the uterus grows outside it, causing pelvic pain and infertility.
This is a condition that causes a sudden, temporary loss of consciousness that commonly results in a fall. When the flow of oxygen in the blood is reduced a faint can occur.
There are a number of reasons for fainting for example standing for an extended length of time, stress and pain.
If repeated episodes of fainting occur medical advice should be sought.
These are non-cancerous growths that develop in or around the womb. Many women are unaware that the have fibroids as they have no symptoms. Symptoms include heavy periods, abdominal pain, back pain, discomfort during sex, and the need to urinate often. The cause is not known but is suspected to be linked with the hormone oestrogen. There are three main types of the condition: intramural, isabserosal and submucosal. Treatment is not usually required although if symptoms become a problem medication can be used.
This long term condition causes whole body pain. The exact cause is not known however it is thought that the abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the body are to blame, and this alters the way the nervous system processes pain messages.
Some people are likely to develop the condition through their genes. Others causes are giving birth, injury, surgery and stress.
Fibromyalgia can be treated in a number of ways; lifestyle change, medication and talking therapies like counselling.
It is estimated between 1 and 3 million people have the condition in the UK.
This condition is a weakness in the muscles or paralysis that reduces movement in the foot and toes. It is associated with nerve damage in the leg or underlying problem with the spine or brain.
Conditions such as cerebral palsy, stroke and multiple sclerosis can be a cause of foot drop, also called drop foot.
Treatments include physiotherapy, ankle -foot orthosis, electrical stimulation and surgery.
This condition is a rare type of dementia thought to affect approximately 16,000 people in the UK.
An abnormal build up of proteins attack the front and sides of the brain and over time reduce function..
It is thought that 40% of cases are genetic. Symptoms of frontotemporal dementia are progressive and include: inappropriate behaviour in public , loss of inhibitions, neglect of personal hygiene, repetitive, being tactless or rude , less or more outgoing than in the past and lacking enthusiasm
Some sufferers may become incontinent. Some people may develop this type of dementia along with conditions such as motor neurone disease.
There is no cure for frontotemporal dementia but treatment can help control symptoms.
This is a severe condition where loss of blood supply causes parts of the body to die; commonly fingers, hands, toes and feet. Symptoms include: redness, lack of sensation, sores or blisters and foul smelling pus.
Gangrene can develop in anyone especially after a serious injury but some groups are most at risk and include: those with arterial problems, diabetes and Raynaud’s phenomenon.
The earlier treatment commences the better the chance of recovery. Surgical removal of the affected tissue known as debridement is usual along with antibiotics. Amputation is necessary for severe cases.
Gout is a very common arthritic condition when crystals form in joints and cause swelling and severe pain, this is known as an attack. Affecting more men than women a build up of uric acid in the blood is the cause of the problem because either the kidneys cannot filter the uric acid or too much is produced. There is an increased risk of an attack of gout due to; obesity, diabetes, stress, diet which includes high offal, alcohol, seafood and poor kidney function.
Treatment is with a range of medications including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, colchicine or corticosteroids.
Episodes of gout can be reduced by good hydration, altering life-style and medication such as allopurinol. It is thought that 1.5 million people have the condition in the UK.
This is a rare and serious condition which occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the nervous system. The exact cause is unknown but most people are thought to develop this following an infection.
The symptoms commence a few weeks after an infection and start with tingling and pain in hands and feet and then develop into muscle weakness and incoordination.
Diagnosis is usually by EMG or Lumbar puncture.
Treatment is given in hospital with most people making a full recovery. Its thought that around 1 in 5 people with the condition continue to suffer muscle weakness. Around 1,200 cases are diagnosed each year in the UK.
The heart is a large muscle which consists of two pumps which work together. Blood comes back from organs and tissues and enters the right side of the heart which then pumps it to the lungs. The lungs remove waste carbon dioxide from the blood and recharge it with oxygen. This process, vital for life is continuous with a healthy heart beating over 100,000 times a day.
There are many conditions which affect the heart and some are life-threatening
A hernia is where an internal part of the body pushes through a weakness in the muscle or surrounding tissue wall.
In many cases, hernias cause no or very few symptoms, although you may notice a swelling or lump in your tummy or groin.
The lump may be pushed back in, or will disappear when you lie down. A strangulated hernia and obstructed bowel are medical emergencies and need to be treated as quickly as possible.
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver and is often the result of a viral infection or liver damage caused by drinking alcohol.
There are a number of types of Hepatitis.
Hepatitis A is caused by the hepatitis A virus as a result of consuming food and drink contaminated by an infected person.
Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus which is spread in the blood of an infected person.
Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus and is the most common type of viral hepatitis in the UK. It’s commonly spread through blood-to-blood contact with an infected person.
Hepatitis D is caused by the hepatitis D virus. It only affects people who are already infected with hepatitis B
Hepatitis E is caused by the hepatitis E virus. It’s mostly caught by consuming food and drink contaminated by infected person. This is the most common cause of short-term (acute) hepatitis in the UK.
Alcoholic hepatitis is a type of hepatitis caused by drinking excessive amounts of alcohol over the course of many years.
Autoimmune hepatitis is due to long-term hepatitis in which the immune system attacks and damages the liver.
Hydrocephalus is a build-up of fluid on the brain. The excess fluid puts pressure on the brain, which can damage it.
The condition can usually be treated using a piece of equipment known as a shunt which is a thin tube that’s surgically implanted in the brain and drains away the excess fluid.
Hydrocephalus is commonly called ‘water on the brain’, however it is not water which surrounds the brain but a liquid called cerebrospinal fluid.
There are different types of the condition which include; congenital hydrocephalus, acquired hydrocephalus and normal pressure hydrocephalus.
If left untreated, hydrocephalus can be fatal.
This is a surgical procedure to remove the womb (uterus). It is not possible to get pregnant after the operation.
There are over 30,000 hysterectomies carried out each year for a variety of reasons including: heavy periods, long-term pelvic pain, non-cancerous tumours (fibroids) ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, cervical cancer or cancer of the fallopian tubes.
There are a number of hysterectomy procedures and which is suitable depends on the cause and symptoms.
There is a small risk of complications and these are explained before surgery.
An inquest is a legal investigation to establish the circumstances surrounding a person’s death, including how, when and why the death occurred.
It is likely a coroners court will try to establish the facts if the death was
sudden, violent or unnatural; occurred in prison or police custody, or if the cause of death is still unknown after a post-mortem.
Unlike criminal trials, inquests don’t try to establish whether anyone was responsible for a person’s death and there is no prosecution or defence.
The coroner may call a jury in some instances such as a death in prison, police custody or accident at work.
At the end of the inquest the coroner or jury will come to a conclusion about who died, when, where and how and set out these details in a verdict.
is a term used to describe the yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes and may also be accompanied by pale stools and dark urine.
Always seek medical advice if the above symptoms display.
The condition is caused by a build-up of a substance called bilirubin in the blood and body’s tissues.
There are three types of jaundice and which depends on what’s disrupting the normal removal of bilirubin from the body:•pre-hepatic jaundice – the disruption happens before bilirubin has been transported from the blood to the liver; it’s caused by conditions such as sickle cell anaemia and haemolytic anaemia
intra-hepatic jaundice the disruption happens inside the liver; it’s caused by conditions such as Gilbert’s syndrome, cirrhosis or other liver damage
post-hepatic jaundice the disruption prevents the bile (and the bilirubin inside it) from draining out of the gallbladder and into the digestive system; it’s caused by conditions such as gallstones or tumours
Babies are often born with jaundice and this commonly resolves in a few weeks. A condition called Kernicterus is a rare but serious complication of untreated jaundice in babies. (See Kernicterus).
It is common for new born babies to be jaundiced. This condition is caused be excessive levels of bilirubin in the blood which is able to cross the thin layer between brain and blood.
If this transmission occurs it may result in neurological damage to the brain and spinal cord.
Baby may be at risk of developing kernicterus if they have a very high level of bilirubin in their blood, the level of bilirubin in their blood is rising rapidly and, if they don’t receive any treatment.
Kernicterus is very rare and expected to affect less than 10 babies a year in the UK. Symptoms include: decreased awareness of the world around, their muscles become unusually floppy, poor feeding.
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located on either side of the body, just underneath the ribcage and are the size of a fist.
Their main purpose is to filter out waste products from the blood, in addition to producing urine. Each kidney is made up of about a million filtering units called nephrons
The kidneys are important because they keep the composition of the blood stable which helps to keep the body function.
Kidney stones are stone-like lumps that can develop in one or both of the kidneys.
Small stones may be passed out painlessly in the urine and may even go undetected. However, it is fairly common for a stone to block part of the urinary system. If this happens, it can cause severe pain in the abdomen or groin and sometimes causes a urinary tract infection.
Causes of kidney stones:
The waste products in the blood can occasionally form crystals that collect inside the kidneys. Over time, the crystals may build up to form a hard certain types of medication or suffer from some medical conditions.
Knee replacement surgery (arthroplasty)
This medical procedure involves replacing a damaged, worn or diseased knee with an artificial joint.
It’s a routine operation for knee pain most commonly caused by arthritis.
More than 70,000 knee replacements are carried out in England and Wales each year, and the number is rising. Most people who have a total knee replacement are over 65 years old.
A replacement knee often lasts over 20 years, especially if the new knee is cared for properly and not put under too much strain.
There are two main types of surgery, depending on the condition of the knee,
total knee replacement (TKR)and partial (half) knee replacement
The most common reason for knee replacement surgery is osteoarthritis.
A knee replacement is major surgery, so is normally only recommended if other treatments have failed. Adults of any age can be considered for a knee replacement, although it’s typically recommended for older people. The earlier you have a knee replacement, the greater the chance you will eventually need further surgery.
Laparoscopy is a type of surgical procedure that allows a surgeon to access the inside of the abdomen and pelvis without having to make large incisions in the skin.
This surgery is also known as keyhole surgery or minimally invasive surgery.
Using a laparoscope means large incisions can be avoided. A laparoscope is a small tube that has a light source and a camera, which relays images of the inside of the abdomen or pelvis to a television monitor.
This procedure has advantages over traditional open surgery usually meaning a shorter hospital stay, faster recovery time, less pain and reduced scarring.
Laparoscopy can be used to help diagnose a wide range of conditions that develop inside the abdomen or pelvis, and it can also be used to carry out surgical procedures, such as removing a damaged or diseased organ, or removing a tissue sample for further testing (biopsy).
Leukaemia is a cancer which affects the white blood cells. There are four main types of leukaemia:
Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)
Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML)
Acute lymphocytic leukaemia (ALL)
Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)
The part of the body responsible for the production of blood is the Bone marrow which produces specialised cells called stem cells which have the ability to develop into three important types of blood cells:
red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets
Treatment of the condition depends on the type of leukaemia.
The human liver is a real multi-tasker and provides many functions to help manage the body. It is located under the rib-cage and is between 7 – 10.5 cm in sixe, making it the largest internal human organ. The main functions of the liver include; bile production and excretion, excretion of bilirubin, cholesterol, hormones and drugs, metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, enzyme activation, storage of glycogen, vitamins and minerals, synthesis of plasma proteins such as albumin and clotting factors and blood detoxification and purification.
Due to these activities the liver is subjected to higher levels of damage than other organs.
There are a range of treatments available and depend on the cause.
A lumbar puncture is a medical procedure, were a needle is inserted into the lower spine, under anaesthetic in order to test for some conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord or other parts of the nervous system.
During the procedure, pressure is measured and samples of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) are taken from inside the spine. CSF is a clear, colourless fluid that surrounds and supports the brain and spinal cord. Analysis of CFS can often reveal a good deal about some conditions affecting the brain and spinal cord.
The test can help diagnose conditions including:
A lumbar puncture can also be used to treat some conditions, such as injecting antibiotics or chemotherapy medication into the CSF.
The lungs are two large spongy inflatable organs located either side of the chest cavity.
The left lung shares space with the heart therefore is slightly smaller than the right.
Two membranes called Pleura cover each lung and these aid breathing and movement. Inside the lung there are millions of air sacs called Alveoli which are criss-crossed with the finest of blood vessels called capillaries.
The function of the lungs is to deliver oxygen to and remove carbon dioxide from your blood.
As the lungs act as giant air filters to the body they can become damaged for a range of reasons including air pollution, chemical poisoning and exposure to asbestos amongst others.
Common lung problems include:
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis
The biggest cause of lung disease is smoking tobacco.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a type of scan that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body.
An MRI scanner is a large tube that contains powerful magnets. The patient lays inside the tube during the scan.
An MRI scan can be used to examine almost any part of the body and the
result of an MRI scan can be used to help diagnose conditions, plan treatments and assess how effective previous treatment has been.
The scan is carried out by a radiographer. The process is available to nearly everyone however those with a pacemaker will not be suitable.
About one in eight women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime.
The aim of Breast screening is to find breast cancers early to provide as good prognosis as possible.
A mammogram is a type of x-ray that can spot cancers when they are too small to see or feel and is used to detect breast cancer.
The main risk is that breast screening sometimes picks up cancers that may not have caused any symptoms or become life-threatening. You may end up having unnecessary extra tests and treatment.
A mastectomy is an operation to remove the breast.
It’s used to treat breast cancer in women and men. It can also be used to reduce the risk of cancer developing in the breast.
Preparing for a mastectomy;
There are several different types of mastectomy. The type recommended will depend on factors such as how much the cancer has spread. All types of mastectomy use general anaesthetic and involve making an incision across the breast so that the breast tissue can be removed.
Breast reconstruction may be offered following removal and this involves creating an artificial breast to replace the breast or breasts that have been removed.
It may be possible for a breast reconstruction to be carried out at the same time as a mastectomy.
Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meninges).
It can affect anyone, but is most common in babies, young children, teenagers and young adults.
Meningitis can be very serious if not treated quickly. It can cause life-threatening blood poisoning (sepsis) and result in permanent damage to the brain or nerves.
Vaccinations are available that offer some protection against meningitis.
If meningitis is suspected urgent medical advice should always be sought.
Meningitis is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection. Bacterial meningitis is rarer but more serious than viral meningitis.
Vaccinations offer some protection against certain causes of meningitis.
Overall, it’s estimated that up to 1 in every 10 cases of bacterial meningitis is fatal.
A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy during the first 23 weeks.
There are around 200,000 miscarriages in the UK each year.
The main symptom of a miscarriage is vaginal bleeding, which may be followed by cramping and pain in your lower abdomen.
There are probably many reasons why a miscarriage may happen, although the cause isn’t usually identified. The majority aren’t caused by anything the mother has done.
It’s thought most miscarriages are caused by abnormal chromosomes in the baby. Chromosomes are genetic “building blocks” that guide the development of a baby. If a baby has too many or not enough chromosomes, it won’t develop properly.
If a miscarriage happens during the second trimester of pregnancy (between weeks 14 and 26), it’s sometimes the result of an underlying health condition in the mother.
For most women, a miscarriage is a one-off event and they go on to have a successful pregnancy in the future.
The majority of miscarriages can’t be prevented. If a woman has suffered from more than three miscarriages, some women can be helped to keep their pregnancy with medication under the care of a specialist.
It is suggested to avoid alcohol and cigarettes during pregnancy. Miscarriages are more common than people think.
Motor neurone disease
Motor neurone disease is a rare medical condition that progressively damages parts of the nervous system, which leads to muscle weakness, often with visible wasting. There are about 5,000 people living with the condition at any one time.
MND, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), occurs when specialist nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord called motor neurones stop working properly..
It’s not clear what causes motor neurones to stop working properly. In about 5% of cases there’s a family history of either MND or a related condition called frontotemporal dementia.
There’s no single test to diagnose motor neurone disease and diagnosis is based mainly on the opinion of neurologist.
Symptoms are progressive and include:
a weakened grip, which can cause difficulty picking up or holding objects
weakness at the shoulder that makes lifting the arm difficult
dragging of the leg
The condition isn’t usually painful and there is currently no cure for motor neurone disease.
Motor neurone disease is a severely life-shortening condition for most people. Life expectancy for about half of those with the condition is three years from the start of symptoms. However, some people may live for up to 10 years, and in rarer circumstances even longer.
Multiple sclerosis, also known as MS, is a condition which can affect the brain and/or spinal cord, causing a range of potential symptoms including problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation or balance.
It’s a lifelong condition that may sometimes cause serious disability, although it can occasionally be mild. In most cases, it’s possible to treat symptoms. Average life expectancy is slightly reduced for people with MS.
It’s estimated that there are more than 100,000 people diagnosed with MS in the UK.
It’s most commonly diagnosed in people in their 20s and 30s, although it can develop at any age. It’s about two to three times more common in women than men.
The symptoms of MS vary from person to person and can affect any part of the body. Depending on the type of MS symptoms may come and go in phases, or get steadily worse over time (progress).
There are two types of MS.
The most common form is where symptoms come and go and the other type is associated with a gradual worsening of symptoms, rather than sudden attacks (relapses).
MS is an autoimmune condition. This is when something goes wrong with the immune system and it mistakenly attacks a healthy part of the body – in this case, the brain or spinal cord of the nervous system.
Exactly what causes the immune system to act in this way is unclear, but most experts think a combination of genetic and environmental factors is involved.
There’s currently no cure for MS, but a number of treatments can help control the condition.
The muscular dystrophies (MD) are a group of genetic conditions that gradually lead to an increasing level of disability.
MD often begins by affecting a particular group of muscles, before affecting the muscles more widely.
Some types of MD eventually affect the heart or the muscles used for breathing, at which point the condition becomes life-threatening.
There’s no cure for MD, but treatment can help to manage many of the symptoms.
The condition is caused by changes (mutations) in the genes responsible for the structure and functioning of a person’s muscles.
The mutations are often inherited from a person’s parents.
There are many different types of MD, each with somewhat different symptoms and treatments.
Narcolepsy is a rare long-term brain disorder that causes a person to suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate times. The brain is unable to regulate sleeping and waking patterns normally, which may result in:
- excessive daytime sleep attacks
- sleep paralysis
- excessive dreaming and waking in the night
Narcolepsy doesn’t cause serious or long-term physical health problems, but it can have a significant impact on daily life.
The exact cause of narcolepsy is not clear but most may be due to a lack of a the
brain chemical hypocretin which help regulates wakefulness. However, this doesn’t explain all cases of narcolepsy, and the exact cause of the problem is often unclear.
Norovirus is one of the most common stomach bugs in the UK. It’s also called the “winter vomiting bug” because it’s more common in winter.
The symptoms of norovirus are distinctive.
You’re likely to have norovirus if you experience:
suddenly feeling sick
Norovirus can be very unpleasant but it usually clears up by itself in a few days.
The ovaries are two small, bean-shaped organs that are part of the female reproductive system. A woman has two ovaries, one each side of the womb, also called the Uterus.
The ovaries have two main functions are to release an egg approximately every 28 days as part of the menstrual cycle and to release the female sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, which play an important role in female reproduction.
An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that develops on a woman’s ovary. They are very common and do not usually cause any symptoms.
Most ovarian cysts occur as part of the normal workings of the ovaries. These cysts are generally harmless and disappear without treatment in a few months.
There are two main types of ovarian cyst; Functional ovarian and Pathological. Ovarian cysts can be due to an underlying condition such as endometriosis. The majority of ovarian cysts are non-cancerous (benign), although a small number are cancerous (malignant). Cancerous cysts are more common in women who have been through menopause.
The pancreas is an abdominal organ located behind the stomach and is surrounded by other organs, including the spleen, liver and small intestine.
The pancreas is about 6 inches long.
The pancreas plays an important role in digestion and in regulating blood sugar. Three diseases associated with the pancreas are pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer and diabetes.
The pancreas has two primary functions, firstly it produces enzymes which help to digest proteins, fats, and carbs in the intestines and secondly to produce the hormones insulin and glucagon which help to balance blood sugar levels which in turn help to manage body functions.
The early stages of pancreatic cancer are likely to be difficult to diagnose because symptoms may not become obvious until the tumour has become advanced.
Pain in the back or stomach
Unexpected weight loss
The condition may be caused be a number of factors but this is not clear.
Age is significant as it affects most people between 50-80 years of age. Smoking may be a contributor and having underlying conditions such as stomach ulcers, pancreatitis and diabetes.
Surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy are the usual methods of treatment.
Sadly little progress has been made in improving survival rates in this type of cancer.
Parkinson’s disease is a brain condition where it becomes damaged over the course of many years.
The three characteristics of the condition are:
•tremor (involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body)
•stiff and inflexible muscles
A person with Parkinson’s disease can also experience a wide range of other physical and psychological symptoms, including depression, constipation, problems sleeping (insomnia), loss of sense of smell (anosmia) and memory problems.
The condition is caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain called the substantia nigra. This leads to a reduction in a chemical called dopamine.
Dopamine plays a vital role in regulating the movement of the body.
Most experts think a combination of genetic and environmental factors is responsible for the disease.
It is estimated that 127,000 people in the UK live with the condition.
There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, although treatments are available to help reduce the main symptoms and maintain your quality of life for as long as possible.
A pulmonary embolism is a blockage in the pulmonary artery, the blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the lungs.
This blockage, usually a blood clot, is potentially life-threatening because it can prevent blood from reaching your lungs.
The symptoms may be difficult to recognise because they can vary.
chest pain – a sharp, stabbing pain that may be worse when you breathe in
shortness of breath – which can come on suddenly or develop gradually
coughing – this is usually dry, but may include coughing up blood or mucus that contains blood
feeling faint, dizzy or passing out
A pulmonary embolism is often caused by a blood clot travelling up from one of the deep veins in the legs to the heart and lungs.
A blood clot in one of the deep veins of the legs is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT can occur for no apparent reason, but often develops after long periods of inactivity, such as during a long-haul flight or if you’re ill in hospital.
DVT can also occur during pregnancy or as a result of some medical conditions, such as cancer or heart failure, or if the wall of a blood vessel becomes damaged.
Diagnosing a pulmonary embolism can be difficult because the symptoms are common to many other conditions.
Pulmonary embolisms are usually treated with anticoagulant medicines.
Radiotherapy is a medical treatment involving the use of radiation commonly used to treat cancer.
Almost half of all people with cancer have radiotherapy as part of their treatment.
Radiotherapy is sometimes used to treat benign tumours and conditions such as thyroid disease and some blood disorders.
Radiotherapy can be used, alone or in combination with chemotherapy (chemoradiotherapy), to try to cure cancers.
For people with incurable cancers, radiotherapy is an effective way of controlling symptoms.
There are two ways in which radiotherapy can be given; external or internal.
External radiotherapy uses a machine called a linear accelerator, which focuses high-energy radiation beams onto the area requiring treatment, this process is painless and usually involves a series of daily treatments over a number of days or weeks.
Internal radiotherapy can involve placing a small piece of radioactive material temporarily inside the body near the cancerous cells, known as brachytherapy, or the use of a radioactive liquid that’s swallowed or injected. The radiation emitted by internal radiotherapy is painless, though the procedure to insert the source can sometimes cause discomfort.
The type of radiotherapy and the length of treatment depends on the size and type of cancer, and where it is in located in the body.
Common side effects include sore skin, tiredness and hair loss. These tend to get better within a few days or weeks of treatment finishing.
Despite the side effects, radiotherapy can be an effective treatment for cancer.
Sciatica is term given to problems associated with the sciatic nerve.
The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body which runs from the back of the pelvis, through the buttocks, and all the way down both legs, ending at the feet.
When the sciatic nerve becomes compressed it can cause pain, numbness and a tingling sensation that radiates from the lower back and travels down one of the legs to the foot and toes.
The pain can range from mild to severe and some may also experience muscle weakness in the affected leg.
Most people find sciatic pain goes away naturally often within a few weeks, in some cases the problems can last for a year or more.
Physiotherapy treatment can ease the symptoms and medication for pain relief.
If symptoms such as loss of sensation between the legs and around the buttocks and/or loss of bladder or bowel control are expressed it may be as a result of a condition called Cauda Equina Syndrome (see Cauda Equina Syndrome).
This is a medical emergency and immediate treatment is required.
In the vast majority of cases, sciatica is caused by a herniated or “slipped” disc.
Less common causes include spinal stenosis (narrowing of the nerve passages in the spine), a spinal injury or infection, or a growth within the spine (such as a tumour).
In rare cases, surgery may be needed to correct the problem in your spine.
Sepsis, also called septicaemia is a potentially life-threatening condition, triggered by an infection or injury and results in poisoning of the blood.
Sepsis causes the body’s immune system to go into overdrive as it fights infection which in turn can reduce the blood supply to vital organs such as the brain, heart and kidneys. Without quick treatment, sepsis can lead to multiple organ failure and death.
Early symptoms of sepsis may include:
a high temperature or low body temperature
chills and shivering
a fast heartbeat
In more severe cases the symptoms can develop into sepsis shock and can include:
feeling dizzy or faint
confusion or disorientation
nausea and vomiting
severe muscle pain
less urine production than normal (for example, not urinating for a day)
cold, clammy and pale or mottled skin
loss of consciousness
Sepsis is often diagnosed on simple measurements such as your temperature, heart rate and breathing rate, but may require a simple blood test.
If sepsis is detected early it’s likely that the infection can be treated at home with antibiotics. Most people diagnosed at an early stage make a full recovery.
In cases were people with severe sepsis and septic shock require admission to hospital. Some people may require admission to an intensive care unit.
Due to problems with vital organs, people with severe sepsis are likely to be very poorly and the condition can be fatal. However, if identified and treated quickly, sepsis is treatable, and in most cases leads to a full recovery with no lasting problems.
The Spinal Cord is a long, thin, bundle of nervous tissue and support cells that extends from the brainstem to the lumbar region of the spine
The brain and spinal cord together make up the central nervous system (CNS).
The spinal cord is around 45 cm in men and around 43 cm long in women.
The spinal cord functions primarily in the transmission of neural signals between the brain and the rest of the body but also contains neural circuits that can independently control numerous reflexes and central pattern generators.
The spinal cord has three major functions: as a transporter for motor information, which travels down the spinal cord, as a conduit for sensory information in the reverse direction, and finally as a centre for coordinating certain reflexes
Injury to the spinal cord, especially if severe can have a devastating affect on the life of the patient.
Spinal cord injuries can be caused by trauma to the spinal column such as stretching, bruising, applied pressure, severing, laceration. The vertebral bones or intervertebral disks can shatter, causing the spinal cord to be punctured by a sharp fragment of bone. Usually, victims of spinal cord injuries will suffer loss of feeling in certain parts of their body. In milder cases, the victim may only suffer loss of hand or foot function, however in severe injuries it may result in paraplegia, tetraplegia, also known as quadriplegia, or full body paralysis below the site of injury to the spinal cord.
A stroke is a serious, life-threatening medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off.
Strokes are a medical emergency which requires urgent treatment.
The sooner a person receives treatment for a stroke, the less damage is likely to happen.
The symptoms of stroke include:
the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile or their mouth or eye may have dropped.
may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of arm weakness or numbness in one arm.
speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake.
The brain needs oxygen and nutrients provided by blood to function properly. If the supply of blood is restricted or stopped, brain cells begin to die. This can lead to brain injury, disability and possibly death.
Around 110,000 people have a stroke in England and it is the third largest cause of death, after heart disease and cancer. The brain injuries caused by strokes are a major cause of adult disability in the UK.
Older people are most at risk of having strokes, although they can happen at any age – including in children.
Smoking, being overweight, lack of exercise and a poor diet are also risk factors for stroke, as are high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation and diabetes.
Treatment depends on the type of stroke you have.
Most often, strokes are treated with medication. This generally includes medicines to prevent and remove blood clots, reduce blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels.
In some cases, surgery may be required.
Testicular torsion is serious condition and a medical emergency.
It is caused by the spermatic cord, the cord that supplies the testicles with blood, becoming severely twisted.
Signs and symptoms of testicular torsion include:
•a sudden, severe pain in one of your testicles
•swelling of the scrotum
•abdominal (tummy) pain
If the spermatic cord becomes twisted, the blood supply for the affected testicle can be interrupted and if not treated quickly with surgery there is a risk of losing the affected testicle.
The condition can occur at any age, but is most common between the ages of 13-17 and rare in men over 30. It may also affect newborn babies and even unborn babies in the womb.
The majority of cases happen for no apparent reason.
Boys may also be at a higher risk of developing testicular torsion if they have a history of undescended testicles
Although the vast majority of testicular lumps and swellings are benign, a lump in one of the testicles can sometimes be a sign of testicular cancer.
Lumps associated with testicular cancer tend to develop slowly on the testicle itself (as opposed to the scrotum) are usually:
•painless (although some men do experience pain or discomfort)
•solid and firm
•not tender to touch
Unlike many other types of cancer, the risk of testicular cancer does not keep increasing as you get older. The condition is most often diagnosed in boys and men between the ages of 15 and 49 and is uncommon in older men
The thyroid is a gland in your neck which makes two hormones that are secreted into the blood. These are thyroxine and triiodothyronine, which are hormones necessary for all the cells in the human body to work normally.
Thyroid disorders are very common especially in women. About one in 20 people has some kind of thyroid disorder, which may be temporary or permanent.
The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck just below the Adam’s apple. It is made up of two lobes – the right lobe and the left lobe each about the size of a plum cut in half and these lobes are joined by a small bridge of thyroid tissue called the isthmus. The two lobes lie on either side of the wind-pipe.
If too much of the thyroid hormones are secreted the body cells work faster than normal, and increased activity of the body cells or body organs and may lead, for example, to a quickening of your heart rate or increased activity of your intestine so that you have frequent bowel motions or even diarrhoea.
On the other hand if too little of the thyroid hormones are produced the cells and organs slow down. If you become hypothyroid, your heart rate, for example, may be slower than normal and your intestines work sluggishly, so you become constipated.
Common symptoms of thyroid disorders include:
Hypothyroidism: tiredness, feeling cold, weight gain, poor concentration, depression.
Hyperthyroidism: weight loss, heat intolerance, anxiety, and, sometimes, sore and gritty eyes.
Sometimes there are very few symptoms. A blood test from your doctor will confirm whether or not you have a thyroid disorder.
Treating thyroid problems depends on the type.
An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) is usually treated by taking daily hormone replacement tablets called levothyroxine.
An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) is commonly treated by medication of thionamides, radioiodine, which is a radioactive substance called iodine and surgery.
An ultrasound scan is a investigative procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of part of the inside of the body.
An ultrasound scan can be used to monitor an unborn baby, diagnose a condition, or guide a surgeon during some procedures.
An ultrasound scans works when a small device called an ultrasound probe is employed and which gives off high-frequency sound waves.
You can’t hear these sound waves, but when they bounce off different parts of the body, they create echoes that are picked up by the probe and in turn create a moving image.
This image is displayed on a monitor while the scan is carried out.
Most ultrasound scans last between 15 and 45 minutes. They usually take place in a hospital radiology department and are performed either by a radiologist or a sonographer.
There are no known risks from the sound waves used in an ultrasound scan. Unlike some other scans, such as computerised tomography (CT) scans, ultrasound scans don’t involve exposure to radiation.
Urinary tract infection
Urinary tract infections also called UTIs are very common. They can be quite painful and uncomfortable but usually pass within a few days or easily treated with antibiotics.
The urinary tract is where our bodies make and get rid of urine. It’s made up of the kidneys, the ureters and the urethra.
What causes a UTI?
UTIs are most common in women and It’s estimated half of all women in the UK will have one Urinary tract infection at least once in their life and 1 in 2,000 men will develop one each year.
Children are also prone to UTIs, although this is less common.
Symptoms of Urinary tract infection include; pain or a burning sensation when urinating (doctors refer to this as dysuria), a need to urinate often and/or pain in the lower abdomen.
Urinary tract infections usually get better on their own within four or five days.
Antibiotics may help speed up recovery time and usually recommended for women who keep getting UTIs.
Complications of a UTI aren’t common, but can be serious and lead to kidney failure or blood poisoning.
Men with a recurrent UTI are at risk of prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate).
A UTI develops when part of the urinary tract becomes infected, there is usually no obvious reason why the urinary tract gets infected.
The Zika virus disease is mainly spread by mosquitoes, which is a very mild infection for most people.
However, it may be more serious for pregnant women as there is evidence it causes birth defects, in particular, abnormally small heads (microcephaly).
Zika does not naturally occur in the UK. Outbreaks have been reported in the Pacific region and the virus has now spread to South and Central America and the Caribbean.
Experts predict that Zika virus will spread to all countries in the Americas (including the Caribbean), with the exception of Chile and Canada.
People travelling to affected areas should seek travel health advice before their trip. It may be recommended that pregnant women postpone non-essential travel to areas with active Zika virus transmission where cases of Zika virus disease have been acquired locally, through mosquito bites, and reported by health authorities within the last three months.
An X-ray is a quick painless investigative procedure commonly used to produce images of the inside of the body.
It’s an effective way of looking at the bones and can be really helpful to detect a range of conditions.
X-rays are usually carried out in hospital X-ray departments by trained specialists called radiographers, they are also carried out by healthcare professionals, such as dentists.
X-rays are a type of radiation which passes through the body. They can’t be seen by the naked eye and you can’t feel them.
As they pass through the body, the energy from X-rays is absorbed at different rates by different parts of the body. A detector on the other side of the body picks up the X-rays after they’ve passed through and this is turned into an image.
In dense parts of the body X-rays find it more difficult to pass through, such as bone and this shows up as clear white areas on the image. Softer parts that X-rays can pass through more easily, such as your heart and lungs, show up as darker areas.
Problems that may be detected by X-ray include:
- bone fractures and breaks
- tooth problems, such as loose teeth and dental abscesses
- scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine)
- non-cancerous and cancerous bone tumours
- lung problems, such as pneumonia and lung cancer
- dysphagia (swallowing problems)
- heart problems, such as heart failure
- breast cancer
X-rays can also be used to guide doctors or surgeons during certain procedures. For example, during a coronary angioplasty.
For all X-rays, you should let the hospital know if you’re pregnant. X-rays aren’t usually recommended for pregnant women unless it’s an emergency.
The X-ray machine, which looks like a tube containing a large light bulb, will be carefully aimed at the part of the body being examined by the radiographer. They will operate the machine from behind a screen or from the next room which protects them from radiation building up in their body.
In some cases, a substance called a contrast agent may be given before an X-ray is carried out. This can help show soft tissues more clearly on the X-ray.
People are often concerned about being exposed to radiation during an X-ray. However, the part of your body being examined will only be exposed to a low level of radiation for a fraction of a second.
Generally, the amount of radiation you’re exposed to during an X-ray is the equivalent to between a few days and a few years of exposure to natural radiation from the environment.
Being exposed to X-rays does carry a risk of causing cancer many years or decades later, but this risk is thought to be very small; less than a 1 in 1,000,000.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lungs and airways .The condition, medically called pertussis, usually begins with a persistent dry irritating cough which develops to intense bouts of coughing.
The gasping for breath after one of these coughing bouts causes a distinctive “whooping” noise, which is how the condition gets its name.
Other symptoms include a runny nose, raised temperature and vomiting after coughing. The coughing can last for around three months (another name for whooping cough is the “hundred day cough”).
A GP can usually diagnose the condition by asking about your symptoms and listening to the cough as the whooping cough is very distinctive.
The condition can also be confirmed with a blood test, or a sample of mucus.
Whooping cough can be severe in babies and, in some cases, they may need to given immediate treatment in hospital.
Whooping cough is caused by a bacterium called Bordetella pertussis, which infects the lining of the airways.
The bacteria is passed from person to person by infected droplets in the air which is spread by coughing and sneezing.
Treatment is usually with antibiotics to prevent the infection being passed on to others. It’s important to take steps to avoid spreading the infection to others especially babies under six months of age.
In the UK, all pregnant women are offered vaccination against whooping cough after they’ve had their 20-week scan.
Due to the success of the NHS vaccination scheme, whooping cough is now uncommon in young children.