Abdomen: The part of the body below the ribs and above the pelvis.
Abnormal uterine bleeding (AUB): Bleeding that is abnormal in frequency, severity, or duration. Not the same as normal irregular periods during perimenopause or bleeding from menopause hormone therapy including estrogen and progestogen. Possible causes are hormone imbalance, pregnancy, fibroid tumors, uterine lining abnormalities, cancer, and other conditions of the vagina or cervix.
Adrenal Glands: Two small glands situated atop the kidneys. The adrenal glands secrete steroid hormones and stress hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine (sometimes known as adrenaline).
Alendronate: An oral, nonhormonal, prescription drug (marketed as Fosamax) government approved for prevention and treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis. It increases bone density in the spine and hip and decreases the risk of spine and nonspine fractures.
Alzheimer's disease: A progressive disease in which nerve cells in the brain degenerate and brain matter shrinks, resulting in impaired thinking, behavior, and memory.
Amenorrhea: The absence of menstrual bleeding in a woman who has not gone through menopause; may be due to such things as prolonged stress, thyroid disorders, excessive exercise, eating disorders, premature ovarian failure and others.
Androgen: A group of hormones that promote the development and maintenance of male secondary sex characteristics and structures. They are produced in smaller quantities in women and are important in the synthesis of estrogen. They also play a role in sexual function, muscle mass and strength, bone density, distribution of fat tissue, energy, and psychological well-being. With women, the major androgens are produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands and include testosterone, androstenedione, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Also available as prescription and nonprescription therapies, but not government approved for use in women.
Antioxidants: Certain vitamins, including vitamins A, C, E, and beta carotene, found in many brightly colored fruits and vegetables, considered to be important tools in warding off heart disease and some cancers and may even reduce age-related macular degeneration (age-related vision loss).
Anxiety: A feeling of apprehension, fear, nervousness, or dread accompanied by restlessness or tension.
Aromatase inhibitor: A class of prescription drugs government approved for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. Works by blocking the formation of estrogen in the body’s tissues.
Arthritis: A disease of inflammation in the joints that may be associated with pain, stiffness, swelling, and redness as well as deformities of those affected joints.
Asymptomatic: Causes no symptoms.
Atherosclerosis: A blood vessel condition that develops when the buildup of plaque on arterial walls narrows the arterial passage and thus limits the amount of blood that can flow through the arteries to nourish the heart, brain, kidneys, and other organs.
Bartholin's Glands: The two glands located on the wall near the opening of the vagina. These glands help lubricate the vagina; also called greater vestibular glands.
Benign: Not cancerous.
Bilateral oophorectomy: The surgical removal of both ovaries (and usually, fallopian tubes).
Bisphosphonate: A class of prescription nonhormonal, bone-specific drugs government approved for the prevention and treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis. Works by decreasing the activity of bone-dissolving cells, preserving bone density and bone strength as well as reducing fracture risk.
Biofeedback: A technique in which individuals are trained to monitor their breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure (with the use of various instruments), then change the rate of those functions through relaxation techniques or visual imagery.
Bioflavonoids: Naturally occurring plant substances found in many brightly colored fruits and vegetables, such as cherries, oranges, other citrus fruits, grapes, leafy vegetables, wine, and some types of red clover. Bioflavonoids are being studied for the treatment of a number of conditions, including the control of bleeding, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins.
Bio-identical Hormones: Hormone products formulated (usually from plant sources) to match the chemical structure and effect of hormones produced naturally by the human body. Biologically the same as human hormones, they are more commonly known as natural hormones.
Bladder: A saclike organ in the pelvic region where urine is stored before it leaves the body.
Bladder prolapsed: A condition in which the bladder moves downward from its normal position. It is usually caused by a weakness in the pelvic floor after childbirth.
BMI (body mass index): A measurement of a person’s body fat, determined by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in meters (m) squared. It is used as an index of obesity.
Calcitonin: A hormone made in the thyroid gland which controls the level of calcium and phosphorus in the blood and to start bone production; normally calcitonin is released by the thyroid to lower the blood level of calcium and phosphorus and to prevent calcium from being taken in again by the bones.
Cardiovascular Disease: A term used to describe a variety of heart diseases, illnesses, and events that impact the heart and circulatory system, including high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.
Cervix: The lower, narrow end of the uterus (or womb). A Pap smear tests for cancer of the cervix and for changes that would progress to cancer with time (dysplasia).
Chemotherapy: The use of potent medications to treat cancer, usually by affecting cells that are rapidly growing, such as the cancer cells themselves.
Cholesterol: An important steroid that is the precursor for the body to make sex hormones, adrenal hormones, and other molecules. A component of all animal fats and oils. It is found in the blood in three forms:
1. High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) - protects against plaque formation in the arteries (atherosclerosis).
2. Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) - promotes plaque formation (atherosclerosis).
3. Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL) - also a plaque promoter.
Climacteric: A period of years when a woman's hormone levels gradually decline and ending with the last menstrual period.
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM): A broad range of healing philosophies and approaches not typically used in conventional medicine. A therapy is called “complementary” when it is usedin addition toconventional medicine, whereas it is called “alternative” when it is usedinstead ofconventional treatment. See also Black cohosh, Dong quai, Isoflavones,
Phytoestrogens, Red clover, and St. John’s wort.
Phytoestrogens, Red clover, and St. John’s wort.
Compounding Pharmacy: A pharmacy which offers all forms of natural hormones made to your doctor's specifications. A compounding pharmacy will also send requested information packets to you and/or to your doctor.
Continuous Combined HRT: When some form of estrogen and a progestin/progesterone are taken every day of the month. This style of therapy is intended to eliminate monthly bleeding, but in reality it does not always succeed. It seems to work better for women at least a year or two postmenopause. It may take up to a year for spotting/bleeding to stop. Increasing the progestin dose may help reduce the spotting/bleeding. The undesired spotting and bleeding may result in increased physician visits and testing.
Contraception: Any method used to prevent pregnancy during sexual activity. Perimenopausal women who wish to avoid pregnancy are advised to use reliable contraception until 1 year has passed without a menstrual period.
Coronary Artery Disease: A common form of heart disease that results when the heart receives inadequate amounts of oxygen-rich blood through its arteries. This disease usually occurs when arteries become lined with heavy deposits of plaque—a substance made up of fat and calcium in a condition known as atherosclerosis.
Corpus Luteum: A mound of yellow tissue that forms in the wall of the ovary where an egg (ovum) has just been released; it produces progesterone. Should a woman skip an ovulation, her ovaries would not produce progesterone for that month.
Corticosteroids: Also known as adrenal cortical hormones and corticoids, steroid hormones (excluding sex hormones) that are secreted by the adrenal cortex. The two major groups: glucocorticoids affect fat, carbohydrate and protein metabolism, and mineral corticoids affect the regulation of electrolyte and water balance. Cortisol is a glucocorticoid, and aldosterone is a mineral corticoid.
Cortisol: A sterol (related to steroid) secreted by the adrenal cortex. A major glucocorticoid which affects fat, carbohydrate and protein metabolism. High doses lead to interference with proper functioning of the immune system.
Crinone: The brand name for a natural progesterone gel suppository.
Cyclical Hormone Therapy: see Sequential Hormone Therapy.
Cystectomy: Surgical removal of an ovarian cyst, frequently performed with a minimally invasive technique called laparoscopy.
Cystitis: Inflammation of the urinary bladder.
Danazol: A drug used in the treatment of endometriosis.
Designer Estrogens: SERMs (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators). Act as anti-estrogens in breast tissue while having estrogenic effects elsewhere in the body; can often cause hot flashes and other menopausal type symptoms. Have some beneficial effect on bone, less on heart. Two examples are tamoxifen and raloxifene (brand name Evista). Both are being considered for breast cancer prevention in high-risk women because of their anti-estrogen effect in the breast.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA): An important hormone in the female body that decreases as a woman ages and declines dramatically after menopause. DHEA is thought to combat memory and bone loss, and it may help to maintain breast and cardiovascular health.
Dendrites: The fine appendages at the ends of brain cells that transmit brain signals.
Depression: An emotional disorder characterized by extreme or prolonged feelings of sadness, despair, guilt, or hopelessness so debilitating that they affect one’s normal quality of life and/or work performance. (Also called “Major Depression”).
DEXA: Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry. Highly reliable means of measuring bone mineral density using very small amounts of radiation.
Diosgenin: A substance found in the roots of plants such as yams and soy which, in the laboratory, can be formulated into hormone molecules.
Dysmenorrhea: Pelvic pain and cramping associated with a menstrual period.
Dyspareunia: Pain during sexual intercourse. Also see vaginismus.
Dysplasia: The growth of abnormal cells. Dysplasia is a precancerous condition that may or may not develop into cancer at a later time.
Endogenous: A term which means coming from inside the body (the opposite of exogenous, which has to do with outside the body). For instance, the hormones produced by the body are said to be endogenous. Supplemented hormones are known as exogenous.
Endometriosis: A condition where active endometrial tissue (normally found only inside the uterine cavity) grows outside the uterus scattered about the abdomen and pelvic cavities.. Endometriosis causes severe pain at the time of menses due to the cyclical bleeding of the endometrial tissue in abnormal locations where the blood acts as an irritant to other organs.
Endometrial hyperplasia: An overgrowth of the lining of the uterus which is due to too much estrogen for a period of time and not enough progesterone.
Endometrium: The lining of the uterus shed with each period.
Enzymes: Proteins produced by living cells that function as catalysts in specific biochemical reactions, such as hormone conversion.
Estrace: A brand name for a natural estrogen supplement which is 17 Beta-estradiol; identical to the human estradiol molecule and available since the late '70s. Comes in oral and cream forms.
Estradiol (E2): The most bioactive and potent of the estrogens found in the body, and the most predominant estrogen produced by the human ovary prior to menopause. Responsible for over 400 functions in the human body.
Estrogen: Refers to the group of female hormones produced primarily by the ovaries and responsible for regulating certain reproductive functions. There are 3 predominant estrogens in a woman's body: estradiol, estriol, and estrone.
Estrogen Patch: One kind of estrogen supplement, the patch is worn on the skin and contains natural estradiol which is slowly released. Some brand names are Alora, Climara, Estraderm, FemPatch, and Vivelle.
Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT): A regimen in which only estrogen is supplemented, often prescribed for women after hysterectomies. NOT recommended for women who have a uterus.
Estriol (E3): The estrogen produced in large amounts during pregnancy.
Estrone (E1): The endogenous estrogen naturally present after menopause; also made in the fat cells after meno. While some studies show estrone is involved in the bone-building process, it is also thought to be the primary culprit in increased risks of endometrial and breast cancers.
Exogenous: A descriptive term to mean beginning outside the body.
Sources and Additional Information: