Confused by Medical Terms? Find Definitions Here!

I know reading about the details of adenomyosis can be confusing and overwhelming to the general public, so I added a definition page here to help those of you who have no medical training. I hope this helps!

Adenomyoma – abnormal mass of endometrial tissue found within the myometrium. An adenomyoma is usually benign and is associated with adenomyosis.

Adhesion – abnormal union of two separate tissues due to inflammation.

Agonist – a chemical that stimulates action.

Androgen – a hormone that regulates the development of male characteristics. Androgens can also be converted into estrogen via the enzyme aromatase.

Androstenedione/androstenediol – steroid hormones that are intermediaries in the production of estrogen and testosterone.

Anemia – low levels of hemoglobin in red blood cells. Since hemoglobin is involved in the transport of oxygen throughout the body, low levels can cause fatigue, dizziness, headaches, shortness of breath, and cold intolerance. One cause of anemia is excessive blood loss from abnormally heavy or prolonged menstruation.

Angiogenesis – The growth of new blood vessels.

Apoptosis – programmed cell death necessary for the proper functioning of the human body.

Aromatase – an enzyme that converts androgens into estrogen.

Aromatase inhibitor – a drug that inhibits the formation of estradiol by inhibiting the enzyme aromatase.

Benign – not cancerous.

Biopsy – removal of a small piece of tissue from the body. It is then analyzed under a microscope to determine if an abnormality is present.

Bromocriptine – a dopamine agonist used in the treatment of menstrual irregularities and hyperprolactinemia.

Cancer antigen 125 (CA125) – a marker that detects the early stages of ovarian cancer. CA125 has also been noted to be mildly elevated in other disorders including adenomyosis.

Cervix – cylindrical-shaped tissue that separates the uterus from the vagina.

Corpus luteum – a small yellow body formed from an ovarian follicle after the egg has been released at ovulation. It secretes progesterone in order to support a pregnancy; however, if pregnancy does not occur, the corpus luteum will degenerate, and a new menstrual cycle will begin.

Cortisol – a steroid hormone that is released from the adrenal gland in response to stress.

Cytokines – small proteins that exert effects on immune cells. Examples include interleukins and interferons.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) – precursor to testosterone and estrogen.

Deep infiltrating endometriosis (DIE) – a specific kind of endometriosis that penetrates the peritoneum greater than 5 mm. The4se lesions are very active and are the cause of intense pelvic pain.

Dienogest – a semi-synthetic progestin. It has been used to treat endometriosis under the name Visanne.

Dysfunctional uterine bleeding (DUB) – irregular pattern of menstrual bleeding. Examples include dysmenorrhea and menorrhagia.

Dysmenorrhea – painful menstrual bleeding.

Dyspareunia – painful sexual intercourse.

Ectopic – occurring in an abnormal place; out of proper position.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) – chemcals that cause hormonal imbalance by interfering with the proper functioning of the endocrine system. Also known as xenoestrogens.

Endogenous – substances made by the human body.

Endometrial/myometrial interface – another name for the junctional zone.

Endometrioma – a cyst that is formed on the ovaries due to displaced endometrial-like tissue. Also called a “chocolate cyst” because of its deep red/brown appearance, endometriomas are found in patients suffering from endometriosis.

Endometrium – the inner lining of the uterus that responds to hormonal stimulation. This is the layer that is shed each month resulting in a period.

Estradiol (E2) – the most potent form of estrogen produced by the body. It is the predominant form of estrogen during the reproductive years. The level of estradiol drops after menopause. Other forms of estrogen include estriol (E3) and estrone (E1).

Estriol (E3) – a type of estrogen that is produced by the placenta and is abundant during pregnancy.

Estrogen – sex hormone responsible for the development and maintenance of female characteristics and reproduction. Plays a major role in the menstrual cycle.

Estrone (E1) – the least abundant type of estrogen. It is less potent than estradiol and is the major form of estrogen found in menopausal women. Estrone can be converted into estradiol.

Exogenous – originating from outside the body.

Fallopian tube – the tube connecting the ovary to the uterus. The egg travels down this tube after being released from the ovarian follicle at ovulation.

Fibrocystic breast disease – non-cancerous cysts in the breast. The cysts can be solid (fibrosis) or fluid-filled, and their growth is stimulated by estrogen.

Fibroid – a benign tumor of the uterine smooth muscle. Also referred to as a leiomyoma, it can cause heavy periods, infertility, and anemia.

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) – hormone produced in the anterior pituitary gland that is responsible for the maturation of ovarian follicles.

Gonadotropin – hormone that stimulates the gonads. FSH and LH are examples of gonadotropins.

Hyperprolactinemia – higher than normal levels of prolactin in the body. Can cause oligomenorrhea, amenorrhea, and infertility. Hyperprolactinemia has been observed in adenomyosis.

Hysterosonogram – a minimally invasive ultrasound test used to determine if there are any abnormalities inside the uterus.

Interleukin – a type of cytokine made by leukocytes (a type of white blood cell). Interleukins are important in stimulating immune responses.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – disorder of the colon that can cause abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, constipation, and/or diarrhea. IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion which means that the physician must rule out all other known causes of these symptoms before this diagnosis can be made. IBS is a functional disorder of the colon due to abnormal peristalsis, and it is not life-threatening. Adenomyosis and endometriosis are commonly misdiagnosed as IBS.

Junctional zone – the area in between the endometrium and the myometrium in the uterus. Also known as the endometrial-myometrial interface. The junctional zone has become increasingly important in the diagnosis of adenomyosis as the width can indicate possible adenomyosis.

Leiomyoma – another term for a fibroid.

Levonorgestrel – a type of synthetic progesterone.

Luteinizing hormone (LH) – a hormone produced in the anterior pituitary gland. A surge in LH occurs in the last half of the menstrual cycle and is responsible for ovulation and the development of the corpus luteum which produces progesterone.

Menorrhagia – abnormally heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding.

Myometrium – outer muscular layer of the uterus. This layer is responsible for uterine contractions during childbirth.

Oligomenorrhea – infrequent menstrual periods.

Peristalsis – involuntary rhythmic contractions of a muscle.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) – a disorder in which many small cysts develop on the ovaries. This is due to a hormonal imbalance caused by excessive levels of androgens. Symptoms include excess body hair, weight gain, infertility, and irregular periods.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) – a severe form of premenstrual syndrome.

Progesterone – female sex hormone that plays a major role in the menstrual cycle.

Progestins – synthetic steroid hormones that bind to progesterone receptors and activate them.

Prolactin – a hormone that stimulates the production of breast milk. The pituitary manufactures this hormone.

Prostaglandin – a type of lipid that controls the contraction and relaxation of smooth muscle, modulates inflammation, and regulates blood flow. It is made from arachidonic acid, a type of omega-6 fatty acid.

Sciatica – pain felt along the path of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve originates in the lower spine and travels down both legs.

Uterine hyperperistalsis – a condition where uterine contractions are more frequent than those seen in a normal uterus.

Uterine polyp – mass that originates from the endometrium. It can be flat up against the uterine wall, or it may be pedunculated (on a stalk). Polyps can grow up to several centimeters and may be associated with heavy menstrual bleeding. Also referred to as an “endometrial polyp”.

More to come soon…