Glossary: S


A birth defect characterized by an unusually short or broad head. In addition, the eyes may be spaced wide apart and have droopy eyelids, and fingers may be abnormally short and webbed.

salicylic acid

a keratolytic drug (a drug that removes the outer layer of skin) that is used to treat various skin conditions.

saline solution

a solution containing sodium chloride.


mixture of water, protein, and salts that makes food easy to swallow and begins digestion.


bacterium that may cause intestinal infection and diarrhea.

salmonella infections

diarrheal infections caused by the bacteria Salmonella. There are many kinds of Salmonella bacteria that cause diarrheal illnesses in humans.


surgical removal of one or both fallopian tubes.


surgery to remove the fallopian tubes and ovaries.


condition that causes small, fleshy swellings in the liver, lungs, and spleen.

saturated fat

fat that is found in foods from animal meats and skin, dairy products and some vegetables.


an infestation of mites in the skin characterized by small pimples that itch.


dead skin cells that look like flakes or dry skin.


shoulder blade.


shoulder blade.


the body's natural way of healing and replacing lost or damaged skin. A scar is usually composed of fibrous tissue. Scars may be formed for many different reasons, including as a result of infections, surgery, injuries, or inflammation of tissue.

Schiller test

a diagnostic test in which the cervix is coated with an iodine solution to detect the presence of abnormal cells.


one of the most complex of all mental health disorders; involves a severe, chronic, and disabling disturbance of the brain.


similar to schizoid personality disorder, persons with this disorder are often cold, distant, introverted, and have an intense fear of intimacy and closeness. Yet, with schizotypal personality disorder, persons also exhibit disordered thinking, perception, and ineffective communication skills. Many symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder resemble schizophrenia, but are less mild and intrusive.

sciatica (also called lumbar radiculopathy)

a pain that originates along the sciatic nerve.


the white visible portion of the eyeball. The muscles that move the eyeball are attached to the sclera.


a disease of the body's connective tissue that causes thickening and hardening of the skin.

sclerosing adenosis

a benign breast condition that involves excessive growth of tissues in the breast's lobules, often resulting in breast pain.


method of stopping upper GI bleeding. A needle is inserted through an endoscope to bring hardening agents to the place that is bleeding.


a lateral, or sideways, curvature and rotation of the back bones (vertebrae), giving the appearance that the person is leaning to one side.


checking for disease when there are no symptoms.

screening mammogram

an x-ray of the breast used to detect breast changes in women who have no signs of breast cancer.


the bag of skin that holds the testicles.

seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

a mood disorder characterized by depression related to a certain season of the year

sebaceous glands

glands in the skin that secrete oil to the surface of the skin.

seborrheic keratosis

flesh-colored, yellow, brown, or black wart-like spots.


oily substance produced by sebaceous glands in the skin.

secondary tumor

a tumor that forms as a result of spread (metastasis) of cancer from the place where it started.


hormone made in the duodenum that causes the stomach to produce pepsin, the liver to make bile, and the pancreas to produce a digestive juice.

segmental mastectomy

surgery to remove a portion of the breast.


process by which muscles in the intestines move food and wastes through the body.


occurs when part(s) of the brain receives a burst of abnormal electrical signals that temporarily interrupts normal electrical brain function.


feelings about one's self.


method for people with diabetes to determine how much glucose is in their blood.

sella turcica

bony structure that houses the pituitary gland.

sensorineural hearing loss

hearing loss caused by damage to the sensory cells and/or nerve fibers of the inner ear.


the presence of bacteria, virus, fungus, or other organism in the blood or other tissues and the toxins associated with the invasion.

septal defect

a hole in the wall of the heart.


the surgical correction of defects and deformities of the nasal septum (the partition between the nostrils).


the muscle wall that divides the heart chambers.


the study of blood serum (the clear fluid that separates when blood clots).


chemical messenger in the brain that affects emotions, behavior, and thought.


a clear fluid that separates when blood clots.

sexually transmitted disease (STD)

infection spread through sexual intercourse and other intimate sexual contact.


infection with the bacterium Shigella, usually causing a high fever, acute diarrhea, and dehydration.

shin splints

damage to one of two groups of muscles along the shin bone that cause pain.


a dangerous reduction of blood flow throughout the body.

short bowel syndrome (also called short gut syndrome)

problems related to absorbing nutrients after removal of part of the small intestine.


a connector to allow blood flow between two locations.

Shwachman's syndrome

Digestive and respiratory disorder of children in which certain digestive enzymes are missing and white blood cells are few.




an inherited blood disorder characterized by defective hemoglobin.

sigmoid colon

lower part of the colon that empties into the rectum.


a diagnostic procedure that allows the physician to examine the inside of a portion of the large intestine, and is helpful in identifying the causes of diarrhea, abdominal pain, constipation, abnormal growths, and bleeding. A short, flexible, lighted tube, called a sigmoidoscope, is inserted into the intestine through the rectum. The scope blows air into the intestine to inflate it and make viewing the inside easier.

sign language

language of hand shapes, facial expressions, and movements used as a form of communication.

silent ischemia

ischemia not accompanied by chest pain.

simple mastectomy

surgical removal of the breast and possibly a few of the axillary lymph nodes close to the breast.

sinuses (paranasal sinuses)

air cavities within the facial bones, lined by mucous membranes similar to those in other parts of the airways.

sinus node

the cells that produce the electrical impulses that cause the heart to contract.


inflammation of the membranes lining the facial sinuses, often caused by bacterial or viral infection, or allergic reaction.

skilled nursing facility (SNF)

an out-of-home care option for elderly persons who require continuous nursing care. SNFs can provide extensive care services, such as intravenous feedings, blood pressure monitoring, medication injections, and care for patients on ventilators.

skin (cutaneous) diphtheria

one type of diphtheria; the symptoms are usually milder and may include yellow spots or sores (similar to impetigo) on the skin.

skin cancer

a malignant tumor that grows in the skin cells.

skin grafts

a skin graft may be used to cover skin that has been damaged and/or is missing. This surgical procedure involves removing healthy portions of skin from one part of the body to restore normal appearance and/or function to another portion of the same body. The location where the skin is removed is called the donor site. There are various types of skin grafts that may be utilized, depending upon the size and location of needed skin.

skin tags

soft, small, flesh-colored skin flaps on the neck, armpits, or groin.

small intestine

the section of the digestive tract between the stomach and the large intestine. Most of digestion occurs here as nutrients are absorbed from food.


a highly contagious disease caused by a type of poxvirus; symptoms usually include a fever and a blistery-like rash.


to perceive odor or scent through stimuli affecting the olfactory nerves.

smell disorder

inability to perceive odors that may be temporary or permanent.

smooth muscle

muscle that performs automatic tasks, such as constricting blood vessels.

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.

soft tissue

generally, the ligaments, tendons, and muscles in the musculoskeletal system.


refers to sensory signals from all tissues of the body including skin, viscera, muscles, and joints.

sound vocalization

ability to produce voice.


a condition in which a muscle or group of muscles involuntarily contract.

spasmodic dysphonia

momentary disruption of voice caused by involuntary movements of one or more muscles of the larynx or voice box.


increased muscle tone that results in a tightening and shortening of a muscle.

specific language impairment (SLI)

difficulty with the organized-symbol-system communication in the absence of problems such as mental retardation, hearing loss, or emotional disorders.

specific phobia

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


making definite vocal sounds that form words to express thoughts and ideas.

speech disorder

defect or abnormality that prevents an individual from communicating by means of spoken words.

speech processor

part of a cochlear implant that converts speech sounds into electrical impulses to stimulate the auditory nerve.

speech-language pathologist

health professional trained to evaluate and treat people who have voice, speech, language, or swallowing disorders, including hearing impairment, that affect their ability to communicate.

sperm disorders

problems with the production and maturation of sperm; the single most common cause of male infertility. Sperm may be immature, abnormally shaped, unable to move properly, or, normal sperm may be produced in abnormally low numbers (oligospermia).


Sun Protection Factor.


ring-like band of muscle that opens and closes an opening in the body.

sphincter muscles

circular muscles that help keep urine from leaking by closing tightly like a rubber band around the opening of the bladder.

sphincter of Oddi

muscle between the common bile duct and pancreatic ducts.


a procedure to open the muscle sphincter - a ring of muscle around a natural opening that acts like a valve - wide enough so stones can pass into the intestine.


the instrument used to measure blood pressure.

spider angioma

a bright red mark with a distinct dark spot in the skin.

spinal anesthesia

injection of an anesthetic into the area around the spinal cord to block pain sensation during surgery.

spinal anesthetic

an anesthetic which is injected into the spinal canal fluid for surgery in the lower abdomen, pelvis, rectum, or other lower extremities.

spinal cord

a bundle of nerves that carries messages between the brain and the rest of the body.

spinal instability

increased motion between vertebra, usually resulting from an injury; pain typically feels like tingling in the neck or arms.

spinal stenosis

narrowing of the nerve openings either around the spinal cord or nerve roots that can cause symptoms similar to a pinched nerve; pain is described either as an aching or an electrical feeling down the arm.

spinal tap (also called lumbar puncture)

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.


a column in the body consisting of 33 vertebrae.


a record of the amounts of air being moved in and out of the lungs.


an instrument that measures the amount of air moved in and out of the lungs (the amount of inhaled and exhaled air).


a pulmonary test of the lungs using a spirometer.


organ that filters blood and makes white blood cells.


surgical removal of the spleen.


condition that occurs when air or gas collects in the upper parts of the colon.


a device for preventing movement of a joint or holding in place any part of the body.


inflammation of the spine.


forward displacement of one vertebra on its lower neighbor.


a degenerative process of the cervical spine that causes narrowing of the spinal canal and neural foramina, and produces compression of the spinal cord and nerve roots.


occurring by chance; a family history with only one affected individual at an older age of onset (not genetic).


a partial or complete tear of a ligament.

sputum (Also called phlegm.)

mucous from the lungs.

squamous cell cancer

a slow-growing cancer in cells in the top layer of the skin.

squamous cell carcinoma

a form of skin cancer that affects about 20 percent of patients with skin cancer. This highly treatable cancer is characterized by red, scaly skin that becomes an open sore.

squamous cells (also called keratinocytes)

the primary cell types found in the epidermis, the outer layer of skin.

squamous intraepithelial lesion (SIL)

like CIN, SIL is a term used to classify the degree of precancerous change in cells of the cervix in a condition called cervical dysplasia.


the extent of a cancer, whether the disease has spread from the original site to other parts of the body.


an evaluation of the extent of disease that provides the basis for making treatment recommendations.

stem cell transplantation

removing stem cells from the patient's or a donor's bone marrow and re-infusing them into the patient to help in production of healthy blood cells; a method of replacing stem cells which are destroyed by cancer treatment.

stem cells

the blood cells that produce other blood cells. It is the stem cells that are needed in bone marrow transplantation.


narrowing, as of a blood vessel or other structure.


a tiny, expandable coil that is placed inside a blood vessel at the site of a blockage. The stent is expanded to open up the blockage.


ability to perceive three-dimensional depth.


the breastbone.


the instrument used to listen to the heart and other sounds in the body.


technique of ankle strapping using rigid tape placed on the ankle, medial to lateral adhering to the undersurface of the heel, mimicking a stirrup.


a surgically created opening in an organ, such as the stomach (gastrostomy) or intestine (colostomy).


organ between the esophagus and the small intestine. The stomach is where digestion of protein begins.

stomach ulcer (also called a gastric ulcer)

open sore in the stomach lining.

stool (also called feces)

solid wastes that pass through the rectum as bowel movements. Stools are undigested foods, bacteria, mucus, and dead cells.

stork bite (salmon patch)

small pink or red patches often found on a baby's eyelids, between the eyes, upper lip, and back of the neck.

straight leg raise (SLR)

technique for measuring sciatic nerve mobility and/or hamstring length.


a partial or complete tear of a muscle or tendon.

strawberry hemangioma

a bright or dark red, raised or swollen, bumpy area on the skin of a baby or child.


a clot-dissolving medication.


mental or physical tension that results from physical, emotional, or chemical causes.

stress fracture

a bone injury caused by overuse.

stress incontinence

the most common type of incontinence that involves the leakage of urine during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting heavy objects, or other body movements that put pressure on the bladder.

stress ulcer

upper gastrointestinal (GI) ulcer from physical injury such as surgery, major burns, or critical head injury.


part of the basal ganglia, it is a large cluster of nerve cells, consisting of the caudate nucleus and the putamen, that controls movement, balance, and walking; the neurons of the striatum require dopamine to function.

stricture (also called stenosis)

abnormal narrowing of a body opening.

stroke (also called brain attack)

happens when brain cells die because of inadequate blood flow to the brain.


frequent repetition of words or parts of words that disrupts the smooth flow of speech.

subarachnoid hemorrhage

bleeding on the surface of the brain.

subchondral tissue

the smooth tissue at the ends of bones, which is covered with another type of tissue called cartilage.


the deepest layer of skin; also known as the subcutaneous layer.

substantia nigra

small area of the brain containing a cluster of black-pigmented nerve cells that produce dopamine which is then transmitted to the striatum.

subtotal (partial) gastrectomy

surgical removal of a portion of the stomach.


loss of hearing that occurs quickly from such causes as explosion, a viral infection, or the use of some drugs.

sudden death

death that occurs unexpectedly or immediately after onset of symptoms.

sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

unexplained, sudden death of an infant up to 1 year of age.

suicidal behavior

actions taken by one who is considering or preparing to cause their own death.

suicidal ideation

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


the intentional taking of one's own life.

suicide attempt

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


the skin's reaction to overexposure of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the invisible rays that are part of sunlight.


a product that protects the skin again sunburns by blocking the penetration of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays.

superior vena cava

the large vein that returns blood to the heart from the head and arms.

suprarenal glands

another name for the adrenal glands.


operation to remove or repair a part of the body, or to find out if disease is present.

suspensory ligament of lens

a series of fibers that connect the ciliary body of the eye with the lens, holding it in place.

sustention (postural) tremor

a tremor of a limb that increases when the limb is stretched.

swallowing disorders

any of a group of problems that interfere with the transfer of food from the mouth to the stomach.


a tiny gap between the ends of nerve fibers across which nerve impulses pass from one neuron to another; at the synapse, an impulse causes the release of a neurotransmitter, which diffuses across the gap and triggers an electrical impulse in the next neuron.


light-headedness or fainting caused by insufficient blood supply to the brain.


a congenital problem characterized by a union of fingers or toes.

syndromic hearing impairment

hearing loss or deafness that is inherited or passed through generations of a family.

synovial fluid

a clear, sticky fluid that is released by the synovial membrane and acts as a lubricant for joints and tendons.

synovial membrane

a tissue that lines and seals the joint.


inflammation of the synovial membrane, the tissue that lines and protects the joint.


a fibrous envelope that produces a fluid to help to reduce friction and wear in a joint.


a sexually transmitted disease caused by Treponema pallidum bacteria. The initial symptom of syphilis 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.

syrup of ipecac

an emetic made from the dried root of a plant called ipecacuanha, which is grown in Brazil. An emetic is an agent that causes vomiting.


disease or symptoms that affect many different parts of the body.

systemic chemotherapy

chemotherapy taken by pill, or needle injection into a vein or muscle.

systemic juvenile rheumatoid arthritis

a form of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis that affects joints and sometimes internal organs.

systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus)

a very serious, chronic, autoimmune disorder characterized by periodic episodes of inflammation of and damage to the joints, tendons, other connective tissues, and organs, including the heart, lungs, blood vessels, brain, kidneys, and skin.

systemic treatment or therapy

treatment or therapy that reaches and affects cells throughout the body.

systolic blood pressure

the highest blood pressure measured in the arteries.

systolic pressure

the highest pressure to which blood pressure rises with the contraction of the ventricles.

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