Glossary

Listed below are many of the words you may come across concerning your disease.

Abscess
A localised collection of pus in a cavity formed by the decay of diseased tissues.
Acute
Sudden onset of symptoms (as in relapse).
Aetiology
Cause
Anaemia
A reduction in the number of red cells, haemoglobin (iron) or volume of packed red cells in the body.
Anastomosis
The joining together of two ends of a healthy bowel after a diseased bowel has been cut out (resected) by the surgeon.
Ankylosing Spondylitis
Chronic inflammatory disease of the spine and nearby joints, which can cause pain and stiffness in the spine, neck, hips, jaw and rib cage.
Anus
The opening to the back passage.
Arthralgia
Pains in the joints.
Arthritis
Inflammation of a joint(s) with pain, swelling and stiffness.
Ascending Colon
The portion of bowel extending from the caecum to the hepatic flexure.
Biopsy
Removal of small pieces of tissue from parts of the body (e.g. colon - colonic biopsy) for examination under the microscope for diagnosis.
Caecum
The first part of the large intestine forming a dilated pouch into which opens the ileum, the colon and the appendix.
Chronic
Symptoms occurring over a long period of time.
Cobblestoning
Characteristic appearance of the bowel mucosa (lining) seen in Crohn's disease (like 'cobblestones') formed from deep ulceration and swelling of the surrounding tissue.
Colitis
Inflammation of the colon
Colon
The large intestine extending from the caecum to rectum. It has an ascending, transverse and descending portion.
Colonoscopy
Inspection of the colon by an illuminated telescope called a colonoscope.
Colostomy
Surgical creation of an opening between the colon and the surface of the body. Part of the colon is brought out onto the abdomen creating a stoma. A bag is placed over this to collect waste material.
Constipation
Infrequent or difficulty in the passage of bowel motions.
Crohn's Activity Index
Measurement of the severity of active disease using symptom scores which are monitored over one week.
Defaecation
The act of passing faeces.
Descending Colon
The portion of bowel between the splenic flexure and the sigmoid colon.
Diarrhoea
An increase in frequency, liquidity and weight of bowel motions (normal production * 200g in 24 hours)
Distal
Further down the bowel towards the anus.
Diverticulum (plural diverticula)
Small pouch-like projections through the muscular wall of the intestine which may become infected, causing diverticulitis.
Dysplasia
Alteration in size, shape and organisation of mature cells that indicate the possible development of cancer.
Electrolytes
Salts in the blood, e.g. sodium, potassium, calcium.
Enema
A liquid, (e.g. Barium or steroid) introduced into the rectum for treatment or diagnostic purposes to stimulate the production of a bowel motion.
Endoscopy
A collective name for all visual inspections of body cavities with an illuminated telescope. Examples are:
- Gastroscopy
- Colonoscopy
- Sigmoidoscopy
Erythema Nodosum
Red, tender swellings occasionally seen on the shins and lower legs during a flare-up of inflammatory bowel disease. They usually subside when the disease is in remission.
Erythrocytes
Red cells in the blood which carry oxygen in haemoglobin.
Exacerbation
An aggravation of symptoms.
Faeces
The waste matter eliminated from the anus (other names - stools, motions).
Fibre Optic
Flexible fibres which carry light, e.g. in a colonoscope
Fissure
A cleft or groove (crack) in the skin surface, (e.g. in the anus - anal fissure).
Fistula
An abnormal connection, usually between two organs, or leading from an internal organ to the body surface, (e.g. between the anus and skin surface - anal fistula).
Flatus
Gas from the rectum.
Fulminant Colitis
Colitis occurring suddenly with great intensity and severity.
Granulomas
Nodules of cells, surrounded by lymphocytes which can be found in all layers of the bowel. If present, they strongly suggest Crohn's disease.
Haemorrhoids
Swollen veins in the area of the anus which bleed easily and are often painful. (Similar to varicose veins in the legs).
Haematochezia
The passage of bloody stools.
Harvey and Bradshaw Index
Modified simple measurement of disease activity in Crohn's disease measured over a 24 hour period.
Hepatic Flexure
The portion of the colon at which the ascending and the transverse colon meet, below the liver.
Heredity
The transmission of characteristics from parent to child.
Histology
The examination of tissues under the microscope to assist diagnosis.
Hypoalbuminaemia
Decreased albumin (protein) in the blood.
Hypokalaemia
Decreased potassium in the blood.
IBS
Irritable bowel syndrome. A very common condition causing abdominal pain and diarrhoea or constipation but which differs from IBD in that no damage to the alimentary tract is detectable.
Ileo-Anal Anastomosis
The formation of a pouch following colectomy by re-fashioning loops of ileum into a reservoir making an artificial rectum and joining it to the anus. (Park's Pouch).
Ileostomy
This is when the open end of the healthy ileum is diverted to the surface of the abdomen and secured there to form a new exit for waste matter.
Inflammation
A natural defence mechanism of the body in which blood rushes to any site of damage or infection leading to reddening, swelling and pain. The area is usually hot to touch.
Iritis
Painful inflammation of the eyes.
Laxative
An agent that acts to cause emptying of the bowel. This may be by purging (irritating the lining) or increasing the volume of stool (bulking).
Lesion
A term used to describe any structural abnormality in the body.
Leucocytes
White cells in the blood which help fight infection.
Leucocytosis
An increase in the number of circulating white cells in the blood.
Leucopenia
A decrease in the amount of circulating white cells in the blood.
Mucus
A white, slimy lubricant produced by the intestines. It is found in excess in the stools of patients with colitis.
Oedema
Accumulation (build up) of excessive amounts of fluid in the tissues resulting in swelling.
Osteoporosis
Thinning of the bones due to calcium loss. May be caused by long-term use of steroids or low levels of oestrogen.
Pathogen
Harmful organism causing disease.
Pathology
The study of the cause of disease.
Perforation
An abnormal opening (hole) in the bowel wall which causes the contents of the bowel to spill into the normally sterile abdominal cavity.
Peritoneum
The membrane lining the abdominal cavity.
Peritonitis
Inflammation of the peritoneum, often due to a perforation.
Pouchitis
Inflammation of an ileo-anal pouch.
Polyp
A protruding growth from mucous membrane, (e.g. colonic polyp - in the colon).
Prophylaxis
Treatment to prevent a disease occurring before it has started.
Proximal
Further up the bowel towards the mouth.
Pyoderma Gangrenosum
A type of chronic skin ulceration which sometimes occurs on the limbs of people with inflammatory bowel disease.
Radiologist
The doctor who interprets X-Ray pictures to make a diagnosis.
Rectum
The lower 20cm of the large intestine, above the anus.
Relapse
Return of disease activity.
Remission
A lessening of symptoms of the disease and return to good health.
Sigmoid
The portion of the colon shaped like a letter 'S' or 'C' extending from the descending colon to the rectum.
Sigmoidoscopy
Inspection of the sigmoid colon with an illuminated telescope called a sigmoidoscope.
Skip Lesions
Areas of normal bowel mucosa between areas of inflamed bowel mucosa (seen in Crohn's disease).
Splenic Flexure
The portion of the colon at which the transverse and the descending colon meet, below the spleen.
Steatorrhoea
Presence of excess fat in the stools.
Stricture
The narrowing of a portion of the bowel.
Suppository
A bullet-shaped solid medication put into the rectum.
Tenesmus
Persistent urge to empty the bowel caused by an inflamed rectum.
Terminal Ileum
The last part of the ileum joining the caecum via the ileo-caecal valve.
Toxic Megacolon
A dilatation (swelling) of the colon which may led to perforation, usually in a very severe attack of ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. Urgent surgery is almost always performed.
Transverse Colon
The portion of bowel between the hepatic and the splenic flexures.
Tumour
An abnormal growth which may be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancer).
Ultrasound
Use of high-pitched sound waves to produce pictures of organs on a screen for diagnostic purposes, by passing a transducer with conducting jelly over a specified body cavity, (e.g. the abdomen - abdominal ultrasound).