National Digestive Diseases
Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC)

A service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), National Institutes of Health (NIH)

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Digestive Diseases Dictionary R - Z


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radiation colitis
(RAY-dee-AY-shuhn) (koh-LY-tiss)

damage to the colon from radiation therapy.

radiation enteritis
(RAY-dee-AY-shuhn) (EN-tur-EYE-tiss)

damage to the small intestine from radiation therapy.

radionuclide bleeding scans
(RAY-dee-oh-NOO-klyd) (BLEED-ing) (skanz)

tests to find gastrointestinal bleeding. Radioactive material is injected in the body to highlight organs on a special camera. Also called scintigraphy.

rapid gastric emptying
(RA-pid) (GASS-trik) (EMP-tee-ing)

a condition that occurs when food moves too fast from the stomach to the small intestine. Symptoms include nausea, pain, weakness, and sweating. This syndrome most often affects people who have had stomach operations. Also called dumping syndrome or postgastrectomy syndrome.

rectal manometry
(REK-tuhl) (muh-NOM-uh-tree)

a test that uses a thin tube and balloon to measure pressure and movements of the rectal and anal sphincter muscles. It is used most often to diagnose chronic constipation and fecal incontinence.

rectal prolapse
(REK-tuhl) (proh-LAPS)

a condition in which the rectum slips so that it protrudes from the anus.


the lower end of the large intestine leading to the anus.


a condition that occurs when gastric juices or small amounts of food from the stomach flow back into the esophagus and mouth. Also called regurgitation.

reflux esophagitis
(REE-fluhks) (uh-sof-uh-JY-tiss)

irritation of the esophagus occurring when stomach contents flow back into the esophagus. See gastroesophageal reflux disease.

regional enteritis
(REE-juhn-uhl) (EN-tur-EYE-tiss)

see Crohn's disease.


see reflux.


the surgical removal of an organ.


dry vomiting.


an operation to modify the effects of a previous operation.


the most common cause of infectious diarrhea in the United States, especially in children less than 2 years old. Children between the ages of 6 to 32 weeks can be vaccinated against the virus. (Brand name: RotaTeq.)


a break or tear in any organ or soft tissue.


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a mixture of water, protein, and salts produced in the mouth that makes food easy to swallow and begins the process of digestion.


a bacterium that may cause intestinal infection and diarrhea. See gastroenteritis.


a condition that causes granulomas in the liver, lungs, and spleen.

Schatzki's ring
(SHAHT-skeez) (ring)

see lower esophageal ring.


see radionuclide bleeding scans.


a method of stopping upper gastrointestinal bleeding. A needle is inserted through an endoscope to send hardening agents to the place that is bleeding.


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


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

serotonin agonists
(SAIR-oh-TOH-nin) (AG-on-ists)

these drugs help the muscles in the intestines work correctly when a slow-moving digestive system is caused by low levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found mostly in the digestive tract. See laxatives.


an infection with the bacterium Shigella, which usually causes a high fever, acute diarrhea, and dehydration. See gastroenteritis.

short bowel syndrome
(short) (boul) (SIN-drohm)

problems related to absorbing nutrients after removal of part of the small intestine. Symptoms include diarrhea, weakness, and weight loss. Also called short gut syndrome.

short gut syndrome
(short) (guht) (SIN-drohm)

see short bowel syndrome.

short stature
(short) (STACH-yoor)

a person who is significantly below the average height, possibly due to a disease or medical condition such as malnutrition.

Shwachman's syndrome
(SHWAHK-muhnz) (SIN-drohm)

a digestive and respiratory disorder in children that causes a lack of certain digestive enzymes and few white blood cells. Symptoms may include diarrhea and short stature.

sigmoid colon
(SIG-moyd) (KOH-lon)

the lower part of the colon that empties into the rectum.


looking into the sigmoid colon and rectum with a flexible or rigid tube called a sigmoidoscope.

sitz bath
(sits) (bath)

a special plastic tub that allows a person to sit in a few inches of warm water to help relieve the discomfort of hemorrhoids or anal fissures.

small bowel enema
(smal) (boul) (EN-uh-muh)

x rays of the small intestine taken as barium liquid passes through the organ. Also called small bowel follow-through. See lower GI series.

small bowel follow-through
(smal) (boul) (FAH-loh-THROO)

see small bowel enema.

small intestine
(smal) (in-TESS-tin)

the organ where most digestion occurs. It measures about 20 feet and includes the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum.

small intestine mucosal biopsy
(smal) (in-TESS-tin) (myoo-KOH-suhl) (BY-op-see)

the standard test for diagnosing celiac disease.

solitary rectal ulcer
(SAH-luh-TAIR-ee) (REK-tuhl) (UHL-sur)

a rare type of ulcer in the rectum that can develop because of straining to have a bowel movement.


a hormone in the pancreas that helps the body know when to make the hormones insulin, glucagon, gastrin, secretin, and renin.


muscle movements, such as those in the colon, that cause pain, cramps, and diarrhea.

spastic colon
(SPASS-tik) (KOH-lon)

see irritable bowel syndrome.


a ringlike band of muscle that opens and closes an opening in the body. An example is the muscle between the esophagus and the stomach known as the lower esophageal sphincter.

sphincter of Oddi
(SFINGK-tur) (uhv) (OD-ee)

the muscle between the common bile duct and pancreatic ducts.


the organ that cleans blood and makes white blood cells. White blood cells attack bacteria and other foreign cells.

splenic flexure syndrome
(SPLEN-ik) (FLEK-shur) (SIN-drohm)

a condition that occurs when air or gas collects in the upper parts of the colon and causes pain in the upper left abdomen. The pain often moves to the left chest and may be confused with heart problems.

squamous epithelium
(SKWAY-muhss) (EP-ih-THEE-lee-uhm)

tissue in an organ such as the mouth or esophagus that consists of layers of flat cells.


a condition in which the body cannot absorb fat. It causes a buildup of fat in the stool and loose, greasy, and foul-smelling bowel movements.


the buildup of fat in liver cells, commonly caused by alcoholism. Other causes include obesity, diabetes, and pregnancy. Also called fatty liver.


the abnormal narrowing of a normal opening in the esophagus, intestines, or anus.

stimulant laxatives
(STIM-yoo-luhnt) (LAK-suh-tivz)

drugs that cause rhythmic muscle contractions in the intestines. (Brand names: Senokot, Correctol, Dulcolax.) See laxatives.


an opening in the abdomen that is created by an operation (ostomy). It is usually covered by an external pouch that collects stool. A pouch is not needed for a continent ileostomy.

Drawing of a stoma. A stoma is a surgically created abdominal opening used to release stool from the body.


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

stomach ulcer
(STUHM-uhk) (UHL-sur)

see gastric ulcer.


see feces.

stress ulcer
(stress) (UHL-sur)

an upper gastrointestinal ulcer resulting from physical injury such as surgery, major burns, or a critical head injury.


the abnormal narrowing of a body opening. Also called stenosis. See esophageal stricture and pyloric stenosis.

Drawing of a stricture, or narrowing, of the esophagus with the esophagus, stricture, and stomach labeled.


a layer of connective tissue underneath the mucosa, a layer of smooth muscle.


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see tracheoesophageal fistula.


a feeling of a continuous need to have a bowel movement. It may be painful and associated with cramps and involuntary straining. It is common in conditions affecting the rectum, such as ulcerative colitis.

total parenteral nutrition (TPN)
(TOH-tuhl) (puh-REN-tur-uhl) (noo-TRISH-uhn)

see parenteral nutrition.


see total parenteral nutrition.

tracheoesophageal fistula (TEF)
(TRAY-kee-oh-ee-SOF-uh-JEE-uhl) (FISS-tyoo-luh)

a condition that occurs when there is a connection between the esophagus and the trachea, or windpipe, causing food and saliva to enter the lungs. It is most often caused by cancer.

transverse colon
(tranz-VURSS) (KOH-lon)

the part of the colon that goes across the abdomen from right to left.

traveler's diarrhea
(TRAV-lurz) (DY-uh-REE-uh)

an infection caused by ingesting unclean food or drink. It often occurs during travel outside of one's own country. See gastroenteritis.

triple therapy
(TRIH-puhl) (THAIR-uh-pee)

a combination of three antibiotics used to treat Helicobacter pylori infection and ulcers. Drugs that stop the body from making acid are often added to the triple therapy to relieve symptoms.

tropical sprue
(TRAH-pih-kuhl) (sproo)

a condition of unknown cause producing abnormalities in the lining of the small intestine that prevent the body from absorbing food normally.

tube feeding

see enteral nutrition.


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a sore on the skin's surface or on the stomach or intestinal lining.

ulcerative colitis
(UHL-sur-uh-tiv) (koh-LY-tiss)

a disease that causes ulcers and irritation in the inner lining of the colon and rectum. See inflammatory bowel disease.

ulcerative jejunoileitis
(UHL-sur-uh-tiv) (jeh-JOO-noh-IL-ee-EYE-tiss)

a severe complication of celiac disease causing ulcerations and strictures of the small intestine.

upper GI endoscopy
(UHP-pur) (JEE-EYE) (en-DOSS-kuh-pee)

looking into the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum with an endoscope. See endoscopy.

upper GI series
(UHP-pur) (JEE-EYE) (SIHR-eez)

see barium meal.

urea breath test
(yoo-REE-uh) (breth) (test)

a test used to detect Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection. The test detects the presence of urease, an enzyme made by H. pylori.


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an operation to cut the vagus nerve. This procedure causes the stomach to produce less acid but also to empty abnormally.

vagus nerve
(VAY-guhss) (nurv)

the nerve in the stomach that controls the making of stomach acid and stomach emptying.


one or more flaps of tissue in the lining of an organ that controls the flow of fluid and prevents backflow.


stretched veins such as those that form in the esophagus due to cirrhosis.


see virtual colonoscopy.


tiny, fingerlike projections on the surface of the small intestine that help with nutrient absorption.

Drawing on the left shows the inner surface of the small intestine. Drawing on the right shows a microscopic view of villi in the small intestine. Labels point to the small intestine and the villi.

viral gastroenteritis
(VY-ruhl) (GASS-troh-en-tur-EYE-tiss)

an intestinal infection caused by several viruses, which is highly contagious and causes millions of cases of diarrhea each year.

viral hepatitis
(VY-ruhl) (HEP-uh-TY-tiss)

hepatitis caused by a virus. Five different viruses (A, B, C, D, and E) most commonly cause this form of hepatitis. Other rare viruses may also cause viral hepatitis. See hepatitis.

Viral Hepatitis

Type of Hepatitis    Mode of Transmission

hepatitis A

  • contaminated food and water

hepatitis B

  • sexual intercourse
  • sharing infected needles
  • blood transfusion
  • Mother to newborn at birth

hepatitis C

  • sexual intercourse
  • sharing infected needles
  • blood transfusion

hepatitis D

  • sharing infected needles

hepatitis E

  • contaminated water from poor sanitation.

virtual colonoscopy (VC)
(VUR-chuh-wuhl) (KOH-lon-OSS-kuh-pee)

a procedure that uses x rays and computers to produce two- and three-dimensional images of the colon and displays them on a screen. A VC can be performed with computerized tomography (CT), also called a CT scan, or with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).


a twisting of the stomach or large intestine. It can be caused by the stomach being in the wrong position, a foreign substance, or abnormal joining of one part of the stomach or intestine to another. Volvulus can lead to blockage, perforation, peritonitis, and poor blood flow.

Drawing of the intestine showing volvulus, or twisted intestine. A label points to the twisted intestine.


forceful release of stomach contents through the mouth.


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a molded plate that is part of an ostomy pouch system.

watermelon stomach
(WAH-tur-MEH-luhn) (STUHM-uhk)

parallel red sores in the stomach that look like the stripes on a watermelon.


thin membranous structures within the lining of the esophagus that can narrow the esophageal lumen, or space in the interior of the esophagus.

Drawing on the top of a cross section of a normal esophagus, labeled normal. Drawing on the bottom of a cross section of an esophagus with webs, labeled webs.
Normal esophagus and esophagus with webs.

Wilson disease
(WIL-suhn) (dih-ZEEZ)

an inherited disorder in which too much copper builds up in the liver and is slowly released into other parts of the body. The overload can cause severe liver and brain damage if not treated with medication.


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dry mouth. Xerostomia can be caused by a number of conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, kidney failure, infection with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), drugs used to treat depression, and radiation treatment for mouth or throat cancer.


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Zenker's diverticulum
(ZEN-kurz) (DY-vur-TIK-yoo-luhm)

pouches in the esophagus caused by increased pressure in and around the esophagus.

Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
(ZOL-in-jur-EL-ih-suhn) (SIN-drohm)

a group of symptoms that occur when a tumor called a gastrinoma forms. The tumor, which can be cancerous, releases large amounts of the hormone called gastrin. The gastrin causes too much acid in the duodenum, resulting in ulcers, bleeding, and perforation.

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Page last updated May 10, 2012

The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health.

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