Glossary: L


the folds of skin at the opening of the vagina (and other organs).


organ of balance located in the inner ear. The labyrinth consists of three semicircular canals and the vestibule.

labyrinthine hydrops

excessive fluid in the organ of balance (labyrinth) that can cause pressure or fullness in the ears, hearing loss, dizziness, and loss of balance.


viral or bacterial infection or inflammation of the inner ear that can cause dizziness, loss of balance, and temporary hearing loss.


an enzyme in the small intestine needed to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and milk products.

lactase deficiency

lack of an enzyme made by the small intestine called lactase, which prevents the body from digesting lactose (a sugar found in milk and milk products) properly.


sugar found in milk, which the body breaks down into galactose and glucose.

lactose intolerance

inability to digest lactose, the sugar in milk, because the body does not produce the lactase enzyme.

lactose tolerance test

a test that checks the body's ability to digest lactose (a sugar found in milk and milk products).


surgical procedure, which includes removal of a portion of the lamina, to provide more room in the vertebral canal; usually done for disc herniation or spinal canal stenosis.

Landau-Kleffner syndrome

A childhood disorder of unknown origin that can be identified by gradual or sudden loss of the ability to understand and use spoken language.


system for communicating ideas and feelings using sounds, gestures, signs, or marks.

language disorders

problems with verbal communication and the ability to use or understand the symbol system for interpersonal communication.


fine, downy hair that covers the fetus until shortly before or after birth.


a long, thin tube with a camera lens attached that allows the physician to examine the organs inside the abdominal cavity

laparoscopic cholecystectomy

an operation to remove the gallbladder. The physician inserts a laparoscope, and other surgical instruments, through small holes in the abdomen. The camera allows the physician to see the gallbladder on a television screen. The physician removes the gallbladder through the holes.

laparoscopic lymph node sampling

lymph nodes are removed through a viewing tube called a laparoscope, which is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen.

laparoscopic lymphadenectomy

the removal of pelvic lymph nodes with a laparoscope done through four small incisions in the lower abdominal region.


a test that uses a tube with a light and a camera lens at the end (laparoscope) to examine organs and check for abnormalities. Laparoscopy is often used during surgery to look inside the body and avoid making large incisions. Tissue samples may also be taken for examination and testing.


a surgical procedure that involves an incision from the upper to lower abdomen; often used when making a diagnosis by less invasive tests is difficult.

large intestine

part of the intestine that goes from the cecum to the rectum.

laryngeal neoplasms

abnormal growths in the larynx (voice box) that can be cancerous or noncancerous.

laryngeal nodules

noncancerous, callous-like growths on the inner parts of the vocal folds (vocal cords).

laryngeal paralysis

loss of function or feeling of one or both of the vocal folds.


surgery to remove part or all of the larynx or voice box.


hoarse voice or the complete loss of the voice because of irritation to the vocal folds (vocal cords).


inspecting the larynx (voice box) with a mirror or viewing tube.


valve structure between the trachea (windpipe) and the pharynx (the upper throat) that is the primary organ of voice production.

laser resurfacing

uses high-energy light to burn away damaged skin. Laser resurfacing may be used to minimize wrinkles and fine scars.

laser surgery

using a device which emits a beam of light radiation, surgeons can cauterize a wound, repair damaged tissue, or cut through tissue.

lateral collateral ligament (LCL)

the ligament that gives stability to the outer knee.

lateral epicondylitis (Also known as tennis elbow.)

pain is caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist backward away from the palm.


cleaning of the stomach and colon using a special drink and enemas.

laxatives (Also called cathartics.)

medications to relieve long-term constipation.

lead poisoning

an abnormal condition often caused by breathing or swallowing substances that contain lead.

learning disability (LD)

a disorder that affects people's ability to either interpret what they see and hear or to link information from different parts of the brain. These limitations are characterized by difficulty in reading, writing, and arithmetic.

lens (Also called crystalline lens.)

the transparent structure inside the eye that focuses light rays onto the retina.


a destructive change in body tissue, such as a wound, injury, or inflammation.


a procedure to remove excess lymphocytes from the body.


a cancer of the blood-forming tissue. Leukemic cells look different than normal cells and do not function properly.


a whitish patch of mucous membrane inside the mouth; one cause of oral cancer.


whitish vaginal discharge during pregnancy.

Levator syndrome

feeling of fullness in the anus and rectum with occasional pain, caused by muscle spasms.

levodopa (L-dopa)

the single most effective anti-Parkinson drug; it is changed into dopamine in the brain.

Lewy body

A pink-staining sphere, found in the bodies of dying cells, that is considered to be a marker for Parkinson's disease.


tiny parasites that can infest the skin; characterized by intense itching.


skin that has thickened.


a white, shiny, flexible band of fibrous tissue that binds joints together and connects various bones and cartilage.


a fatty substance in the blood.


round or oval lumps under the skin caused by fatty deposits.


transporters of fatty substances in the blood.


a procedure that removes excess fat through a suctioning process. Although liposuction is not a substitute for weight loss, it is a way of changing the body's shape and contour.

lithotripsy, extracorporeal shock wave (ESWL)

method of breaking up bile stones and gallstones with a specialized tool and shock waves.


largest organ in the body, which carries out many important functions, such as making bile, changing food into energy, and cleaning alcohol and poisons from the blood.

liver biopsy

a procedure in which tissue samples from the liver are removed (with a needle or during surgery) from the body for examination under a microscope.

liver enzyme tests (Also called liver function tests.)

blood tests to determine how well the liver and biliary system are functioning properly.

living will

a legal document which states your medical preferences for treatment and resuscitation in the event you can no longer speak for yourself.


last menstrual period.


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.


a subdivision of a lobe in the breast.

local anesthesia

anesthetic medicine injected into the site of the operation to temporarily numb that area.

locally invasive

a tumor which can invade the tissues surrounding it by sending out "fingers" of cancerous cells into normal tissue.

locking clip

a special device used when the vehicle's lap/shoulder belts do not lock. A locking clip will help secure a child safety seat tightly into a vehicle.

loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP)

a procedure which uses an electric wire loop to obtain a piece of tissue.

loose body

name given to an object, located within a joint, that has become detached.

lordosis (Also called sway-back.)

an exaggeration of the forward curve of the lower part of the back.

low blood glucose

a condition that occurs in people with diabetes when their blood glucose levels are too low.

low density lipoprotein (LDL)

the primary cholesterol carrying.

lower back (Also called lumbar spine.)

a complex structure that connects the upper body to the lower body; consists of vertebrae, disks, spinal cord, and nerves.

lower esophageal sphincter

muscle between the esophagus and stomach.

lower GI (gastrointestinal) series (Also called barium enema.)

a procedure that examines the rectum, the large intestine, and the lower part of the small intestine. A fluid called barium (a metallic, chemical, chalky, liquid used to coat the inside of organs so that they will show up on an x-ray) is given into the rectum as an enema. An x-ray of the abdomen shows strictures (narrowed areas), obstructions (blockages), and other problems.

lumbar puncture (Also called spinal tap.)

a special needle is placed into the lower back, into the spinal canal. This is the area around the spinal cord. The pressure in the spinal canal and brain can then be measured. A small amount of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) can be removed and sent for testing to determine if there is an infection or other problems. CSF is the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord.


the hollow area within a tube.


a surgical procedure to remove a tumor and surrounding tissue.

lung volume

the amount of air the lungs hold.

luteinizing hormone (LH)

hormone secreted by the pituitary gland in the brain that stimulates the growth and maturation of eggs in females and sperm in males.

Lyme disease (LD)

a multi-stage, multi-system bacterial infection caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, a spiral-shaped bacterium that is most commonly transmitted by a tick bite.


part of the lymphatic system; a thin, clear fluid that circulates through the lymphatic vessels and carries blood cells that fight infection and disease.

lymph node biopsy

a procedure performed to remove tissue or cells from the body for examination under a microscope.

lymph nodes (also called lymph glands)

small bean-shaped structures that help to filter excess fluid, bacteria, and by-products of infections. Most lymph nodes are clustered in specific areas of the body, such as the mouth, neck, lower arm, armpit, and groin.

lymph vessels

part of the lymphatic system; thin tubes that carry lymph fluid throughout the body.


a procedure in which lymph nodes are taken from the body for purposes of diagnosing or staging cancer.


an x-ray that uses a special dye to determine whether cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.


a raised, yellow-tan or red mark in the skin, made up of enlarged lymphatic vessels.

lymphatic system

part of the immune system; includes lymph, ducts, organs, lymph vessels, lymphocytes, and lymph nodes, whose function is to produce and carry white blood cells to fight disease and infection.


a disorder in which lymph accumulates in the soft tissues, resulting in swelling. Lymphedema may be caused by inflammation, obstruction, or removal of the lymph nodes during surgery.


any one of a group of white blood cells of crucial importance to the adaptive part of the body's immune system.

lymphocytic leukemia

a type of leukemia in which the cancer develops in the lymphocytes (lymphoid cells).

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