Medical Terminology For Dummies
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Pathology is a scary medical term, and for good reason. Pathology is the study of disease as it affects body tissue and function. Some conditions of the heart and lymph system are more serious and more risky than others.

Some serious pathological conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels include

  • Aneurysm, a local widening of an artery, may be due to weakness in the arterial wall or breakdown of the wall due to atherosclerosis.

  • Angina pectoris is an episode of chest pain due to temporary difference between the supply and demand of oxygen to the heart muscle.

  • Arterial hypertension refers to high blood pressure. In essential hypertension, the cause of the increased pressure is unknown or idiopathic. In secondary hypertension, there is an associated lesion, such as nephritis, pheochromocytoma, or adenoma of the adrenal cortex, which can be responsible for the elevated blood pressure.

  • Bacterial endocarditis is inflammation of the inner lining of the heart caused by bacteria.

    Keep the three types of cardiac arrhythmia straight. The heart block is a failure of proper conduction of impulses through the A-V node and can be overcome by implantation of an electric pacemaker. A flutter is rapid but regular contractions of the atria or ventricles, while fibrillation is rapid, random irregular contractions of the heart as high as 350+ beats per minute.

  • Cardiac arrhythmia is an abnormal heart rhythm. Some examples include heart block, flutter, and fibrillation.

  • Congenital heart disease refers to abnormalities in the heart at birth, resulting from some failure in the development of the fetus. Coarctation of the aorta is a narrowing of the aorta. Surgical treatment consists of removal of the constricted area with end-to-end anastomosis or joining together of the aortic segments.

  • Congestive heart failure is a condition where the heart is unable to pump its required amount of blood . Blood accumulates in the lungs and liver. In severe cases, fluid can collect in the abdomen and legs or in the pulmonary air sacs.

  • Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a disease of arteries supplying blood to the heart. This is usually the result of atherosclerosis, the deposition of fatty compounds on the inner lining of the coronary arteries.

  • Heart murmur refers to an extra heart sound heard between normal heart sounds. Murmurs are heard with the aid of a stethoscope and are caused by a valvular defect or disease, which disrupts the smooth flow of blood in the heart.

  • Hypertensive heart disease is high blood pressure affecting the heart.

  • Mitral valve prolapse is improper closure of the mitral valve when the heart is pumping blood.

  • Raynaud’s phenomenon is short episodes of discoloration and numbness in fingers and toes due to temporary constriction of arterioles. These may be triggered by cold temperature, stress, or smoking.

  • Rheumatic heart disease is heart disease caused by rheumatic fever.

  • Varicose veins are abnormally swollen veins usually occurring in the legs, due to damaged valves that fail to prevent the backflow of blood. The blood then collects in the veins, causing distention.

The blood itself can suffer from specific diseases and pathological conditions. Anemia, a common symptom, is a deficiency in erythrocytes or hemoglobin, can take several forms, including the following:

  • Aplastic anemia: Failure of blood cell production due to absence of development and formation of bone marrow cells

  • Hemolytic anemia: Reduction in red cells due to excessive destruction

  • Pernicious anemia: Lack of mature erythrocytes due to inability to absorb vitamin B12

  • Sickle-cell anemia: Hereditary condition in which distorted cells clump and block blood vessels

Other issues affecting the blood include thalassemia, an inherited defect in the ability to produce hemoglobin; polycythemia vera, a malignant condition associated with increased red blood cells; and hemochromatosis, excessive deposits of iron through the body. Thalassemia is usually found in patients of Mediterranean background.

Leukemia, of course, is the kingpin of white blood cell pathology. It is an excessive increase in white blood cells — a cancerous disease of the bone marrow with malignant leukocytes filling the marrow and bloodstream. Four forms of leukemia include:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): Seen most often in children and adolescents

  • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML): Derived from or originating in bone marrow; follows an aggressive course

  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL): Occurs late in life and follows a slow, progressive course

  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML): Slowly progressive

All types of leukemia are treated with chemotherapy, using drugs that prevent cell division and selectively injure rapidly dividing cells. Effective treatment can lead to remission. Relapse occurs when leukemia cells reappear in the blood and bone marrow, necessitating further treatment. Leukemia’s nasty cousin, multiple myeloma, is a malignant tumor of bone marrow in which malignant cells invade bone marrow and destroy bony structures.

Keep these two blood-clotting health issues in mind

  • Hemophilia is excessive bleeding caused by a congenital lack of coagulation factor necessary for blood clotting.

  • Purpura is a symptom caused by low platelets involving multiple pinpoint hemorrhages and accumulation of blood under the skin.

The lymph nodes themselves are the sites of many a showdown between good health and an extended hospital stay. Hodgkin’s disease is a malignant tumor arising in lymphatic tissue such as lymph nodes and spleen.

Lymphosarcoma (lymphoma) is a malignant tumor of lymph nodes that resembles Hodgkin’s disease. Often referred to as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, it affects lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow, and other organs. Burkitt’s lymphoma is a malignant tumor of lymph nodes usually affecting children and most common in central Africa.

Inflammation is another common trait of lymphatic system pathology, which can take the form of the following:

  • Lymphadenitis: Inflammation of lymph nodes usually due to infection

  • Mononucleosis: Acute infectious disease with enlarged lymph nodes and spleen due to increased numbers of lymphocytes and monocytes

  • Sarcoidosis: Inflammatory disease in which small nodules form in lymph nodes and other organs

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