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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The Digestive Diseases Dictionary R - Z

R

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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.
radiologist (RAY-dee-OL-uh-jist):
a doctor who specializes in medical imaging.
radionuclide bleeding scans (RAY-dee-oh-NOO-klyd) (BLEED-ing) (skanz):
tests to find bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. A doctor injects radioactive material into the patient's body to highlight organs in pictures taken with a special camera.
rectal prolapse (REK-tuhl) (PROH-laps):
a condition in which the rectum drops down through the anus.
rectocele (REK-toh-seel):
a condition in which the rectum protrudes through the vagina.
rectum (REK-tuhm):
the lower end of the large intestine leading to the anus. The rectum stores stool prior to a bowel movement.
resection (ree-SEK-shuhn):
the surgical removal of an organ.
retching (RECH-ing):
dry vomiting.
rotavirus (ROH-tuh-VY-ruhss):
a virus that causes gastroenteritis. The virus is the leading cause of gastroenteritis among infants and young children. Rotavirus infections are most common in infants 3 to 15 months old. Doctors can vaccinate children against the virus with several doses starting when children are 2 months of age. Examples of the rotavirus vaccine are RotaTeq and Rotarix. See viral gastroenteritis.
rupture (RUHP-chur):
a break or tear in any organ or soft tissue.

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saliva (suh-LY-vuh):
a fluid produced by the salivary glands that moistens food in the mouth so it moves more easily through the esophagus into the stomach. Saliva also contains an enzyme that begins to break down the starch from food into molecules called maltose.
Salmonella (SAL-moh-NEL-uh):
a group of bacteria that may cause intestinal infection and diarrhea. Salmonella is found in many foods, including raw and undercooked meat, poultry, dairy products, and seafood. See foodborne illness and gastroenteritis.
sarcoidosis (SAR-koy-DOH-siss):
a condition that causes granulomas in the liver, lungs, and spleen.
sclerotherapy (SKLAIR-oh-THAIR-uh-pee):
a method used to stop bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract. A doctor inserts a needle through an endoscope to send hardening agents to the place that is bleeding.
secretin (seh-KREE-tin):
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.
segmentation (SEG-men-TAY-shuhn):
the process by which muscles in the intestines move food and wastes through the body.
serotonin agonists (SAIR-oh-TOH-nin) (AG-on-ists):
medicines that help the muscles in the intestines work correctly when low levels of serotonin cause constipation. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found mostly in the gastrointestinal tract. See laxatives.
shigellosis (SHIG-uh-LOH-siss):
an infection with Shigella, a bacterium spread from person to person that is present in the stools of people who are infected. Improper hand washing can cause contamination of food that people handle or prepare. Shigellosis usually causes a high fever, acute diarrhea, and dehydration. See foodborne illness and gastroenteritis.
short bowel syndrome (short) (boul) (SIN-drohm):
a group of problems related to poor absorption of nutrients. The condition typically occurs after removal of half or more of the small intestine. Symptoms include diarrhea, weakness, and weight loss. Also called short gut syndrome.
short stature (short) (STACH-yoor):
a person who is significantly below average height, possibly because of conditions such as malnutrition or Crohn's disease.
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.
sigmoidoscope (sig-MOY-doh-skohp):
a long, flexible, narrow tube with a light and tiny camera on one end.
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 intestinal bacterial overgrowth (smal) (in-TESS-tih-nuhl) (bak-TIHR-ee-uhl) (OH-vur-grohth):
an increase in the number of bacteria or a change in the type of bacteria in the small intestine. These bacteria can produce extra gas and may also cause diarrhea and weight loss.
small intestine (smal) (in-TESS-tin):
the tube-shaped organ between the stomach and large intestine. Most food digestion and nutrient absorption take place in the small intestine. The small intestine measures about 20 feet long in adults and includes the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum.
small intestine mucosal biopsy (smal) (in-TESS-tin) (myoo-KOH-suhl) (BY-op-see):
a biopsy of the mucosa of the small intestine used to diagnose celiac disease.
solitary rectal ulcer (SAH-luh-TAIR-ee) (REK-tuhl) (UHL-sur):
a rare type of ulcer in the rectum that can develop from straining to have a bowel movement.
somatostatin (SOH-muh-toh-STAT-in):
a hormone in the pancreas that helps the body know when to make the hormones insulin, glucagon, gastrin, secretin, and renin.
spasms (SPA-zumz):
muscle movements, such as those in the colon, that cause pain, cramps, and diarrhea.
sphincter (SFINGK-tur):
a ringlike muscle that opens and closes to let fluid or other matter pass into or out of an organ. An example is the muscle between the esophagus and 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.
spleen:
the organ that filters 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.
steatorrhea (STEE-uh-toh-REE-uh):
a condition in which the body cannot absorb fat. The condition causes a buildup of fat in the stool and loose, greasy, foul-smelling bowel movements.
steatosis (STEE-uh-TOH-siss):
the buildup of fat in liver cells, commonly caused by alcoholism. Other causes include obesity, diabetes, and pregnancy. Also called fatty liver.
stenosis (steh-NOH-siss):
the abnormal narrowing of a normal opening. This condition can occur in the esophagus, intestines, and anus.
stimulant laxatives (STIM-yoo-luhnt) (LAK-suh-tivz):
medicines that cause the intestines to contract, which moves stool. Examples are senna (Senokot) and bisacodyl (Correctol, Dulcolax). Stimulants may relieve constipation that is severe or has not responded to other treatments. See laxatives.
stoma (STOH-muh):
an opening in the abdomen that is created by an operation called an ostomy. The surgeon attaches the intestine to the opening. A person attaches a pouch to the stoma and wears the pouch outside the body to collect stool. People who have had a continent ileostomy do not need a pouch.
Drawing of a stoma.
Stoma
stomach (STUHM-uhk):
the organ between the esophagus and the small intestine. The stomach slowly pumps food and liquids into the small intestine, which then absorbs needed nutrients.
stool:
solid waste that passes through the rectum as a bowel movement. Stools are undigested food, bacteria, mucus, and dead cells. Also called feces.
stool test:
an analysis of a sample of stool.
stress ulcer (stress) (UHL-sur):
an ulcer in the gastrointestinal tract resulting from physical injury such as surgery, major burns, or a critical head injury.
stricture (STRIK-choor):
the abnormal narrowing of a body passage. Strictures of the intestine are common in people with Crohn's disease. Also called stenosis.
Drawing of a stricture, or narrowing, of the esophagus with the esophagus, stricture, and stomach labeled.
Stricture
submucosa (SUHB-myoo-KOH-suh):
a layer of connective tissue underneath the mucosa in the gastrointestinal tract.

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tenesmus (teh-NEZ-muhss):
a feeling of a continuous need to have a bowel movement. The condition may be painful and associated with cramps and involuntary straining. Tenesmus is common in conditions affecting the rectum, such as ulcerative colitis.
tracheoesophageal fistula (TRAY-kee-oh-ee-SOF-uh-JEE-uhl) (FISS-tyoo-luh):
a condition that occurs when a connection between the esophagus and the trachea, or windpipe, causes food and saliva to enter the lungs. Cancer most often causes the condition; however, the condition can also be present at birth.
transverse colon (tranz-VURSS) (KOH-lon):
the part of the colon between the ascending colon and descending colon that goes across the abdomen from right to left.
traveler's diarrhea (TRAV-uh-lurz) (DY-uh-REE-uh):
diarrhea caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Traveler's diarrhea can be a problem for people traveling to developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. See foodborne illness and gastroenteritis.
triple therapy (TRIH-puhl) (THAIR-uh-pee):
a combination of three medicines used to treat H. pylori infection and peptic ulcers. Medicines that stop the body from making acid are often included in triple therapy to relieve symptoms.
tropical sprue (TRAH-pih-kuhl) (sproo):
a condition caused by inflammation of the small intestine due to certain types of bacteria. The condition impairs the absorption of nutrients and can cause fever, diarrhea, weight loss, and malnutrition. The condition occurs in people who live in or frequently visit tropical areas.

U

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ulcer (UHL-sur):
a sore on the skin's surface or on the stomach or intestinal lining.
ulcerative colitis (UHL-sur-uh-tiv) (koh-LY-tiss):
a chronic disease that causes inflammation and ulcers in the inner lining of the large intestine. Ulcerative colitis is one of two main forms of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract named inflammatory bowel disease. The other form is called Crohn's disease.
ulcerative jejunoileitis (UHL-sur-uh-tiv) (jeh-JOO-noh-IL-ee-EYE-tiss):
a severe complication of celiac disease causing ulcers and strictures of the small intestine.
ultrasound (UHL-truh-sound):
a test that uses a device, called a transducer, that bounces safe, painless sound waves off organs to create an image of their structure.
upper GI endoscopy (UHP-pur) (JEE-EYE) (en-DOSS-kuh-pee):
a procedure that involves using an endoscope to see the upper GI tract. Also called upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. See endoscopy.
upper GI series (UHP-pur) (JEE-EYE) (SIHR-eez):
a test done to look at the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. The patient stands or sits in front of an x-ray machine and drinks barium. Barium makes the upper GI tract show up on x rays. Also called upper gastrointestinal series or barium meal.
upper GI tract (UHP-pur) (JEE-EYE) (trakt):
the part of the gastrointestinal tract that includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. Also called upper gastrointestinal tract.

V

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vagotomy (vay-GOT-uh-mee):
surgery to cut the vagus nerve. This procedure causes the stomach to produce less acid, yet it also causes the stomach to empty abnormally.
vagus nerve (VAY-guhss) (nurv):
the nerve in the stomach that controls production of stomach acid and stomach emptying.
valve:
one or more flaps of tissue in the lining of an organ that controls the flow of fluid and prevents backflow.
varices (VAIR-ih-seez):
enlarged blood vessels, such as those that form in the esophagus due to portal hypertension.
villi (VIL-eye):
tiny, fingerlike projections on the surface of the small intestine that help with nutrient absorption.
Drawing of a seiction of the small intestine with detail of villi.
Villi
viral gastroenteritis (VY-ruhl) (GASS-troh-en-tur-EYE-tiss):
inflammation of the lining of the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. Several different viruses can cause viral gastroenteritis, which is highly contagious and extremely common. Viral gastroenteritis causes millions of cases of diarrhea each year.
viral hepatitis (VY-ruhl) (HEP-uh-TY-tiss):
a condition caused by a virus, or infection, that causes liver disease and inflammation of the liver. Five different viruses most commonly cause this form of hepatitis. See hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D, and hepatitis E.
virtual colonoscopy (VUR-choo-uhl) (KOH-lon-OSS-kuh-pee):
a procedure that uses a combination of x rays and computer technology to create images of the rectum and entire colon. Virtual colonoscopy can show inflamed tissue, ulcers, and abnormal growths. Also called computerized tomography (CT) colonography.
virus (VY-ruhss):
tiny capsules, much smaller than bacteria, that contain genetic material. Viruses cause infections that can lead to sickness and spread from person to person.
volvulus (VOL-vyoo-luhss):
a condition that occurs when the intestine twists around itself and the mesentery that supports pit, creating an obstruction. The area of intestine above the obstruction continues to function and fills with food, fluid, and gas. The condition can be life threatening.
Drawing of the intestine showing volvulus, or twisted intestine.
Volvulus
vomiting (VOM-it-ing):
forceful release of stomach contents through the mouth.

W

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wafer (WAY-fur):
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.
webs:
thin, membranous structures within the lining of the esophagus that can narrow the space in the interior of the esophagus, called the esophageal lumen.
Top: drawing of a cross section of a normal esophagus. Bottom: drawing of a cross section of an esophagus with webs.
Normal esophagus and esophagus with webs
Wilson disease (WIL-suhn) (dih-ZEEZ):
a genetic disorder that prevents the body from getting rid of extra copper. Copper builds up in the liver, brain, eyes, and other organs. Over time, high copper levels can cause life-threatening organ damage.

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x ray (EKS-ray):
a picture created using radiation and recorded on film or on a computer. The amount of radiation used is small.

Z

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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 rare disorder characterized by one or more tumors in the pancreas, duodenum, or both. The tumors cause the stomach to make too much acid, leading to peptic ulcers in the duodenum. The tumors are sometimes cancerous and spread to other areas of the body.


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Page last updated May 14, 2014


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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