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 L - P

L

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z



lactase (LAK-tayss):
an enzyme produced by the small intestine. Lactase breaks down lactose into two simpler forms of sugar: glucose and galactose.
lactase deficiency (LAK-tayss) (duh-FISH-en-see):
a condition in which the small intestine produces low levels of lactase and cannot digest much lactose. Lactase deficiency may cause lactose malabsorption.
lactase nonpersistence (LAK-tayss)(NON-pur-SISS-tuhntss):
a type of lactase deficiency in which lactase production declines over time. This condition is the most common type of lactase deficiency. Also called primary lactase deficiency.
lactose (LAK-tohss):
a sugar found in milk and milk products. Lactase breaks down lactose into two simpler forms of sugar: glucose and galactose.
lactose intolerance (LAK-tohss) (in-TOL-ur-uhnss):
a condition in which people have digestive symptoms—such as bloating, diarrhea, and gas—after consuming milk or milk products. Lactase deficiency and lactose malabsorption cause lactose intolerance.
lactose malabsorption (LAK-tohss)(MAL-ab-SORP-shuhn):
a condition that occurs when undigested lactose passes to the colon, where bacteria break down lactose and create fluid and gas.
laparoscope (LAP-uh-roh-skohp):
a thin tube with a tiny video camera attached that a doctor inserts through a small incision to look inside the body to view the surface of organs and tissues.
laparoscopic cholecystectomy (LAP-uh-roh-SKOP-ik) (KOH-lee-siss-TEK-toh-mee):
surgery to remove the gallbladder. The surgeon inserts a laparoscope and other instruments through small holes made in the abdomen. While watching a monitor, the surgeon removes the gallbladder through one of the small holes.
Drawing of laparoscopic cholecystectomy. A surgeon and assistants hold the laparoscope and view the procedure on a monitor.
Laparoscopic cholecystectomy
laparoscopy (LAP-uh-ROSS-kuh-pee):
a procedure that uses a laparoscope to view organs and tissues inside the body and to repair or remove organs.
laparotomy (LAP-uh-ROT-oh-mee):
surgery to open the abdomen.
large intestine (larj) (in-TESS-tin):
the part of the intestine that includes the appendix, cecum, colon, and rectum. The large intestine absorbs water from stool and changes it from a liquid to a solid form. The large intestine is 5 feet long in adults.
laxatives (LAK-suh-tivz):
medicines that loosen stool and increase bowel movements and can relieve constipation. Examples are psyllium fiber (Metamucil), magnesium hydroxide (Milk of Magnesia), and docusate sodium (Colace).
lazy colon (LAY-zee) (KOH-lon):
a lack of normal muscle tone or strength in the colon. The condition may result in chronic constipation. Also called atonic colon.
levator syndrome (leh-VAY-tur) (SIN-drohm):
a feeling of fullness in the anus and rectum with occasional pain caused by muscle spasms.
liver (LIV-ur):
an organ that has many functions, including making blood proteins and bile, storing energy and nutrients, fighting infection, and removing harmful chemicals from the blood.
liver failure (LIV-ur) (FAYL-yoor):
a condition that occurs when the liver stops working properly.
liver function tests (LIV-ur) (FUHNK-shuhn) (tests):
blood tests that can show elevated levels of liver enzymes, which may indicate problems in the liver or biliary tract. Also called liver enzyme tests.
liver transplant (LIV-ur) (TRANZ-plant):
surgery to remove a diseased or an injured liver and replace it with a healthy liver or a segment of a liver from another person, called a donor.
loop ileostomy (loop) (IL-ee-OSS-tuh-mee):
a temporary ileostomy in which a surgeon pulls a loop of the small intestine through the abdominal wall to create a stoma.
lower esophageal ring (LOH-wur) (uh-SOF-uh-JEE-uhl) (ring):
an abnormal ring of tissue that may partially block the lower esophagus. Also called Schatzki's ring.
lower esophageal sphincter (LOH-wur) (uh-SOF-uh-JEE-uhl) (SFINGK-tur):
the muscle that acts as a valve between the esophagus and stomach. When a person swallows, this muscle relaxes to let food pass from the esophagus to the stomach. The sphincter normally stays closed at other times to keep stomach contents from flowing back into the esophagus.
Drawing of the lower esophageal sphincter with the esophagus, lower esophageal sphincter, stomach, stomach acid, and small intestine labeled.
Lower esophageal sphincter
lower GI series (LOH-wur) (JEE-EYE) (SIHR-eez):
an x-ray exam used to look at the large intestine. The health care provider will fill the large intestine with barium, making the intestine show up more clearly on x rays. Also called lower gastrointestinal series or barium enema x ray.
lower GI tract (LOH-wur) (JEE-EYE) (trakt):
the last part of the gastrointestinal tract that consists of the large intestine and anus. Also called lower gastrointestinal tract.
lymphangiectasia (lim-FAN-jee-ek-TAY-zee-uh):
an obstruction of lymph drainage from the small intestine causing diarrhea and malabsorption.
lymphocytic colitis (LIM-foh-SIT-ik) (koh-LY-tiss):
a type of microscopic colitis, which causes inflammation of the colon.

M

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magnetic resonance imaging (mag-NET-ik) (REZ-oh-nuhnss) (IM-uhj-ing)
a test that takes pictures of the body's internal organs and soft tissues without using x rays. With most magnetic resonance imaging machines, the patient will lie on a table that slides into a tunnel-shaped device that may be open ended or closed at one end. Also called MRI.
Drawing of a female patient lying in a magnetic resonance imaging machine. Circular magnets surround the patient.
Magnetic resonance imaging
malabsorption (MAL-ab-SORP-shuhn):
inability of the small intestine to absorb nutrients from foods, resulting in deficiencies of protein, calories, and vitamins.
Mallory-Weiss tear (MAL-uh-ree-WYSS) (tair):
a tear in the lower end of the esophagus caused by severe vomiting.
malnutrition (MAL-noo-TRISH-uhn):
a condition that develops when the body does not get the right amount of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients it needs to maintain healthy tissues and organ function.
malrotation (MAL-roh-TAY-shuhn):
a condition that occurs when the intestine does not rotate completely or correctly during gestation—the 9-month period between conception and birth. Malrotation can cause serious medical problems in some infants and children, while others may never develop problems. Malrotation rarely occurs in adults.
Meckel's diverticulum (MEK-uhlz) (DY-vur-TIK-yoo-luhm):
a bulge in the small intestine that is a remnant of the umbilical cord that persists in about 2 percent of people. The condition can cause bleeding or obstruction.
megacolon (MEG-uh-KOH-lon):
severe swelling of the colon, rectum, or both, with constipation or intestinal obstruction. Megacolon can result from one of several conditions, such as Hirschsprung disease.
melena (meh-LEE-nuh):
blood in the stool.
Ménétrier disease (MAYN-ay-tree-AY) (dih-ZEEZ):
a condition that causes the ridges along the inside of the stomach wall—called rugae—to enlarge, forming giant folds in the stomach lining. Also called hypoproteinemic hypertrophic gastropathy.
mesentery (MESS-en-TUR-ee):
tissue that holds the intestines in place.
metabolism (muh-TAB-oh-lizm):
the way cells change food into energy after food is digested and absorbed into the blood.
microbiome (MY-kroh-BY-ohm):
bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract that help with digestion. Also called gut flora.
microscopic colitis (MY-kroh-SKOP-ik) (koh-LY-tiss):
inflammation of the colon that is only visible using a microscope. Microscopic colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease.
microvillus inclusion disease (my-kroh-VIL-uhss) (in-KLOO-zhuhn) (dih-ZEEZ):
a life-threatening condition characterized by severe diarrhea beginning the first few days after birth.
motility (moh-TIL-ih-tee):
the movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract.
mucosa (myoo-KOH-suh):
the lining of the mouth, stomach, and small intestine that absorbs nutrients and fluid, forms a barrier, and produces mucus.
mucosal protective drugs (myoo-KOH-suhl) (proh-TEK-tiv) (druhgz):
medicines that protect the stomach lining from acid. Examples are sucralfate (Carafate) and sodium alginate (Gaviscon).
mucus (MYOO-kuhss):
a clear fluid made by the gastrointestinal tract that coats and protects the mucosa.

N

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nausea (NAW-zee-uh):
the feeling of needing to throw up, or vomit. See vomiting.
necrosis (nuh-KROH-siss):
death of cells or tissues.
necrotizing enterocolitis (NEH-kruh-TY-zing) (EN-tur-oh-koh-LY-tiss):
infection and inflammation of the intestine that causes death of all or part of the intestine. The condition is life threatening and occurs mainly in premature newborns and infants with other illnesses.
neonatal hepatitis (NEE-oh-NAY-tuhl) (HEP-uh-TY-tiss):
inflammation of the liver with no known cause. The condition occurs in newborns and symptoms include jaundice and liver cell changes.
neoplasm (NEE-oh-plazm):
abnormal growth of tissue that may or may not be cancerous. Also called a tumor.
Nissen fundoplication (NISS-uhn) (FUN-doh-plih-KAY-shuhn):
surgery to sew the top of the stomach around the esophagus to add pressure to the lower end of the esophagus and reduce gastroesophageal reflux. Surgeons may also use this surgery to repair a hiatal hernia. Surgeons may perform this surgery using a laparoscope.
Drawings of the stomach and esophagus: before the Nissen fundoplication operation, with stitches, and after the Nissen fundoplication operation.
Nissen fundoplication
nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NON-al-kuh-HOL-ik) (FAT-ee) (LIV-ur) (dih-ZEEZ):
a condition in which fat builds up in the liver. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis is an advanced form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis resemble alcoholic liver disease; however, they occur in people who drink little or no alcohol. Also called NAFLD.
nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NON-al-koh-HOL-ik) (STEE-uh-toh-HEP-uh-TY-tiss):
an advanced form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. In nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, fat in the liver accompanies inflammation and liver cell damage. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease resemble alcoholic liver disease; however, they occur in people who drink little or no alcohol. People who are obese have an increased chance of developing nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Also called NASH.
nonulcer dyspepsia (NON-UHL-sur) (diss-PEP-see-uh):
dyspepsia that is a functional gastrointestinal disorder not caused by peptic ulcers.
norovirus (NOR-oh-VY-ruhss):
a type of calicivirus and the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in adults. Norovirus is usually responsible for epidemics of viral gastroenteritis. People infected with norovirus typically experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fatigue, headaches, and muscle aches. See viral gastroenteritis.
nutcracker esophagus (nuht-KRAK-ur) (uh-SOF-uh-guhss):
a condition in which the muscle contraction in the esophagus is too strong, causing chest pain or difficulty swallowing.

O

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occult bleeding (uh-KUHLT) (BLEED-ing):
blood in stool that is not visible to the naked eye. The condition may be a sign of inflammation or a disease such as colorectal cancer.
oral dissolution therapy (OR-uhl) (DIH-suh-LOO-shuhn) (THAIR-uh-pee):
an infrequently used method of dissolving gallstones. The patient takes the oral medicines chenodiol (Chenix) and ursodiol (Actigall). Doctors most often use this method to treat people who cannot have surgery.
osmotics (oz-MOT-iks):
medicines that help stool retain water, increasing the number of bowel movements and softening the stool, making it easier to pass. This type of laxative can relieve constipation. Examples include lactulose (Cephulac) and polyethylene glycol (Miralax).
ostomy (OSS-tuh-mee):
surgery to create an opening, called a stoma, in the abdomen that lets stool leave the body. An ostomy is necessary when part or all of the intestines are removed or blocked. See colostomy and ileostomy.

P

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z



pancreas (PAN-kree-uhss):
an organ about the size of a hand located behind the lower part of the stomach. The pancreas makes a hormone called insulin and enzymes and fluids for digestion.
pancreatic ducts (PAN-kree-AT-ik)(duhkts):
tubes that carry pancreatic juice from the pancreas to the duodenum. A group of small pancreatic ducts in the pancreas empties into the main pancreatic duct. The common bile duct and the main pancreatic duct join before emptying their contents into the duodenum.
pancreatitis (PAN-kree-uh-TY-tiss):
inflammation of the pancreas. Gallstones or alcohol abuse most often cause this condition. Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic. Both forms are serious and can lead to complications.
papilla of Vater (puh-PIL-uh) (uhv) (VAH-tur):
the opening of the common bile duct and pancreatic duct into the duodenum. Also called ampulla of Vater.
papillary stenosis (PAP-ih-LAIR-ee) (steh-NOH-siss):
a condition in which the openings of the bile ducts and pancreatic ducts narrow.
parasite (PAR-uh-syt):
a tiny organism that lives inside another organism. In developed countries such as the United States, parasitic infections are rare.
parenteral nutrition (puh-REN-tur-uhl) (noo-TRISH-uhn):
a method of providing an intravenous (IV) liquid food mixture through a special tube in the chest. Also called hyperalimentation or total parenteral nutrition.
parietal cells (puh-RY-uh-tuhl) (selz):
cells in the stomach wall that make hydrochloric acid.
pediatric gastroenterologist (PEE-dee-AT-rik) (GASS-troh-EN-tur-OL-uh-jist):
a doctor who treats infants and children who have digestive diseases or disorders.
pepsin (PEP-sin):
an enzyme, produced by glands in the stomach, that digests proteins.
peptic (PEP-tik):
related to the stomach and the duodenum, where pepsin is present.
peptic ulcer (PEP-tik) (UHL-sur):
sore in the lining of the esophagus, stomach, or duodenum caused by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, or the bacterium H. pylori. A peptic ulcer in the stomach is called a gastric ulcer; a peptic ulcer in the duodenum is called a duodenal ulcer.
Drawing of the stomach and duodenum with the stomach, duodenum, esophagus, and ulcers labeled.
Peptic ulcers
percutaneous (PUR-kyoo-TAY-nee-uhss):
the passage of a surgical instrument through the skin to gain access to the organs.
percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PUR-kyoo-TAY-nee-uhss) (TRANZ-heh-PAT-ik) (koh-LAN-jee-OG-ruh-fee):
an x ray of the gallbladder and bile ducts. A doctor injects a dye through the abdomen and liver to make the organs show up more clearly on the x ray.
perforated ulcer (PUR-foh-RAYT-ed) (UHL-sur):
an ulcer that burrows completely through the wall of the stomach or the duodenum, causing stomach contents to leak into the abdominal cavity.
perforation (PUR-foh-RAY-shuhn):
a hole in the wall of an organ.
perianal (PAIR-ee-AY-nuhl):
the area around the anus.
perineal (PAIR-ih-NEE-uhl):
related to the perineum.
perineum (PAIR-ih-NEE-uhm):
the area between the anus and the sex organs.
peristalsis (PAIR-ih-STAL-siss):
the movement of organ walls in the gastrointestinal tract. Peristalsis propels food and liquid through the gastrointestinal tract and mixes the contents within each organ.
peritoneum (PAIR-ih-toh-NEE-uhm):
the lining of the abdominal cavity.
peritonitis (PAIR-ih-toh-NY-tiss):
an infection of the peritoneum.
pernicious anemia (pur-NISH-uhss) (uh-NEE-mee-uh):
anemia caused by a lack of vitamin B12. The body needs B12 to make red blood cells and nerve cells.
Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PUTS-JAY-gurz) (SIN-drohm):
an inherited condition causing many polyps to grow in the intestine. People with the condition have an increased chance of getting cancer.
pharynx (FAIR-ingks):
the space behind the mouth that serves as a passage for food from the mouth to the esophagus and for air from the nose and mouth to the larynx, or voice box.
polyp (POL-ip):
a growth on the surface of an organ. People who have polyps in the colon may have an increased chance of getting colorectal cancer.
polypectomy (POL-ih-PEK-tuh-mee):
the surgical removal of a polyp.
polyposis (POL-ih-POH-siss):
the presence of many polyps.
porphyria (por-FIHR-ee-uh):
a group of rare, usually inherited disorders that affect the skin or nervous system and may cause abdominal pain. When a person has porphyria, cells fail to change porphyrins—body chemicals—into heme, the substance that gives blood its red color. Porphyrins then build up in the body and cause illness.
portal hypertension (POR-tuhl) (HY-pur-TEN-shuhn):
a condition that occurs when scar tissue partially blocks and slows the normal flow of blood, which increases pressure in the portal vein. Portal hypertension is a common complication of cirrhosis and may cause esophageal varices and ascites.
portal vein (POR-tuhl) (vayn):
the large blood vessel that carries blood from the stomach, intestines, spleen, gallbladder, and pancreas to the liver.
portosystemic shunt (POR-toh-siss-TEM-ik) (shuhnt):
an operation to create an opening between the portal vein and other veins around the liver to treat portal hypertension.
postcholecystectomy syndrome (POST-koh-lee-siss-TEK-toh-mee) (SIN-drohm):
symptoms, such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or fever, that persist after removal of the gallbladder or are caused by its removal.
postvagotomy stasis (POST-vay-GOT-uh-mee) (STAY-siss):
delayed stomach emptying, which can occur after surgery affecting the vagus nerve.
pouch:
  1. a bag attached to a stoma and worn outside the body to collect stool. Also called an ostomy appliance. People who have had a continent ileostomy do not need a pouch.
  2. an internal, surgically constructed cavity. See ileoanal pouch anastomosis and ileoanal reservoir.
primary biliary cirrhosis (PRY-mair-ee) (BIL-ee-air-ee) (sur-ROH-siss):
a chronic liver disease that causes the small bile ducts in the liver to become inflamed and damaged and ultimately disappear. When chronic inflammation damages the bile ducts, bile and toxic wastes build up in the liver, damaging liver tissue.
primary sclerosing cholangitis (PRY-mair-ee) (skleh-ROHSS-ing) (KOH-lan-JY-tiss):
a disease that causes inflammation, scarring, and narrowing of the large bile ducts of the liver. When chronic inflammation damages the bile ducts, bile and toxic wastes build up in the liver, damaging liver tissue. Many people with this condition also have inflammatory bowel disease.
proctalgia fugax (prok-TAL-jee-uh) (FYOO-gaks):
short episodes of intense pain in the rectum caused by muscle spasms around the anus.
proctectomy (prok-TEK-tuh-mee):
an operation to remove the rectum.
proctitis (prok-TY-tiss):
inflammation of the lining of the rectum that is sometimes painful and can cause bleeding. Several conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease and sexually transmitted diseases, can cause proctitis.
proctocolectomy (PROK-toh-koh-LEK-tuh-mee):
an operation to remove the colon and rectum.
proctocolitis (PROK-toh-koh-LY-tiss):
irritation of the colon and rectum.
proctologist (prok-TOL-uh-jist):
a doctor who specializes in disorders of the anus and rectum.
proctoscope (PROK-toh-skohp):
a short, rigid metal tube used to look into the rectum and anus.
proctoscopy (prok-TOSS-kuh-pee):
looking into the rectum and anus with a proctoscope.
proctosigmoiditis (PROK-toh-SIG-moy-DY-tiss):
irritation of the rectum and the sigmoid colon.
proctosigmoidoscopy (PROK-toh-SIG-moy-DOSS-kuh-pee):
an endoscopic examination of the rectum and sigmoid colon. See endoscopy.
prokinetics (PROH-kih-NET-iks):
medicines that stimulate stomach muscle contractions to help with gastric emptying. Examples are bethanechol (Duvoid) and metoclopramide (Reglan).
prolapse (PROH-laps):
a condition that occurs when a body part slips from its normal position.
protein (PROH-teen):
one of the main nutrients in food. Foods such as meat, eggs, and beans consist of large molecules of protein that the body digests into smaller molecules called amino acids. The body absorbs amino acids through the small intestine into the blood, which then carries them throughout the body.
proton pump inhibitors (PROH-ton) (puhmp) (in-HIB-ih-turz):
medicines that can relieve symptoms and heal the esophageal lining in most people with GERD. Examples include omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid), someprazole (Nexium), and rabeprazole (Aciphex).
pruritus (proo-RY-tuhss):
itchy skin. Pruritus is a common symptom of liver disease.
pruritus ani (proo-RY-tuhss) (AY-nee):
itching around the anus.
pseudomembranous colitis (SOO-doh-MEM-bruh-nuhss) (koh-LY-tiss):
severe irritation of the colon caused by Clostridium difficile bacterium. The condition occurs after taking oral antibiotics, which kill bacteria that normally live in the colon.
pyloric sphincter (py-LOR-ik) (SFINGK-tur):
the muscle between the stomach and the small intestine.
pyloric stenosis (py-LOR-ik) (steh-NOH-siss):
a narrowing of the opening between the stomach and the duodenum.
pyloroplasty (py-LOH-roh-PLASS-tee):
an operation to widen the opening between the stomach and the duodenum, which lets stomach contents pass more freely.
pylorus (py-LOH-ruhss):
the opening from the stomach into the duodenum.


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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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