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Glossary

ACTH
An abbreviation for the adrenocortiotropic hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. ACTH stimulates the adrenal glands to produce and release cortisol into the blood stream.

Adrenal Glands
Endocrine glands located on top of the kidneys, that produce a range of hormones, including epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine, the corticosteroid hormones and some androgens.

Aldosterone
Adrenal hormone that affects the body’s handling of sodium, chloride, and potassium and helps regulate blood pressure.

Androgen
A hormone such as testosterone and androsterone responsible for the development of male characteristics. Produced in the testicles in the male; also found in small amounts in the female.

Benign
Term meaning essentially harmless; not progressive.

Blood Pressure
Constant force placed on the walls of the arteries.

Brain Stem
Portion of the brain that connects the hemispheres with the spinal cord. Consists of medulla oblongata, pons, and midbrain.

Buffalo Hump
Hump-like collection of fat between and above the shoulder blades.

Chronic
Term used to describe long-lasting diseases or conditions.

Cognitive
Mental process of thought, perception, reasoning, intuition and memory

Congenital
Term used to describe something present at birth, especially an abnormality.

Corticosteroids
Hormones produced by the cortex of the adrenal glands; also, a class of such hormones used as medications for inflammatory conditions such as asthma and arthritis. Medications include prednisone and dexamethasone.

Cortisol
A glucocorticoid or corticosteroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisol influences sugar (glucose) metabolism, and has effects on bones, fat tissue, the cardiovascular system, the immune system and is involved in the “fight or flight” response to stress. Cortisol levels are tightly controlled by a feedback mechanism involving the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus. Glucocorticoid medications (prednisone, dexamethasone) have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and are often used for treatment of asthma and arthritis.

CT Scan
Computed Tomographic Scanning uses an ultrathin X-ray beam and is noninvasive. It shows soft tissues much better than conventional X-rays. CT scanning is sensitive enough to show the differnce in densities, therefore sometimes allowing to distinguish benign from malignant tumors.

Depression
A feeling of extreme sadness and discouragement. Symptoms also may include disruption of sleeping and eating patterns and lack of energy.

Diagnosis
Identification of a disease or disorder by a physician.

Ectopic
Abnormal placement, such as a pregnancy that occurs outside the uterus (tubal pregnancy). Ectopic Cushing’s is the term used to describe and ACTH producing tumor that is not located in the pituitary gland.

Edema
Swelling of body tissues due to excessive fluid.

Embolism
Obstruction of a blood vessel by a blood clot, air bubble, fat deposit, or other foreign substance.

Fracture
To break or crack a bone; or, a break or a crack in a bone.

Gastric
Pertaining to the stomach.
Generic Drug
The non-trademark name of a drug.
Gland
Any organ or tissue that releases a substance to be used elsewhere in the body; endocrine glands release hormones directly into the bloodstream.
Glucose
Blood sugar, also known as dextrose.

Hereditary
Transmission of genetic traits from parent to child.

High Blood Pressure
Condition in which the blood is pumped through the body under abnormally high pressure; also known as hypertension.

Hirsutism
Excessive growth of body hair or facial hair.

Hormone
A substance (secreted by an endocrine gland) that is carried through the bloodstream to various organs of the body, where it serves to regulate various body functions.

HPA Axis
An abbreviation for the hypothalamic, pituitary, adrenal axis that comprises the feedback system to maintain appropriate cortisol levels. The hypothalamus secretes CRH that stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete ACTH. ACTH acts on the adrenal glands to stimulate production and release of cortisol into the bloodstream. Circulating cortisol levels are detected by the hypothalamus and the pituitary and when cortisol levels rise, CRH and ACTH output are decreased.

Hypothalamus
A portion of the brain; partly responsible for basic functions such as appetite, sleep, body temperature, and procreation.

Libido
Sexual drive.

Malignant
Cancerous tumors that can grow uncontrollably and spread (metastasize).

Moon Face
Round face.

MRI
Magnetic Resonance Imaging, uses a very strong magnetic field. It is noninvasive. It is particularly useful for imaging areas of your head where soft and hard tissue meet, your spinal cord, and areas affected by stroke that cannot be seen well on CT scans.

Myalgia
Muscle tenderness or pain.

Obesity
Abnormal body weight, usually defined as more than 20 percent above average for age, height, and bone structure.

Pituitary Gland
An endocrine gland that produces a range of hormones to help control the body’s long-term growth, day-to-day functioning, and reproductive capabilities; sometimes called the “master gland”.

Psychosis
Mental disturbance of serious magnitude that is characterized by loss of contact with reality. Delusions and hallucinations are often present.

Striae
Streaks or stripes, usually purplish with Cushing’s.

Tumor
Abnormal growth of tissue. The tumor may be malignant (cancerous) or benign (noncancerous).

Vertigo
Dizziness.

Withdrawal
The state experienced when addicting medications, illegal drugs, or alcohol are withdrawn. Symptoms may be physiological or psychological or both.

X-ray
Electromagnetic wave that penetrates most solid matter and will produce an image on film upon emerging from the body part or other object being studied. Also called roentgen ray.