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Glossary - Adolescent Medicine

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Adolescence - a period of life in which the biological and psychosocial transition from childhood to adulthood occurs.

Adolescent medicine - a subspecialty of pediatric medicine with a focus on providing holistic health care to adolescent patients and treating medical problems that are common during adolescence.

Affective disorder (Also known as mood disorder.) - a category of mental health problems that include depressive disorders.

Agoraphobia - a Greek word that literally means "fear of the marketplace." This anxiety disorder involves the fear of experiencing a panic attack in a place or situation from which escape may be difficult or embarrassing.

Amenorrhea, primary - menstruation that doesn't begin by age 16 in the presence of normal growth and secondary sexual characteristics.

Amenorrhea, secondary - a condition in which menstrual periods which were at one time normal and regular become increasing abnormal and irregular or absent.

Anorexia nervosa (Also called anorexia.) - an eating disorder characterized by low body weight (less than 85 percent of normal weight for height and age), a distorted body image, and an intense fear of gaining weight.

Areola - dark area of skin that surrounds the nipple of the breast.

Asperger's disorder - one type of pervasive developmental disorder.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) - a behavior disorder, usually first diagnosed in childhood, that is characterized by inattention, impulsivity, and, in some cases, hyperactivity.


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Binge eating disorder - a disorder that resembles bulimia nervosa and is characterized by episodes of uncontrolled eating (or bingeing). It differs from bulimia, however, because its sufferers do not purge their bodies of the excess food, via vomiting, laxative abuse, or diuretic abuse.

Bingeing - a destructive pattern of excessively overeating.

Body mass index (BMI) - a measure to determine the amount of body fat and amount of lean body mass.

Bulimia nervosa (Also known as bulimia.) - a disease in which there is uncontrolled episodes of overeating that are usually followed with purging (self-induced vomiting), misuse of laxatives, enemas, medications, fasting, or excessive exercise to decrease weight.


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Cervicitis - an inflammation of the cervix by a number of different organisms.

Cervix - the lower, narrow part of the uterus (womb) located between the bladder and the rectum. It forms a canal that opens into the vagina, which leads to the outside of the body.

Chlamydial infection - very common sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacteria-like organism in the urethra and reproductive system.

Chronic - a problem that lasts for a long time.

Cognitive development - development of the ability to think and reason.

Communication disorders - communication disorders are developmental disorders that include expressive language disorder, which focuses on developmental delays and difficulties in the ability to produce speech, and mixed receptive-expressive language disorder, which focuses on developmental delays and difficulties in the ability to understand spoken language and produce speech.

Cyst - a closed sac in or under the skin that is filled with fluid or semisolid material. Breast cysts are generally benign.


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Delusions - a perception that is thought to be true by the person experiencing it, although the perception is wrong.

Depression - a mood disorder characterized by extreme feelings of sadness, lack of self-worth, and dejection.

Disintegrative psychosis (Also called childhood disintegrative disorder.) - one type of pervasive developmental disorder that is characterized by a marked regression in multiple areas of functioning following a period of at least two years of apparently normal development.

Disorder of written expression - a difficulty with writing skills such as understanding grammar or punctuation, spelling, paragraph organization, or composing written information.

Ducts - narrow tube structures or channels that carry body fluids. In the breast, ducts transport milk from the lobules to the nipple.

Dyslexia - a reading disorder characterized by reading ability below the expected level given a child's age, school grade, and intelligence.

Dysmenorrhea - pain or discomfort experienced just before or during a menstrual period.

Dysmenorrhea, primary - often severe and frequent menstrual cramping caused by uterine contractions.

Dysmenorrhea, secondary - painful menstrual periods caused by an another medical condition present in the body (i.e., pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis).

Dysthymia (Also known as dysthymic disorder.) - classified as a type of affective disorder (or mood disorder) that often resembles a less severe, yet more chronic form of major (clinical) depression. People with dysthymia may also experience major depressive episodes at times.


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Eating disorders - abnormal eating behaviors.

Endometriosis - a condition in which tissue resembling that of the endometrium grows outside the uterus, on or near the ovaries or fallopian tubes, or in other areas of the pelvic cavity.

Endometrium - mucous membrane lining of the inner surface of the uterus that grows during each menstrual cycle and is shed in menstrual blood.

Endorphins - chemicals in the brain that are responsible for positive moods.

Estrogen - a group of hormones secreted by the ovaries which affect many aspects of the female body, including a female's menstrual cycle and normal sexual and reproductive development.

Expressive language disorder - a communication disorder identified by developmental delays and difficulties in the ability to produce speech.


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Fibrocystic breast disease (Also called fibroid breasts or generalized breast lumpiness.) - noncancerous irregularities and lumpiness in the breast tissue.

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) - hormone secreted by the pituitary gland in the brain that stimulates the growth and maturation of eggs in females and sperm in males, and sex hormone production in both males and females.


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Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) - a mental disorder characterized by chronic, excessive worry and fear that seems to have no real cause. Children or adolescents with generalized anxiety disorder often worry a lot about things such as future events, past behaviors, social acceptance, family matters, their personal abilities, and/or school performance.

Genitals - external sex organs.

Genital herpes - a sexually transmitted disease caused by the herpes simplex virus.

Genital warts - a sexually transmitted disease caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Genital warts may be precursor to cervical cancer.

Gonorrhea - a common sexually transmitted disease causing inflammation of the genital mucous membranes. It may involve the upper and lower genital tracts, the bladder and kidneys, and may spread to other structures via the bloodstream.


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Hallucinations - a strong perception of an event or object when no such situation is present; may occur in any of the senses (i.e., visual, auditory, gustatory, olfactory, or tactile).

Homosexual - of, referring to, or denoting the same sex.

Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) - a group of viruses that can cause warts. Some HPVs are sexually transmitted and cause wart-like growths on the genitals. HPV is associated with some types of cancer.


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Identity - self knowledge about one's characteristics or personality. A sense of self.


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Juvenile delinquent - a person who acts illegally and is not old enough to be treated as an adult under the laws of the community.


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Learning disorder - learning disorders are characterized by difficulties in an academic area (either reading, mathematics, or written expression) such that the child's ability to achieve in the specific academic area is below what is expected for the child's age, schooling, and level of intelligence.

Lobe - a roundish projection of any structure. In the breast, lobes of the mammary glands radiate from the central area to the nipple area like wheel spokes.

Lobule - a subdivision of a lobe in the breast.


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Major depression (Also known as clinical depression or unipolar depression.) - classified as a type of affective disorder (or mood disorder) that goes beyond the day's ordinary ups and downs, and has become a serious medical condition and important health concern in this country.

Mania - a mood disorder which may be characterized by extreme elation, impulsivity, irritability, rapid speech, nervousness, distractibility, and/or poor judgment.

Manic depression (Also known as bipolar disorder.) - classified as a type of affective disorder (or mood disorder) that goes beyond the day's ordinary ups and downs. Manic depression is characterized by periodic episodes of extreme elation, elevated mood, or irritability (also called mania) countered by periodic, classic depressive symptoms.

Mathematics disorder - a learning disorder in which a child has problems with skills related to numbers such as counting, copying numbers correctly, adding and carrying numbers, learning multiplication tables, recognizing mathematical signs, and understanding mathematical operations.

Menarche - a young woman's first menstrual period.

Menses - menstrual flow.

Menstruation - a cyclical process of the endometrium shedding its lining, along with discharge from the cervix and vagina, from the vaginal opening. This process results from the mature egg cell (ovum) not being fertilized by a sperm cell as it travels from one of the ovaries down a fallopian tube to the uterus, in the process called ovulation.

Mixed receptive-expressive language disorder - a communication disorder that identifies developmental delays and difficulties in the ability to understand spoken language and produce speech.

Mood disorder (Also known as affective disorder.) - a category of mental health problems which includes depressive disorders.


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Neurotransmitters - chemicals in the brain that regulate other chemicals in the brain.

Nocturnal emissions (Also called wet dreams.) - unintentional release of semen while sleeping.


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Obesity - a generalized accumulation of body fat.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) - an anxiety disorder in which a person has an unreasonable thought, fear, or worry that he or she tries to manage through a ritualized activity to reduce the anxiety. Frequently occurring disturbing thoughts or images are called obsessions, and the rituals performed to try to prevent or dispel them are called compulsions.

Orthodontics - orthodontics is the dental specialty that focuses on the development, prevention, and correction of irregularities of the teeth, bite, and jaws.

Ovaries - the two female reproductive organs located in the pelvis.

Overweight - increased body size with increased lean body mass and without excess accumulation of body fat.

Ovulation - release of a mature egg from an ovary.

Ovum - a mature egg cell released during ovulation from an ovary.


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Panic disorder - characterized by chronic, repeated, and unexpected panic attack bouts of overwhelming fear of being in danger when there is no specific cause for the fear. Between panic attacks, people with panic disorder worry excessively about when and where the next attack may occur.

Papilla - any type of nipple shaped object, such as the nipple of the breast.

Pap test (Also called Pap smear.) - Test that involves microscopic examination of cells collected from the cervix during a pelvic examination, used to detect changes that may be cancer or may lead to cancer, and to show noncancerous conditions, such as infection or inflammation.

Pelvic examination - an internal examination of the uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and rectum.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) - inflammation of the pelvic organs caused by a type of bacteria.

Periodontal diseases (Also called gum diseases.) - serious bacterial infections that destroy the gums and the surrounding tissues of the mouth.

Periodontist - a specialist in the field of dentistry responsible for the care and prevention of gum-related diseases, guided bone regeneration, and dental implants.

Pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) - usually found in the early years of a child's life. Children with PDD have difficulty in areas of development or use of functional skills such as language, communication, social skills, and motor behaviors.

Phobia - an uncontrollable, irrational, and persistent fear of a specific object, situation, or activity.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - an anxiety disorder characterized by a terrifying physical or emotional event (trauma) causing the person who survived the event to have persistent, frightening thoughts and memories, or flashbacks, of the ordeal. Persons with PTSD often feel chronically, emotionally numb.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) - a group of physical and emotional symptoms that some women experience during their menstrual cycle. Although the symptoms usually cease with onset of the menstrual period, in some women, symptoms may last through and after their menstrual periods.

Primary sexual characteristics - internal and external reproductive organs in males and females (i.e., uterus and testes).

Progesterone - female hormone.

Psychiatric nurse - a Masters-prepared clinical specialist in psychiatric mental health nursing. A psychiatric nurse is educationally and clinically trained in psychopathology; individual, group, and family therapy; and crisis intervention.

Psychiatrist - a licensed physician (M.D. or D.O.) who specializes in the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of mental disorders. Their medical and psychiatric training prepares them to treat adults and children either individually, as part of and involving the family unit, and/or in a group setting. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications, if needed.

Psychologist - a licensed mental health professional (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) who specializes in the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of mental disorders. Training prepares clinical psychologists to treat adults and children either individually, as part of and involving the family unit, and/or in a group setting. Psychologists also conduct cognitive, academic, and personality testing.

Puberty - a sequence of events by which a child becomes a young adult; characterized by secretions of hormones, development of secondary sexual characteristics, reproductive functions, and growth spurts.

Purging - people with bulimia nervosa engage in a destructive pattern of ridding their bodies of the excess calories (to control their weight) by vomiting, abusing laxatives or diuretics, taking enemas, and/or exercising obsessively—a process called purging.


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Reading disorder - a learning disorder characterized by reading abilities below the expected level for his or her age, school grade, and intelligence.

Rett's disorder - One type of pervasive developmental disorder which occurs most often in girls and is characterized by the development of multiple specific deficits following a period of normal functioning after birth.


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Schizophrenia - one of the most complex of all mental health disorders; characterized by distorted thinking, strange feelings, and unusual behavior and use of language; involves a severe, chronic, and disabling disturbance of the brain.

Scoliosis - a disorder of the spine in which the spine shows evidence of a lateral, or sideways, curvature, and a rotation of the backbones. This gives the appearance that the person is leaning to one side.

Secondary sexual characteristics - the physical characteristics of males and females that are not involved in reproduction (i.e., voice changes, body shape, pubic hair distribution, facial hair) but develop at puberty.

Selective mutism - the inability to speak in specific social situations in a child or adolescent who can and does speak in other situations.

Self-esteem - feelings about one's self.

Sexually transmitted disease (STD) - infection spread through sexual intercourse and other intimate sexual contact.

Social phobia - an anxiety disorder in which a person has significant anxiety and discomfort related to a fear of being embarrassed, humiliated, or scorned by others in social or performance situations.

Specific phobia - a type of phobia characterized by extreme fear of an object or situation that is not harmful under general conditions.

Suicidal behavior - actions taken by one who is considering or preparing to cause his or her own death.

Suicidal ideation - thoughts of suicide or wanting to take one's life.

Suicide - the intentional taking of one's own life.

Suicide attempt - an act focused on taking one's life that is unsuccessful in causing death.

Syphilis - a disease, usually transmitted by sexual contact, whose initial symptom is a painless open sore that usually appears on the penis or around or in the vagina. If untreated, syphilis may go on to more advanced stages, including a transient rash and, eventually, serious involvement of the heart and central nervous system.


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Tourette's syndrome (TS) - A tic disorder characterized by repeated involuntary movements and uncontrollable vocal sounds. This disorder usually begins during childhood or early adolescence.

Trichomoniasis - very common type of vaginitis caused by a single-celled organism usually transmitted during sexual contact.


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Urethra - narrow tube through which urine passes from the bladder out of the body.

Uterus (Also called the womb.) - a hollow, pear-shaped organ located in a female's lower abdomen, between the bladder and the rectum.


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Vagina (Also called the birth canal.) - the passageway through which fluid passes out of the body during menstrual periods. The vagina connects the cervix (the opening of the womb, or uterus) and the vulva (the external genitalia).

Vaginitis - inflammation, redness, or swelling of the vaginal tissues; usually resulting from a bacterial infection.

Vaginitis, bacterial - very common vaginal infection characterized by symptoms such as increased vaginal discharge or itching, burning, or redness in the genital area.

Vaginitis, noninfectious - a type of vaginitis that usually refers to vaginal irritation without an infection being present. Most often, the infection is caused by an allergic reaction to, or irritation from, vaginal sprays, douches, or spermicidal products. It may also be caused by sensitivity to perfumed soaps, detergents, or fabric softeners.

Vaginitis, viral - very common vaginal infection, often sexually transmitted, that is caused by one of many different types of viruses (i.e., herpes simplex virus, human papillomavirus).

Vulva - external, visible part of the female genital area.

Vulvitis - an inflammation of the vulva, the soft folds of skin outside the vagina. This is not a condition but rather a symptom that results from a host of diseases, infections, injuries, allergies, and other irritants.


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Yeast infection (Also called Candida.) - one type of vaginitis caused by the Candida fungus characterized by itching, burning, or redness of the vaginal area.


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