A-Z Index

Below is a full list of the glossary terms on the NHS 24 website. Click on a letter to find a definition.

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The abdomen is the part of the body between the chest and the hips.
An abortion or termination is a medical procedure that ends pregnancy. The method used depends on the stage of pregnancy.
An abrasion is an injury that happens when the skin is scraped off after it rubs against another surface.
An abscess is a lump containing pus, which is made by the body during infection.
An ache is a constant dull pain in a part of the body.
Acid Reflux
Acid reflux is a condition that causes heartburn when acid from the stomach flows up into the throat.
Acupuncture is a complementary treatment that uses needles on specific parts of the body.
Acute means occuring suddenly or over a short period of time.
Adrenaline is a hormone produced at times of stress that affects heart rate, blood circulation and other functions of the body.
An allergen is a substance that reacts with the body's immune system and causes an allergic reaction.
Amnesia is a partial or total loss of memory.
Anaesthetic is a drug used to either numb a part of the body (local), or to put a patient to sleep (general) during surgery.
Analeptics are medicines that restore consciousness to someone in a coma or a faint by stimulating the central nervous system
Analgesics are medicines that relieve pain. For example paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen.
Anaphylactic shock
Anaphylactic shock is a severe and sometimes life-threatening allergic reaction, causing swelling of body tissues and a drop in blood pressure.
An aneurysm is a blood-filled sac that forms in a weakened part of a blood vessel.
Angina is chest pain caused by a reduced flow of blood to the heart, typically resulting from heart disease.
Antacids are medicines that counteract or neutralize acidity in the lining of the stomach, used to treat indigestion and heartburn. For example magnesium carbonate and calcium carbonate
Anthelmintic medicines are used to treat parasitic worms. For example mebendazole and peperazine
Antibiotics are medicines that can be used to treat infections caused by micro-organisms, usually bacteria or fungi. For example amoxicillin, streptomycin and erythromycin.
Antibodies and immunoglobins are proteins in the blood. They are produced by the immune system to fight against bacteria, viruses and disease.
Anticoagulant is a substance that stops blood from clotting (prevents coagulation). For example warfarin.
Anticonvulsant medicine is used to treat epilepsy and seizures. For example Lorazepam.
Antidepressant medicine is used to treat depression. For example Fluoxetine, Paroxetine.
Antidiarrhoeal medicine is used to treat diarrhoea. For example, dicyclomine.
Antidote medicine is used to treat poisoning or a medicine overdose.
Antiemetic medicine is used to prevent or control vomiting. For example metoclopramide, cyclizine.
Antifungal medicine is used to treat fungal infections. For example, clotrimazole, ketoconazole.
Antihistamine medicine counteracts the action of histamine (a chemical released during an allergic reaction). For example loratadine, hydroxyzine.
Antihypertensive medicine reduce high blood pressure (hypertension).
Anti-inflammatory medicines reduce swelling and inflammation.
Antipruritic medicines are used to relieve and control itching.
Antipsychotic medicines are used to treat schizophrenia, mania and bipolar disorder. For example, chlorpromazine.
Antipyretic medicines are used to treat fever. For example, aspirin and paracetamol.
Antirheumatic medicine is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
Antiseptic is a substance that reduces the growth and development of germs.
Antiviral medicine is used to treat a viral infection. For example, interferon
The anus is the opening at the end of the digestive system where solid waste leaves the body.
Anxiety is an unpleasant feeling when you feel worried, uneasy or distressed about something that may or may not be about to happen.
Anxiolytic medicines are used to treat anxiety. For example benzodiazepines, busperone.
The appendix is a narrow muscular pocket in the abdomen that has no known function. It is attached to the large intestine.
Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
Audiometry is any testing that checks hearing.
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Bacteria are tiny, single-celled organisms that live in the body. Some can cause illness and disease and some others are good for you.
Benign refers to a condition that should not become life-threatening. In relation to tumours, benign means not cancerous.
Benzodiazepines are a group of medicines used to help sleep, reduce anxiety and as a muscle relaxant. For example, temazepam.
Beta blocker
Beta blockers are drugs that lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate, by reducing the amount of oxygen that the blood needs.
Bile is the fluid produced in the liver and stored in the gall bladder. It helps digest food.
Bile duct
The bile duct is the tube which carries bile from your liver to your gall bladder. Bile helps digest food.
A biopsy is a test that involves taking a small sample of tissue from the body so it can be examined.
A blackout is when a person can't remember a period of time even though they were conscious.
The bladder is a small organ near the pelvis that holds urine until it is ready to be passed from the body.
Blood supplies oxygen to the body and removes carbon dioxide. It is pumped around the body by the heart.
Blood count
A blood count is when a sample of blood is taken, usually from your arm, and then examined in a laboratory to look at the number of cells it has.
Blood donation
Blood donation is volunteering to give some of your blood to help people who need extra blood after or during surgery. The blood is taken from a vein
Blood test
During a blood test, a sample of blood is taken from a vein using a needle, so it can be examined in a laboratory.
Blood transfusion
A blood transfusion involves transferring blood into a person using a tube that goes directly into a vein in the arm.
Blood vessel
Blood vessels are the tubes in which blood travels to and from parts of the body. The three main types of blood vessels are veins, arteries and capillaries.
Bone marrow
Bone marrow is the soft, spongy tissue in the centre of bones that produces blood cells.
Bone marrow donation
Bone marrow donation is volunteering to give some of the tissue from the inside of your bones, to help someone else who's bone marrow has been damaged
The bowels are the part of the digestive system between the stomach and the anus that digests and absorbs food and liquid.
The brain controls thought, memory and emotion. It sends messages to the body controlling movement, speech and senses.
Breast lump
A breast lump may be a solid mass or a fluid-filled cyst found in the tissue of the breast. Only a small portion of breast lumps are cancerous. S
Bronchodilator medicines are used to widen the airways of the lungs to help with breathing difficulties. For example, salbutamol.
A bypass is when the flow of blood or other fluid is redirected, permanently because of a blockage in the body, or temporarily during an operation.
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A caesarean section is an operation to deliver a baby by cutting through the mothers abdomen to open the womb.
A carrier is a person or animal that spreads an organism that causes disease, but does not become ill themselves.
Cataract surgery
Cataract surgery is used to remove the natural lens in the eye and replace it with a clear, plastic lens.
A catheter is a thin, hollow tube usually made of rubber that is placed into the bladder to inject or remove fluid.
C. diff
C. diff is bacteria present in the gut of some people. Some types of antibiotics can cause C. diff bacteria to multiply and cause symptoms such as diarrhoea and fever.
Cervical smear test
During a cervical screening test, a sample of cells from a woman’s cervix is taken, and examined for abnormalities.
The cervix is at the lower end of the womb. It connects the womb with the vagina.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance made by the body that lives in blood and tissue. It is used to make bile acid, hormones and vitamin D.
Chorionic villus sampling
Chorionic villus sampling is a test during pregnancy to see if there are any genetic problems with the foetus. A small sample of tissue is taken from the placenta.
Chromosomes are the parts of a body cell that carry genes. A human cell usually has 23 pairs of chromosomes.
Chronic usually means a condition that continues for a long time or keeps coming back.
Circumcision is a simple operation in which the foreskin is snipped from the penis. This is done for religious reasons or because the foreskin is too tight to pull back.
Clinical trial
Clinical trials are research studies to test new types of treatments, preventions and diagnoses on patients.
A colposcopy is a procedure where a doctor uses a special magnifying lens, known as a colposcope to look at the cervix through the opening of the vagina.
A coma is a sleep like state when someone is unconscious for a long period of time.
Congenital means a condition that is present at birth- the condition could be hereditary or develop during pregnancy.
Congestion is an excess of fluid in part of the body, often causing a blockage.
Constipation is when you pass stools less often than usual, or when you are having difficulty going to the toilet because your stools are hard and small.
Contagious is when a disease or infection can be easily passed from one person to another through infection.
Contraindications are reasons not to use a course of particular treatment or medication.
Coronary angioplasty
Coronary angioplasty is surgery to open up arteries in the heart that have been blocked or narrowed by fatty deposits.
Corticosteroid is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the adrenal gland, or a synthetic hormone having similar properties. It is used to reduce inflammation, so reducing swelling and pain.
Counselling is guided discussion with an independent trained person, to help you find your own answers to a problem or issue.
A craving is a powerful, often uncontrollable urge for a particular thing.
To culture is to provide suitable conditions in a laboratory for a sample of living cells to grow and multiply.
A cyst is a fluid-filled sac or cavity in the body.
A cystoscopy is a procedure to view the inside of the bladder using a thin instrument with a light and a tiny telescope (cystoscope), which is inserted into the urethra.
Cytotoxic medicine is used to treat cancer.
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Decongestant medicine relieves congestion by reducing the swelling of the lining the nose and sinuses and drying up the mucous.
If you have a deficiency it means you are lacking in a particular substance needed by the body.
Deformity is used to describe a part of the body that is not the usual shape. This could develop during pregnancy or as a result of a condition or inj
Dehydration is an excessive loss of fluids and minerals from the body.
If someone is suffering from delusions, they have lost touch with reality and may experience hallucinations.
Dependence is a compulsion to continue taking a drug in order to feel good or to avoid feeling bad.
Depression is when you have feelings of extreme sadness, despair or inadequacy that last for a long time.
Dialysis is a way of removing unwanted waste and water from the body. Waste is drawn from the kidneys into a liquid solution, which is then removed fr
Diarrhoea is the passing of frequent watery stools when you go to the toilet.
Discharge is when a liquid such as pus oozes from a part of your body.
A disease is an illness or condition that interferes with normal body functions.
Diuretic medicine increases the production and flow of urine from the body, used to remove excess fluid from the body.
A donor is a person (living or dead) who donates blood, an organ or other body parts to another person in need.
Dose is a measured quantity of a medicine to be taken at any one time, such as a specified amount of medication.
Double vision
Double vision is to see two images of a single object instead of one.
A drip is used to pass fluid or blood into your bloodstream, through a plastic tube and needle that goes into one of your arteries or veins.
Drowsiness is when someone feels extremely tired and uncontrollably near to sleep.
Drug interaction
Drug interaction occurs when one medicine alters the effect of a second medicine.
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The eardrum is a thin layer of skin that separates the inner and outer ear. It vibrates so sound signals can be sent to the brain.
An ECG (electrocardiogram) is a test that measures electrical activity in the heart, and is used to identify heart problems.
Ectopic refers to a pregnancy that occurs outside of the womb, most commonly in the fallopian tubes.
EEG stands for electroencephalogram. It is a painless test that records the electrical messages from the brain.
An embolism is the sudden blockage of a blood vessel, usually by a blood clot or air bubble.
An embryo is an unborn baby, from when the female egg is fertilised by the sperm, until the eighth week of pregnancy.
Emollient is a lubricant (cream or lotion) that makes the skin feel softer and more pliable.
An enema is an injection of fluid into the large intestine / colon to empty the bowel. It can also be used to make the bowels show up more clearly in an X-ray.
Enteric-coated tablets
Enteric-coated tablets are a medicine that passes through the stomach into the intestines.
Enzymes are proteins that speed-up and control chemical reactions, such as digestion, in the body.
An epidemic is a sudden outbreak of disease that spreads through a population in a short amount of time.
An epidural is an anaesthetic injection given into the epidural space that surrounds the spinal cord, especially during labour, to numb the lower half
During childbirth a cut, called an episiotomy, is sometimes made in the mothers skin, between the vagina and anus. This enlarges the vaginal opening
Euthanasia is helping to end the life of someone who wants to die, often because they have an incurable disease. This is illegal in the UK and most countries.
Expectorant medicine helps you to cough up phlegm.
Expert patient
The expert patient programme is an NHS course for people living with long-term health conditions, to help them understand and manage their conditions.
Express refers to when a woman breastfeeds her baby, or squeezes milk from her breast using her hands or a pump.
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Fallopian tube
Fallopian tubes (also called oviducts or uterine tubes) are the two tubes that connect the uterus to the ovaries in the female reproductive system
Familial is when a non-inherited disease or condition tends to affect more members of the same family, than other families in the general population.
Fatigue is extreme tiredness and lack of energy.
A fever is when you have a high body temperature (over 38C or 100.4F).
A foetus is an unborn baby, from the eighth week of pregnancy until birth.
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Gall bladder
The gall bladder is a pear-shaped organ that stores bile until the body needs it for digestion. It is located under the liver.
Genes contain information that you inherit from your parents, such as eye or hair colour. They are carried by chromosomes.
Genetic is a term that refers to genes- the characteristics inherited from a family member.
Genetic disorder
A genetic disorder is a disorder caused by a fault in the genes. It is usually hereditary (runs in the family).
Genitals are the sex, or reproductive organs, visible on the outside of the body. In females this is the vulva, labia, and clitoris. In males this is the penis, scrotum and testicles.
Glucose (or dextrose) is a type of sugar that is used by the body to produce energy.
The groin is the area at the front of the body where the thigh meets the abdomen.
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Haematoma is a collection of blood in the tissues from a leaking blood vessel, which causes bruising.
To haemorrhage means to bleed or lose blood.
Hallucinations are a sensory experience in which a person sees, hears, or feels something or someone that isn't really there.
The heart is a muscular organ that pumps blood around the body.
Heart attack
A heart attack happens when there is a blockage in one of the arteries in the heart.
Heart bypass
A heart (coronary) bypass is surgery to redirect the flow of blood around a clogged artery, by creating a new pathway for the blood to travel in.
Heart valve
Heart valves are four sets of flaps that control the direction that blood pumps around the heart.
Heartburn, also known as indigestion, is a painful, burning discomfort felt in the chest, usually after eating.
High blood pressure
Hypertension is when the pressure of the blood in your bloodstream is regularly above 140/90 mmHG.
Hip replacement
Hip replacement surgery is used to replace the original, damaged hip joint with a new, artificial hip made from plastic, ceramic or metal.
Homeopathy is a complementary therapy. Homeopathy claims that if a substance that causes a symptom is taken in small amounts, it can cure a medical condition with the same symptoms. There is currently no clear clinical evidence that homeopathy works.
Hormone replacement therapy
Hormone replacement therapy or HRT involves giving hormones to women when the menopause starts, to replace those that the body no longer produces.
Hot flushes
A hot flush (also known as a hot flash) is a temporary feeling of heat in the face, neck and upper body, causing the skin to become flushed and sweaty.
Hyperactivity is a higher than normal level of activity and restlessness.
A hysterectomy is surgery to remove the uterus (womb), cervix and sometimes the fallopian tubes and ovaries.
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Immune system
The immune system is the body's defence system, which helps protect it from disease, bacteria and viruses.
Immunoglobin (antibodies) are a type of protein in the body, which fight off infection.
An incision is a cut made in the body with a surgical instrument during an operation.
Incontinence is when you pass urine (urinal incontinence), or stools or gas (faecal incontinence), because you cannot control your bladder or bowels.
Inflammation is the body's response to infection, irritation or injury, which causes redness, swelling, pain and sometimes a feeling of heat in the affected area.
Inhaler is a device for delivering a medicine as a vapour or powder into the lungs.
Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas that helps the body to control blood sugar levels.
Intravenous (IV) means the injection of blood, drugs or fluids into the bloodstream through a vein.
Invasive refers to tests or procedures which enter the body or puncture the skin. It can also refer to a tumour that invades healthy tissues.
IVF stands for in vitro fertilisation. An egg is surgically removed from a woman and fertilised by a sperm outside of the body.
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Jaundice is a condition that causes yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes, brought on by liver problems.
Joints are the connection point between two bones that allow movement.
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Kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs located at the back of the abdomen, which remove waste and extra fluid from the blood and pass them out of the body as urine.
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The larynx is the part of the throat that contains the vocal cords. It is used for breathing, swallowing and talking.
A lesion is an abnormal change in an organ or body tissue because of injury or disease.
Ligaments are made of fibrous tissue. They connect bone to bone, providing support while allowing flexibility and movement.
The liver is the largest organ in the body. Its main jobs are to secrete bile (to help digestion), detoxify the blood and change food into energy.
Local anaesthetic
A local anaesthetic is a drug that is injected by needle or applied as a cream, which causes a loss of feeling in a specific area of the body.
Loss of appetite
Loss of appetite is when you do not feel hungry or want to eat.
Lungs are a pair of organs in the chest that control breathing. They remove carbon dioxide from the blood and replace it with oxygen.
Lymph node
Lymph nodes are small oval tissues that remove unwanted bacteria and particles from the body. Part of the immune system.
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Malabsorption is when the intestines cannot absorb nutrients properly.
Malignant is a term used to describe a life-threatening or worsening condition. In the case of tumours, malignant means cancerous.
A mastectomy is an operation to remove a breast, and most of the skin covering it. It is usually done to treat or prevent breast cancer.
Mental refers to the processes in the mind.
Metabolism is the process the body uses to build and maintain itself. It involves breaking down food and nutrients to produce energy.
Metastasis is when cancer or disease spreads to other parts of the body.
Microbiology is the study of micro-organisms such as bacteria, viruses and fungi, and their effect on the body.
A migraine is type of recurring headache. It is usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound.
MMR stands for measles, mumps and rubella. It is a vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella by making the body produce antibodies that will fight off the viruses.
Morning sickness
Morning sickness refers to the nausea and vomiting experienced early in a pregnancy, not necessarily in the morning.
MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. It is the use of magnets and radio waves to take detailed pictures of inside the body.
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Nausea is when you feel like you are going to be sick.
A nodule is a small growth or lump of tissue.
Numbness refers to a lack of sensation in a part of the body.
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Obesity is when a person has an abnormally high amount of body fat.
The onset is the beginning or early stages of a condition or disease.
The origin is the place where something begins.
Ovaries are the pair of reproductive organs that produce eggs and sex hormones in females.
Oxygen is an odourless, colourless gas that makes up about 20% of the air we breathe.
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Pain is an unpleasant physical or emotional feeling that your body produces as a warning sign that it has been damaged.
Palpitations refer to an irregular heartbeat, or the sensation of skipped or extra heartbeats.
To panic is to be quickly overcome with a feeling of fear or worry.
Paresthesia is an odd sensation of burning, prickling, tingling, 'pins and needles' or creeping on the skin.
The pericardium is the thin, double- layered lining that surrounds the heart.
The peritoneum is the lining on the inside of the abdomen. It also covers and holds the digestive organs in place.
Physiotherapy is a treatment that uses physical movements, massage and exercise to relieve illness or injury.
Pituitary gland
The pituitary gland is a pea-sized gland in the centre of the head, which hangs below the brain and produces hormones.
A placebo is a treatment that has no physical effect on a person and is usually used in clinical trials to test the effects of new medicines and drugs
Plasma is the liquid part of blood, which holds other blood cells together.
Platelets are cells in the blood that control bleeding by plugging the broken blood vessel and helping the blood to clot.
A prognosis is a prediction of the possible outcome of a disease or condition.
Psychiatrists are doctors who treat mental and emotional health conditions, using talking and listening methods.
Psychiatry is health care that deals with the study, diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional health disorders.
Psychotherapy is the treatment of mental and emotional health conditions, using talking and listening.
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Radiation therapy uses x-rays to treat disease, especially cancer.
A recipient is a person that receives donated blood, tissue or an organ from another person.
Red cell
Red blood cells transport oxygen around the body and remove carbon dioxide.
Red eye
Red eye (sometimes called pink eye or conjunctivitis) is when the whites of the eyes become red and bloodshot as a result of an infection.
Remission is when the symptoms of a condition are reduced (partial remission) or go away completely (complete remission).
The retina is the nerve tissue lining the back of the eye, which senses light and colour and sends it to the brain as electrical impulses.
A rupture is a break or tear in an organ or tissue.
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Shock is a short-term state of body weakness that usually happens after an accident of injury, caused when there is an insufficient supply of oxygen t
Smear test
During a cervical screening test, a sample of cells from a woman's cervix is taken and examined for abnormalities.
Sneezing is an involuntary expulsion of air and bacteria from the nose and mouth.
Spinal cord
The spinal cord is a column of nervous tissue located in the spinal column. It sends messages between the brain and the rest of the body.
The spine supports the skeleton, and surrounds and protects the delicate spinal cord and nerves. It is made up of 33 bones called the vertebrae.
Sputum is a type of mucus brought up from the lungs when you cough.
SSRI (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) is a medicine used to treat depression.
Stem cells
Stem cells are cells that are at an early stage of development, so they still have the ability to turn into any type of cell in the body.
Steroids are types of chemicals found naturally in the body. They are also produced artificially to treat diseases.
Stimulants are substances that can change your mood, or produce a sense of alertness and energy. For example, caffeine.
The sac-like organ of the digestive system. It helps digest food by churning it and mixing it with acids to break it down into smaller pieces.
Stool (also known as faeces) is the solid waste matter that is passed from the body as a bowel movement.
Structure is the way something is put together and how its different parts relate to each other.
Suffocation happens when a person cannot breathe. It can lead to loss of consciousness and death.
A suppository is a medicine that is inserted either into the rectum (rectal suppository) or into the vagina (vaginal suppository) where it melts.
1. A suture is a seam-like join between the bones in the skull. 2. A suture is a stitch used to hold together a wound or cut.
A swab is a small piece of absorbent material, such as gauze or cotton, attached to the end of a stick or wire. Swabs are used to clean wounds, apply medicine, or to absorb samples of body fluids so that they can be tested.
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A tendon is a tough cord of tissue which connects muscle to bone.
Testicles are the two oval-shaped reproductive organs that make up part of the male genitals. They produce sperm and sex hormones.
Testosterone is a male sex hormone, which is involved in making sperm and sexual characteristics such as the voice getting deeper. Testosterone is also found in small amounts in women.
The thyroid is a jointed piece or cartilage that enclosed the vocal cords and forms the "Adam apple" in men.
Thyroid gland
The thyroid gland in the throat makes hormones to help control growth and metabolism (the process that turns the food we eat into energy).
Body tissue is made up of groups of cells that perform a specific job, such as protecting the body against infection, producing movement or storing fat.
A tracheostomy is a small opening in the windpipe to open up the airway. A tube can be inserted into the hole if the patient needs more help to breath
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An ulcer is a sore break in the skin, or on the inside lining of the body.
Ultrasound scans are a way of producing pictures of inside the body using sound waves.
Ultrasound scan
Ultrasound scans are a way of producing pictures of inside the body using sound waves.
The urethra is a tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.
Urinalysis / UA is when a urine sample is tested, commonly to check for any signs of infection, or protein or sugar levels.
Urinary catheterisation
Urinary catheterisation involves placing a catheter (a thin, hollow tube usually made of rubber) into the bladder to inject or remove fluid.
The uterus (also known as the womb) is a hollow, pear-shaped organ in a woman where a baby grows during pregnancy.
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Vaccination or immunisation is usually given by an injection that makes the body's immune system produce antibodies that will fight off a virus.
Veins are blood vessels that carry blood from the rest of the body back to the heart.
Vomiting is when you bring up the contents of your stomach through your mouth.
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Wheezing is the whistling sound made during breathing when the airways are blocked or compressed.
White cell
White blood cells are the part of blood that fight infection and disease.
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An X-ray is a painless way of producing pictures of inside the body using radiation.
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