Medical glossary


Adverse Reaction
Side effect. Any unintended, abnormal reaction to a medicine taken at normal doses.
Medication that relieves painful symptoms, especially headache, and muscle soreness. Some analgesics may be applied topically to relieve itching or muscle pain.
Anemia, Aplastic
A form of anemia in which the bone marrow is unable to manufacture adequate numbers of blood cells of all types - red cells, white cells, and platelets.
Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors (ACE) Inhibitors
A class of medicaments that acts by blocking an enzyme in the blood responsible for converting angiotensin 1 to angiotensin 2. Angiotensin 2 induces sodium retention and constriction of peripheral blood vessels, raising blood pressure. Birth defects and fetal deaths have been associated, however, with the use of ACE inhibitors during pregnancy and in 1992, the FDA issued an advisory to physicians against prescribing it for women in the second and last trimester of pregnancy. Among the ACE inhibitors available: benazepril, captopril, enalapril, fosinopril, lisinopril, quinapril, and ramipril.
A chemical compound that kills or inhibits the growth of bacteria; usually produced from living organisms such as other bacteria or fungi.
A protein in the blood formed to neutralize or destroy foreign substances or organisms (antigens). Each antibody is tailor made for an antigen.
A wide range of medications used principally to prevent or relieve the symptoms of depression. These medications include the benzodiazepines, beta-blockers, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and tricyclics.
Slowing of the heartbeat to less than fifty beats per minute.
Benzodiazepines (Rx)
One of the most frequently prescribed classes of medicaments, which includes minor tranquilizers, antianxiety medicaments, muscle relaxants, and sleep-inducing medications. There are more than twelve benzodiazepines on the market. Among these are chlordiazepoxide, clorazepate, flurazepam, oxazepam and, perhaps the best known, diazepam (Valium). They are relatively safe in overdose. Among the potential adverse reactions to these medications are impaired memory, hallucination, muscle weakness, unusual bleeding or bruising, and behavioral problems.
Beta-Blockers (Rx)
Medicaments that slow heart activity and, thus, lower blood pressure: acebutolol, labetalol, nadolol, oxprenolol, propranolol, timolol, esmolol, atenolol, metoprolol, and others. They are used to treat angina (chest pain), high blood pressure, and irregular heart rhythms. Given after a heart attack, they reduce the likelihood of fatal irregular heartbeat or further damage to the heart muscle. These medicaments are also prescribed to improve heart function in damaged hearts. Beta-blockers may also be used to prevent migraine headaches, reduce anxiety, control fluid pressure in the eye, and for an overactive thyroid. There are two types of beta-receptors. Beta 1 receptors are located mainly in the heart muscle and beta 2 receptors are in the airways and blood vessels. Specific receptors on cells are tailor-made to receive specific chemicals in a lock and key fashion. Beta-blockers occupy the beta-receptors in these areas. By blocking these receptors, they block the stimulating action of the nerve-stimulating chemical, norepinephrine. Thus, they reduce the force and speed of the heart beat, and prevent the dilation of the airways to the lungs and the blood vessels surrounding the brain and leading to the extremities. Medicaments for the heart act mainly on beta 1 receptors. Beta-blockers usually are not prescribed for people who have poor circulation, particularly in the legs and arms. Beta-blockers should not be discontinued suddenly after prolonged use because this may worsen the symptoms of the disorders for which they were prescribed. They should not be taken with foods, beverages, or over-the-counter medications that contain caffeine or alcohol, or are high in sodium content, because the combination may increase heart rate or elevate blood pressure.
Blood Cells
Cells are produced in bone marrow and consist of:
- Red blood cells, which bring oxygen to tissues and take carbon dioxide from them.
- White blood cells, which fight invading germs, infections, and allergy-causing agents.
- Platelets, which are responsible for clotting.
Blood Counts
The number values assigned to the major types of blood cells. Blood counts indicate the amount of blood cells circulating in the bloodstream.
Bone Marrow Depression
A serious reduction in the ability of the bone marrow to carry on its normal production of white blood cells. This can occur as a result of certain medicaments and chemicals, as well as disease. Impairment of blood cell production can lead to a drop in immunity, lack of energy, intolerance to cold, and a host of other physical symptoms.
Calcium Channel Blockers (Rx)
Medicaments that affect the movement of calcium into the cells of the heart and blood vessels. As a result, they relax blood vessels and increase the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart, while reducing the work of the organ. Some of the medicines are used to treat high blood pressure. Among calcium channel blockers in use are: diltiazem, nicardipine, nifedipine, and verapamil. Potential adverse reactions include breathing difficulty, coughing or wheezing, irregular or fast heartbeat, slow heartbeat, rash, swelling of the ankles, feet or lower leg, bleeding, tender or swollen gums, chest pain, fainting and, for nifedipine only, eye problems and painful swollen joints.
Central Nervous System (CNS)
Composed of the brain and the spinal cord with its bundle of nerves running through it.
Abbreviation for Deoxyribonucleic Acid. A chain of molecules that contains the genetic code (blueprint) of cells.
A hormone produced by the ovaries, it is mainly responsible for female sexual characteristics. Estrogen influences bone mass by slowing or halting bone loss, improving retention of calcium by the kidneys, and improving the absorption of dietary calcium by the intestines. Estrogen is given to relieve menopausal symptoms, prevent or relieve aging changes in the vagina and urethra, and to help prevent osteoporosis. Potential adverse reactions include increased risk medicaments of uterine cancer, increased frequency of gallstones, accelerated growth of preexisting fibroid tumors of the uterus, fluid retention, nausea, rash, hives, itching, headache, nervous tension, irritability, accentuation of migraine, bloating, diarrhea, pigmentation of the face, postmenopausal bleeding, deep vein blood clots, increased blood pressure, and decreased sugar tolerance. May cause swelling and tenderness of breasts, milk production, and increased vaginal secretions. When taking estrogens, it is recommended that salt be used sparingly if fluid retention is a problem. Smoking cigarettes may increase the side effects of estrogen.
A new term in diabetes which is also known as Glycated protein. Fructosamine is used in conjunction with glycosylated hemoglobin (hemoglobin A1C) to check to see how well blood sugar has been controlled. Unlike A1C, fructosamine gives a picture of glucose control for prior weeks versus months. There is a home glucose meter that tests fructosamine.
Hemoglobin (Hb)
Oxygen-carrying pigment found in the red blood cells of all vertebrates and some invertabrates. Produced in the bone marrow, hemoglobin carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAO Inhibitors, MAOIs)
A class of antidepressant medications usually prescribed for people who have not responded to tricyclic antidepressants, or who have certain forms of depression with symptoms including an increase in weight, appetite, or sleep. MAOIs also may be used for cases of mixed anxiety and depression, depression accompanied by pain, panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and bipolar depression. The medicaments raise the level of neurotransmitters by preventing their destruction by enzymes. People taking MAOIs must adhere to a special diet due to the interaction of the medications with certain foods. Foods that contain tyramine, such as cheeses, yogurt, sour cream, beef or chicken liver, and red wines should be avoided. The combination of MAOIs and tyramine can cause blood pressure to shoot up to dangerous levels. Potential adverse reactions include headache, increased or decreased heart rate, nausea and vomiting, sweating, fever or cold clammy skin, and chest pain.
A scientific term for the nerve damage that can occur as a side effect of certain medicaments or toxins.
Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Medicaments (NSAIDs) (Rx, OTC)
Aspirin was the first fever-reducing, painkilling, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicament. The first nonaspirin NSAID was introduced in 1964. Today these include diclofenac, etodolac, ibuprofen, indomethacin, naproxen, piroxicam, sulindac, and nabumetone. They inhibit arachidonic acid, a fatty acid precursor of leukotrienes, prostaglandins, and thromboxanes, all involved in inflammation. NSAlDs are now widely used to treat the pain of arthritis, menstruation, post surgery, and many other aches. Nonaspirin NSAIDs are used instead of aspirin because, on the whole, they may be better tolerated than aspirin and more convenient in dosage. The chief side effects of NSAlDs are gastrointestinal ulcers, and upper GI bleeding and perforation. According to the FDA, 2-5 percent of patients will experience ulceration or hemorrhage during one year's NSAID treatment, and the risk for individual patients accumulates with time. Nonaspirin NSAlDs do not have an anticoagulant effect, but can cause the same hypersensitivity reactions. In a few susceptible patients, NSAIDs have provoked reversible acute kidney failure and chronic kidney dysfunction.
A rare condition characterized by the gradual development of an intricate, complex, and elaborate system of thinking based on misinterpretations of an actual event. Persons with paranoia often consider themselves endowed with unique and superior abilities.
A condition in which the application or ingestion of certain chemicals, such as propylparaben, causes skin problems, including rash, hyperpigmentation, and swelling, when the skin is exposed to sunlight.
A compound that calms the nervous system and reduces stress and anxiety. Phenobarbital is an example of a prescription medicament for this purpose. Diphenhydramine is an example of a nonprescription sedative, and valerian and skullcap are examples of herbs used for this purpose.
Tricyclic Antidepressants (Rx)
The most widely used class of antidepressant medications. Tricyclics are usually the fist to be prescribed for patients with what is known as "major depression." Some tricyclics, such as amitriptyline are given to people who have trouble sleeping, because they have a sedative effect. Others such as imipramine or amoxapine have a stimulant effect and are given to people who are lethargic. Tricyclics should not be taken with breads, crackers, cookies, cheeses, peanut butter, corn, lentils, cranberries, plums, prunes, peanuts, bacon, eggs, fish, or fowl. These may make tricyclics less effective. Tricyclics, reportedly, work in only two-thirds of patients to whom they are given.

Medicaments in alphabetical order