A list of medical terms and their definitions
Albumin - A protein made in the liver that assists in maintaining blood volume in the arteries and veins. If albumin drops to very low levels, fluid may leak into the tissues from the blood vessels resulting in oedema or swelling.
Asymptomatic disease - The patient does not experience or exhibit symptoms of the disease. The disease is not usually discovered until the patient undergoes medical tests.
Ascites - Fluid which develops in the abdomen when the liver is not functioning properly. Ascites often develops with cirrhosis of the liver.
Bile - A greenish-yellow coloured liquid made by the liver to help digest foods containing fat and cholesterol.
Biliary - Pertaining to the liver, bile ducts or gallbladder.
Biliary Atresia - A disorder in newborns which destroys the bile ducts that carry bile from the liver to the intestines. This disease is a progressive destruction of the bile ducts.
Bilirubin - A yellow pigment formed as a breakdown product of red blood cell haemoglobin. Biliriubin levels may rise when liver function is impaired, leading to the development of jaundice, a yellowing of the eyes and skin.
Biopsy - Examination of a sample of liver cells to confirm diagnosis of HBV and determine the extent of damage to the liver. It is normally an outpatient procedure where a small number of liver cells are removed under local anaesthetic using a needle and examined under a microscope.
Cholesterol - A type of lipid which is an essential component of cell membranes.
Cirrhosis - Permanent scarring of the liver which may affect liver function. Cirrhosis can lead to liver failure and even death.
Deamination - Conversion of ammonia to urea by the liver, which is excreted in the urine by the kidneys.
DNA - Deoxy ribonucleic acid. A nucleic acid that carries the genetic information in the cell and is capable of self-replication and synthesis of RNA.
Gallbladder - A small pocket which stores bile.
Gastroenterologist - A specialist in diseases of the gullet, stomach and bowel who has training in liver diseases.
Genome - The full DNA sequence of an organism.
HBV - Hepatitis B Virus.
HCV - Hepatitis C Virus.
Hepatocyte - A liver cell.
Hepatic - Anything relating to the liver.
Hepatologist - A specialist in liver diseases.
Hepatitis - Inflammation of the liver that may be caused by viruses, alcohol, drugs and other toxins. Also called ‘jaundice’.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) - Highly malignant tumour of the liver. It is the most frequent cancer of the liver and, worldwide, is the seventh most common tumour in males and the ninth in females.
Incubation period - The period between infection and the appearance of symptoms of the disease.
Interferon - Man-made version of a chemical that occurs naturally in the body and helps fight infection. First cancer drug to be efficacious in treating Hepatitis B.
Jaundice - A condition in which the whites of the eyes go yellow and in more severe cases the skin also turns yellow. This is caused by the yellow pigment (bilirubin) that is normally disposed of by the liver.
Kupffer cells - Commonly called macrophages whose function is to destroy any bacteria that they come into contact with.
Liver - An internal organ which stores and filters blood, excretes toxic substances from other parts of the body, secretes bile and aids in metabolism. It weighs about 3 pounds and is about the size of a football.
Lipoproteins - A conjugated protein having a lipid component, that is synthesised by the liver and that circulates in the blood, shuttling cholesterol and fatty acids between the liver and body tissues.
Nucleoside analogues - Oral medications that disrupt the ability of the Hepatitis B virus to replicate and infect additional liver cells.
PCR - Polymerase Chain Reaction. Refers to a laboratory method used to amplify the DNA sequences in vitro.
RNA - Ribonucleic acid. A large nucleic acid molecule found in the nucleus but mainly in the cytoplasm of a cell. It transmits genetic information from DNA to the cytoplasm.
Transamination - The conversion of one amino acid into another (but not the 8 ‘essential’ amino acids) by the liver via the citruline ornithine pathway.
Viral load - The concentration of a virus, such as HIV, in the blood. It is a measure of the severity of a viral infection.
Vaccination - Inoculation with a vaccine in order to protect against a particular disease.
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