GLOSSARY of terms relating to autoimmunity:

Acromion – The outer part of the shoulder blade.

Adrenal glands – A pair of endocrine glands located on the surface of the kidneys. The adrenal glands produce orticosteroid hormones such as cortisol, aldosterone, and the reproductive hormones

Adverse reaction: An unwanted effect attributed to a medication or therapy.

Analgesic – A medication or treatment that relieves pain.

Animal model: A laboratory animal useful for medical research because it has specific characteristics that resemble a human disease or disorder. Scientists can create animal models, often laboratory mice, by transferring new genes into them.

Antibodies: Proteins made by the body to attack foreign invaders, such as viruses and harmful bacteria, to keep the body healthy.

Arthritis – Literally means joint inflammation, but is often used to indicate a group of more than 100 rheumatic diseases. These diseases affect not only the joints but also other connective tissues of the body, including important supporting structures, such as muscles, tendons, and ligaments, as well as the protective covering of internal organs.

Arthroscopic surgery – Repairing the interior of a joint by inserting a microscope-like device and surgical tools through small cuts rather than one, large surgical cut

Autoantibodies: Antibodies that attack one’s own cells

Autoimmunity: Immune responses that are inappropriately directed at a person’s own tissues.

Benign: Not life-threatening

Beta blockers - A class of medications also known as beta-andrenergic blockers that affect the body's response to certain nerve impulses. This, in turn, decreases the rate and force of the heart's contractions, which lowers blood pressure and reduces the heart's demand for oxygen. In addition to treating high blood pressure, beta blockers may be used for angina, and to prevent heart attacks, migraine headaches, and glaucoma

Biceps muscle – The muscle in the front of the upper arm

Bursa – A small sac of tissue located between a bone and other moving structures such as muscles, skin, or tendons. The bursa contains a lubricating fluid that allows these structures to glide smoothly

Bursitis – Inflammation or irritation of a bursa

Carrier - A person who carries a gene for a recessive genetic disorder. The person has the potential to pass the disorder on to his or her child, but is not personally affected by the disorder.

Cataracts: Clouding of the lens of the eye.

Chondrodysplasias - Once referred to as dwarfism. A group of genetic disorders, often caused by a single gene variation that affects the structure or metabolism of the bone, cartilage, or connective tissue

Chronic disease – An illness that lasts for a long time, often a lifetime

Collagen - The principal protein of the skin, bones, cartilage, tendons, and other connective tissues

Connective tissue – The supporting framework of the body and its internal organs.

Corticosteroids – Synthetic preparations of cortisol, which is a hormone produced by the body. Corticosteroids block the immune system’s production of substances that trigger allergic and inflammatory responses. These drugs may be injected directly into the inflammation site. Generally, symptoms improve or disappear within several days. Frequent injections into the same site are not recommended

Cortisol – A hormone produced by the adrenal cortex, important for normal carbohydrate metabolism and for a healthy response to stress.

Cutis laxa - Latin for loose or lax skin, cutis laxa refers to an extremely rare connective tissue disorder in which the skin lacks elasticity and hangs in loose folds. Caused by underlying genetic defects in connective tissue structure, the disorder can also result in serious problems with vocal cords, bones, cartilage, blood vessels, and vital internal organs.

Capsaicin - an active ingredient in hot chili peppers used in topical ointments to relieve pain. It appears to work by reducing a chemical substance found at nerve endings and involved in transmitting pain signals to the brain.

Carbamazepine - a drug that works both as an anticonvulsant and a pain reliever.

Dysarthria - a disorder characterized by slurred speech due to weakness or incoordination of the muscles involved in speaking.

Dysphagia - trouble swallowing.

Dapsone: An anti-inflammatory drug that was first used to treat leprosy.

Dermatologist: A doctor who treats problems of the skin, hair, and nails.

Dermis: The layer of skin cells under the uppermost layer, the epidermis.

Desmoglein: Proteins in the cells of the skin that form the “glue” that connects adjacent skin cells, keeping the skin intact

Dominant - A genetic trait (or genetically transmitted disorder) that is evident when only one copy of the gene for that trait is present. Most dominant traits are due to genes on the autosomes (nonsex chromosomes). They affect males and females equally.

Edema-the swelling of a cell that results from the influx of large amounts of water or fluid into the cell.

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome - A heritable connective tissue disease characterized by easy bruising, joint laxity (the ability to bend beyond normal range of motion), lax skin, and tissue weakness.

Epicondylitis – A painful and sometimes disabling swelling of the tissues of the elbow.

Epidermolysis bullosa - A potentially disabling, disfiguring, and sometimes lethal connective tissue disorder caused by defects of several proteins in the skin, resulting in skin blistering. Some forms of the disease may involve the gastrointestinal tract, the pulmonary system, muscles, or the bladder.

Fibromyalgia – A chronic syndrome that causes pain and stiffness throughout the connective tissues that support and move the bones and joints. Pain and localized tender points occur in the muscles, particularly those that support the neck, spine, shoulders, and hips. The disorder includes widespread pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbances.

Fibrous capsule – A tough wrapping of tendons and ligaments that surrounds the joint

Gabapentin:  an anti seizure medicine that is also used as a pain reliever.

Gene: The functional and physical unit of heredity passed from parent to offspring. Genes are pieces of DNA, and most genes contain the information for making a specific protein.

Genetic predisposition: Any condition in which genetic makeup leaves the individual more susceptible to disease.

Glaucoma: Abnormally high fluid pressure in the eye that can lead to vision loss or blindness.

Heritable - Capable of being transmitted from parent to child through genes.

Herpes zoster - the medical term for shingles; an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, one of the herpesviruses family of viruses.

Herpes simplex - the medical term for a related but different virus that causes repeated mild blisters of the skin or mucous membrane. Herpes simplex rashes can return many times, whereas shingles usually appears no more than once or twice in a person's lifetime.

Humerus – The upper arm bone.

Hyperhydrosis - excessive sweating

Hyporeflexia - Decreased response of deep tendon reflexes, usually due to injury of the central nervous system or metabolic disease.

Immunosuppressed - having a weakened immune system. Common causes are certain illnesses (HIV, some cancers) or use of certain drugs such as prednisone.

Immune system: A complex network of specialized cells and organs that work together to defend the body against attacks by “foreign” invaders such as bacteria and viruses. In some conditions, it appears that the immune system does not function properly and may even work against the body.

Immunofluorescence: A laboratory test on a tissue or blood sample that is used to detect antibodies that can attack skin. The specific antibodies are labeled with a compound that makes them glow when observed microscopically under ultraviolet light.

Immunosuppressive drugs: Drugs that suppress the immune response and can be used to treat autoimmune disease. Unfortunately, because normal immunity is also suppressed with these drugs, they leave the body at risk for infection.

Impingement syndrome – When the rotator cuff becomes inflamed and thickened, it may get trapped under the acromion, resulting in pain or loss of motion.

Infection: Invasion of the body tissues by bacteria or other tiny organisms that cause illness.

Inflammation – A characteristic reaction of tissues to injury or disease. It is marked by four signs: swelling, redness, heat, and pain. Inflammation is not a symptom of fibromyalgia.

Joint – A junction where two bones meet. Most joints are composed of cartilage, joint space, fibrous capsule, synovium, and ligaments.

Latent - hidden, dormant, inactive.

Lidocaine - a pain-killing drug

Ligaments – Bands of cordlike tissue that connect bone to bone

Muscle – A tissue that has the ability to contract, producing movement or force. There are three types: striated muscle, which is attached to the skeleton; smooth muscle, which is found in such tissues as the stomach and blood vessels; and cardiac muscle, which forms the walls of the heart.

Mutations - Changes in genes that can occur randomly or as a result of some factor in the environment.

Myokymia - small muscle contractions that can occur in any muscle group. Is caused by the spontaneous discharge of demyelinated axons. 

Myxedema - A condition associated with hypothyroidism includes dry hair and skin; thickened skin of the lips; puffy eyelids; thinning of eyebrows, slow, low-pitched speech; and slowness of thinking.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – A group of drugs, such as aspirin and aspirin-like drugs, used to reduce inflammation that causes joint pain, stiffness, and swelling.

Neuron- the functional cell of the brain and nervous system.

Nortriptyline - an antidepressant often prescribed to help reduce the pain. Doctors often prescribe it because it has fewer side effects than some other antidepressants.

Osteoporosis: A disease characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to bone fragility and an increased risk of fractures.

Patella – A flat triangular bone located at the front of the knee joint. Also called the kneecap.

Pituitary gland – A pea-sized gland attached beneath the hypothalamus at the base of the skull that secretes many hormones essential to bodily functioning. The secretion of pituitary hormones is regulated by chemicals produced in the hypothalamus.

Prednisone - an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid drug routinely given to shingles patients when an eye or other facial nerve is involved.

Pseudohypertrophy - abnormal enlargement of any body structure caused by an overgrowth of fatty and fibrous tissues.

Pseudomyotonia - A syndrome characterized by progressive muscle stiffness, weakness, myokymia, excessive sweating, and wasting of muscle. It especially affects the extremities. EMG shows continuous muscle activity at rest.

Quadriceps muscle – The large muscle at the front of the thigh.

Radius – The larger of the two bones in the forearm.

Recessive - A genetic trait or disorder that is usually expressed when only two copies of a gene for that trait, one from each parent, are present.

Rheumatoid arthritis – An autoimmune inflammatory disease that causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function in the joints.

Rotator cuff – A set of muscles and tendons that secures the arm to the shoulder blade and permits rotation of the arm.

Sedimentation rate - or ESR (Erythrocyte sedimentation rate)is a blood test that measures inflammation in the body.

Sleep disorder – A disorder in which a person has difficulty achieving restful, restorative sleep. In addition to other symptoms, people with fibromyalgia usually have a sleep disorder.

Spasticity - increased involuntary tone of a muscle usually caused by damaged nerve pathways in the brain or spinal cord.

Systemic - affecting the entire body. 

Tendinitis – Inflammation or irritation of a tendon.

Tendons – Fibrous cords that connect muscle to bone.


Ulcer - a lesion that is eroding the skin or mucous membrane with many different causes.

Ulceration - the process of being eroded away by an ulcer.

Ulnar nerve - nerve in the forearm and hand.

Vagus Nerve - the tenth cranial nerve that takes info to the brain from the ear, tongue, pharynx and larynx.

Vascular - relates to all the veins and arteries in the body.

Vasculitis - diseases that have inflammation of the blood vessels.

Wasting - gradual loss or deterioration.

Xeroderma - abnormally dry skin. which can be caused by Vitamin deficiency or systemic illness.

Zygoma - bone that forms the cheek.

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The information on this site is not meant for diagnosis of a disease - please see your health care professional with your medical concerns.


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