Find over 200 print-friendly fact sheets about heart disease and related health topics.
Find definitions for thousands of medical terms, treatments, and tests -- even health-related abbreviations, prefixes, and suffixes.
A pacemaker is a small, battery-powered device that sends out small
electrical impulses to make the heart muscle to contract. The pacemaker itself
is a waterproof object about the size of a silver dollar. A pacemaker consists
of a pulse generator and battery that create the electrical impulses, and wires
(leads) that transmit electricity to the heart.
Pacemakers help your heart beat in a regular rhythm and at a normal
speed. They are inserted to treat a heart rate that is too slow, too fast, or
Pacemakers are typically placed under the skin of the chest. These
pacemakers are permanent. But sometimes, pacemakers are needed for only a short
time to help a person in the hospital with heart rhythm problems. A temporary
pacemaker is not surgically inserted but is worn outside the body. Temporary
pacemakers are used only while a person is in the hospital.
June 2, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC
Palliative care is a kind of medical care for people who have serious and chronic illnesses. Palliative care provides an extra layer of support that can improve quality of life for the person who is sick and for his or her family.
Many people combine palliative care with other types of
Palliative care can help manage symptoms, pain, or side effects
from treatment. It can help people cope with their feelings about living with a
serious illness. It can also help with communication, so all the health professionals providing care for a person understand their shared goals. It may even help with planning for future medical
Palliative care can help a person of any age, whether or not his or her illness is terminal. More and more health professionals are
using palliative care, and many are specially trained to provide it.
December 29, 2011
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Shelly R. Garone, MD, FACP - Palliative Medicine
Heart palpitations are an uncomfortable awareness of the heart
beating rapidly or irregularly. Palpitations can be caused by stress, fatigue,
or overuse of alcohol or stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine, and they
usually are not a serious problem.
Heart palpitations can feel
If palpitations persist or occur with fainting, near
fainting, or lightheadedness, they may be a sign of a heart problem.
September 13, 2012
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & David Messenger, MD & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
The pancreas is an organ in the upper abdomen, behind the stomach
and close to the spine, that produces substances (digestive enzymes) needed to
break down and use food. The pancreas also produces insulin, the hormone that
regulates sugar (glucose) in the blood.
May 25, 2011
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Peter J. Kahrilas, MD - Gastroenterology
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, an organ in your belly that makes insulin and enzymes that help you digest food. Pancreatitis can cause sudden, severe belly pain. It's usually caused by alcohol abuse or gallstones.
Most people recover
fully from pancreatitis.
September 27, 2012
A panic attack is a sudden feeling of extreme anxiety.
Symptoms include feelings of dying or losing control of oneself, rapid
breathing (hyperventilation), and a racing heart.
A person having
a panic attack may feel dizzy, sweaty, or shaky. Other symptoms include
trouble breathing, chest pain or tightness, and an irregular
A panic attack can be triggered by a stressful event, or
it can occur unexpectedly. An attack starts suddenly and usually lasts from
5 to 20 minutes but may last even longer, up to a few hours. You have the most
anxiety about 10 minutes after the attack starts. Panic attacks can be
successfully treated with counseling and medicine.
September 7, 2012
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
Paralysis is a loss of nerve function or muscle power resulting in
an inability to move. When nerve cells in the brain or other parts of the body
are damaged by injury or disease, the body parts controlled by those nerve or
brain cells do not function.
The damage may cause mild or severe loss of function and may be
temporary or permanent. The degree of paralysis depends on:
October 14, 2011
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Parkinson's disease happens when there is a problem with certain nerve cells in the brain that control movement. The classic symptoms are shaking (tremor), stiff muscles (rigidity), and slow movement (bradykinesia). It may also cause problems with balance or walking, as well as confusion and memory loss.
Parkinson's gets worse over time. But usually this happens slowly, over many years.
December 5, 2012
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & G. Frederick Wooten, MD - Neurology
Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation are episodes of atrial fibrillation,
an irregular heart rhythm, that go away on their own. They may last anywhere
from a few seconds to a few weeks and may not cause symptoms. Sometimes
paroxysmal atrial fibrillation is related to other things, such as alcohol
use, stress, or activity.
December 14, 2012
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & John M. Miller, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
The ductus arteriosus is a blood vessel in a fetus that connects
the pulmonary artery, which carries blood to the lungs, and the aorta, which
carries blood to the body, so that blood flow bypasses the lungs. Normally,
this blood vessel closes at birth as the baby starts breathing. But if the vessel does not close, it is known as
a patent (open) ductus arteriosus (PDA).
A patent ductus arteriosus allows some oxygen-rich blood to flow
from the aorta back into the pulmonary artery and to the lungs instead of to
the rest of the body. Because some of the blood intended for the body returns
to the lungs, the left side of the heart has to pump harder to get enough blood
to the body. This can enlarge and weaken the heart.
Some babies do not have symptoms from a patent
ductus arteriosus. But this abnormality often causes symptoms, such as
poor feeding and shortness of breath. An older child may develop heart failure or an infection of the heart's inner lining (infective
endocarditis). How bad the symptoms get and whether
complications develop depend on how much blood flows through the ductus.
Treatment for a patent ductus arteriosus might be medicine that helps close the blood vessel. Or a doctor will insert a small closure device into the heart during a heart catheterization. This prevents blood from flowing into the lungs. If a heart catheterization can't be done, a surgeon might operate to close the PDA.
October 11, 2011
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Larry A. Latson, MD - Pediatric Cardiology
The foramen ovale is an opening in the part of the heart that
separates the upper right and left chambers (atria). In a fetus, this opening
has a flap of tissue that acts like a one-way door—it allows blood to flow to the left side of the heart without going to the lungs,
and it is kept open by the pressure of the blood that passes through it.
Normally, when the baby is born and takes his or her first breath,
blood begins to flow through the lungs, and the foramen ovale closes within a
few days. Sometimes, this opening remains open (patent) and is called a patent foramen ovale. A patent foramen ovale is also called a PFO. A PFO happens in about 2 out of 10 people.
A patent foramen ovale is typically not treated and does not cause problems. But it might be treated if other heart defects are present or you had a stroke caused by a blood clot. Treatment includes a catheter procedure or surgery to close the opening in the heart.
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April 19, 2011
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Pediatricians are medical doctors who specialize in the care of
Pediatricians can treat children who have any type of problem, or they
may specialize in specific areas, such as:
Pediatricians can be board-certified through the Board of
Pediatrics, which is recognized by the American Board of Medical
August 17, 2012
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
A peptic ulcer is a sore in the lining of your stomach or upper small intestine. Ulcers form when the protective layer in the lining has broken down, often because of a bacterial infection or frequent use of aspirin or similar medicine.
Peptic ulcers can cause pain in the belly, above the belly button. Ulcers can also bleed.
October 9, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Jerome B. Simon, MD, FRCPC, FACP - Gastroenterology
Perforating veins are blood vessels in the legs that connect the
superficial leg veins just under the skin to the deep leg veins under the
muscles. Perforating veins are sometimes called communicating veins.
Damage or disease in the perforating vein system can lead to
varicose veins, which are twisted, enlarged veins that can occur anywhere a
vein is close to skin, but which occur most often in the legs.
February 1, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & David A. Szalay, MD - Vascular Surgery
Pericardial effusion is a buildup of fluid in the space between the
heart and the sac around the heart (pericardium).
Pericardial effusion can be caused by pericarditis, an inflammation
of the pericardium. Pericarditis may be caused by heart attack, kidney failure,
bacterial or viral infection, or cancer treatment.
Pericarditis can also cause chest pain and, rarely, increased
pressure on the heart (cardiac tamponade).
Pericardial effusion may be drained in a procedure called
pericardiocentesis, which involves using a needle and sometimes a thin tube
called a catheter to drain the fluid. If the fluid buildup is gradual and the
heart is tolerating the increased fluid around it, treatment of the underlying
cause may be tried first.
April 5, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
Pericarditis is inflammation of the sac that surrounds and protects
the heart (pericardium). Pericarditis can cause an abnormal buildup of fluid
between the pericardium and the heart (pericardial effusion).
Pericarditis often improves without causing any damage to the
heart. But if pericarditis causes excess fluid to build up quickly,
pressure on the heart increases (cardiac tamponade), and the heart may
The most common cause of pericarditis is infection with a virus.
Other causes include bacterial infection, heart attack, chest injury, and medicine side effects.
Symptoms of pericarditis include:
Treatment for pericarditis may include medicines to reduce
inflammation and relieve pain and antibiotics if the cause is a bacterial
infection. If there is any fluid buildup, it may be drained.
The pericardium is a membrane like a sac that surrounds the heart
and its major blood vessels. Normally there is a small amount of fluid between
the pericardium and the heart that helps cushion the heart and reduces friction
between the heart and the pericardium when the heart beats.
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a narrowing or blockage of arteries that causes poor blood flow to your legs or arms. When you walk or exercise, your leg muscles don't get enough blood and you can get painful cramps.
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & David A. Szalay, MD - Vascular Surgery
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that affects the nerves that control the sense of touch, how a person feels pain and temperature, and muscle strength. A person who has peripheral neuropathy may find it hard to do things that require coordination, such as walking or fastening buttons.
Peripheral neuropathy is often caused by other health problems such as diabetes, kidney problems, vitamin deficiencies and alcoholism, HIV, or Guillain-Barré syndrome. It can happen after exposure to toxic substances, such as arsenic, or by certain medicines such as those used for chemotherapy.
November 21, 2011
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Barry L. Scurran, DPM - Podiatry and Podiatric Surgery
Peritonitis is an infection of the lining of the abdominal wall
(peritoneum) caused by bacteria or irritating substances. Peritonitis causes
pain and swelling in the abdomen and can be very serious if it is not treated.
Symptoms of peritonitis include:
A person with these symptoms requires immediate medical attention.
Treatment typically involves surgery and antibiotics. Without treatment, the
illness gets worse rapidly and can become life-threatening.
May 10, 2012
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Nancy Ann Shadick, MD, MPH - Internal Medicine, Rheumatology
Persistent atrial fibrillation means that episodes of the irregular heart rhythm last longer and often don't go away on their own. If an episode lasts more than 7 days, it is called persistent atrial fibrillation.
Treatment with medicine or cardioversion can restore a normal rhythm. This normal rhythm may last for several weeks or longer before atrial fibrillation happens again.
Positron emission tomography (PET) is a test that uses a special type of camera and a tracer (radioactive chemical) to look at organs in the body.
During a PET scan, a radioactive
substance called a tracer is typically injected into a vein (usually in the
arm), but sometimes it may be inhaled. The tracer usually is a
special form of a substance (such as glucose) that can be used (metabolized) by cells in the
A PET scan is often used to evaluate cancer, such as of the lung or colon. It also can be used to evaluate
the heart's metabolism and blood flow and examine brain function.
PET scan pictures do not show as much detail as computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
July 28, 2011
Adam Husney, MD, MD - Family Medicine & Howard Schaff, MD - Diagnostic Radiology
pH is a measure of the acidic or basic (alkaline) nature of a
solution. The pH scale ranges from 0 (most acidic) to 14 (most basic).
May 30, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Robert L. Cowie, MB, FCP(SA), MD, MSc, MFOM - Pulmonology
Phenylketonuria (PKU) is an inherited disorder in which the body
cannot break down an amino acid called phenylalanine, which is a part of
protein. If treatment is not started soon after birth, phenylalanine levels rise and
can cause lasting brain and nervous system damage, such as intellectual disability.
Symptoms of PKU usually appear within a few months of birth, after
a baby has started drinking formula or breast milk and phenylalanine has built
up in his or her blood. Before birth, the mother's body filters out the excess phenylalanine for the baby (fetus).
Early symptoms may include:
Screening for PKU is routinely done shortly after birth, making
early diagnosis and treatment possible. Starting treatment within the first few
weeks of birth may prevent lasting brain damage. In rare cases, some children who
receive treatment will have learning or behavior problems. Left untreated, PKU
causes progressively more severe intellectual disability.
People with PKU must follow a diet low in protein throughout life.
Women of childbearing age with PKU must carefully manage their phenylalanine
levels to prevent harm to their baby should they become pregnant. Babies born
to mothers who have high phenylalanine levels during pregnancy are at risk for
intellectual disability and other developmental problems.
September 8, 2011
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Chuck Norlin, MD, MD - Pediatrics
Pheochromocytoma is a tumor usually found in the adrenal glands
(located on the kidneys). The tumor usually is not cancerous, but it can be
fatal if left untreated.
Pheochromocytoma is rare and occurs most often in young adults. It
causes attacks of high blood pressure, headaches, excessive sweating, nausea
and vomiting, anxiety, and loss of consciousness.
Treatment for pheochromocytoma involves surgery to remove the
June 29, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Avery L. Seifert, MD - Urology
During a physical exam, a health professional looks at,
listens to, and touches or gently presses on (palpates) the body. This exam
helps the health professional determine the cause of symptoms, what other
conditions may be present, and what medical tests may be needed. During a
physical exam, the health professional may:
August 13, 2012
Physical therapists are health professionals who evaluate physical
problems and injuries, then provide education and treatment to promote health
and physical function. Physical therapists also develop programs that include
exercise and stretching to increase fitness and prevent injury.
A physical therapist provides hands-on treatment to help return
normal movement to joints and muscles and gives instruction about exercises to
help heal and strengthen the body. Treatment may include physical or mechanical
means, such as exercise, heat, or mild electrical current. Physical therapists
also use devices such as prosthetics (artificial limbs), orthotics (braces and
supports), and equipment to help a person in daily life.
Some physical therapists treat a wide range of ailments. Others
specialize in areas such as pediatrics, geriatrics, orthopedics, sports
physical therapy, neurology, cardiovascular, pulmonary, oncology, and women's
health. Physical therapists work for hospitals, nursing homes, home health
agencies, rehabilitation facilities, fitness facilities, and schools.
Physical therapists earn a master's degree or entry-level doctorate
in physical therapy from an accredited physical therapist educational program
that includes a period of clinical work. All states require physical therapists
to pass a licensure exam before they can practice.
Physical therapy is treatment to improve mobility (such as walking,
going up stairs, or getting in and out of bed), to relieve pain, and to restore
physical function and overall fitness. The physical therapist uses exercise,
manual therapy, education, and modalities such as heat, cold, and electrical
stimulation to work toward these goals.
Depending on the injury, disease, or condition, physical therapy
may include work on flexibility, strength, endurance, coordination, and/or
balance. Treatment may focus on preventing problems or treating problems that
March 4, 2011
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & David A. Fleckenstein, MPT - Physical Therapy
Physician assistants (PAs) are health professionals who practice
medicine under a doctor's supervision in medical and surgical settings. They
can perform routine exams, order lab work and X-rays, prescribe
medicines, and counsel people about their health.
A physician assistant completes an accredited PA program after college. Then he or she is eligible to take the
Physician Assistant National Certification Examination (PANCE).
Some medical tests report results in picograms per milliliter
May 6, 2011
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Thomas M. Bailey, MD - Family Medicine
Some medical tests report results in picomoles per liter
The pituitary gland is a small gland located beneath the brain. The
pituitary gland produces substances (hormones) that enter the bloodstream and
help control many processes of the body.
Hormones produced in the pituitary gland help manage these body
June 8, 2012
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
The placenta is a large organ that develops in the uterus during
pregnancy and is connected to the fetus by the umbilical cord. Through the
blood vessels in the umbilical cord and placenta, the fetus receives oxygen and
nutrients from the mother and gets rid of wastes.
The placenta is delivered soon after the baby is born. (This is
sometimes called the afterbirth.)
July 23, 2012
Plantar fasciitis (say "PLAN-ter fash-ee-EYE-tus") is pain in your heel or the bottom of your foot. It happens when the flat band of tissue (ligament) that supports the arch of your foot is inflamed or irritated.
Plantar fasciitis is common in middle-aged people. It also occurs in younger people who are on their feet a lot, like athletes or soldiers. It can happen in one foot or both feet.
Plaque is a buildup of cholesterol, white blood cells, calcium,
and other substances in the walls of arteries. Over time, plaque narrows the
artery, and the artery hardens (atherosclerosis).
reduces blood flow to the heart muscle, which can cause chest pain (angina).
Plaque in the large artery in the neck (carotid artery stenosis) may block
blood flow to the brain and is a common cause of transient ischemic attack
(sometimes called "mini-stroke") and stroke.
Plaques are covered
with a fibrous cap, which may rupture if some trigger causes a surge in blood
pressure or causes the artery to constrict. A person may have a heart attack or stroke if
a plaque breaks open, creating a blood clot that completely blocks blood flow
through the artery.
January 3, 2013
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Karin M. Lindholm, DO - Neurology
Plastic surgeons are medical doctors who specialize in surgery that
improves a person's appearance, surgery for a birth defect such as cleft
palate, or surgery following an injury or the removal of cancer, such as breast
implant surgery after breast removal (mastectomy).
Plastic surgeons can further specialize in hand surgery.
Plastic surgeons can be board-certified through the Board of
Plastic Surgery, which is recognized by the American Board of Medical
A platelet is the smallest type of blood cell. Platelets are the
body's first defense against bleeding, helping the blood to clot (coagulate) by
collecting at the site of a wound and clumping together to help stop the flow
People with very low levels of platelets or who have bleeding disorders
may need to have transfusions of platelets to prevent excessive
August 6, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Joseph O'Donnell, MD - Hematology, Oncology
A pleural effusion is the buildup of fluid between the outer
lining of the lungs (visceral pleura) and the inner lining
(parietal pleura) of the chest cavity. This fluid buildup
has many causes, including infection, inflammation, heart failure,
pancreatitis, or cancer.
A minor pleural effusion may not cause
any symptoms. A large amount of fluid may prevent the complete
expansion of a lung, making it hard for the person to breathe. Possible
symptoms of a pleural effusion may include:
A doctor may diagnose a pleural
effusion during a physical exam and then confirm the diagnosis with a chest
Small pleural effusions often heal on their own. If
treatment is needed, it may involve removal of the fluid using a needle
inserted through the chest wall (thoracentesis). The fluid may be sent to a lab
to find out what is causing the fluid to build up.
July 15, 2011
Pneumonia is a lung infection that can make you very sick. You may cough, run a fever, and have a hard time breathing. It can usually be treated at home, but some people need to go to the hospital.
Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria or a virus. Antibiotics are used to treat pneumonia caused by bacteria.
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & R. Steven Tharratt, MD, MPVM, FACP, FCCP - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Toxicology
A pneumothorax (collapsed lung) results from a buildup of air in
the space between the lung and the chest wall (pleural space). This prevents
the lung from expanding properly when the person tries to breathe in, causing
shortness of breath and chest pain.
A pneumothorax is usually caused by an injury to the chest, such as
a broken rib or a puncture wound. It may also occur suddenly without an injury
(spontaneous pneumothorax). Spontaneous pneumothorax can result from damage to
the lungs caused by conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(COPD), asthma, cystic fibrosis, and pneumonia. Spontaneous pneumothorax can
also occur in people who don't have lung disease.
Symptoms of pneumothorax often include:
A small pneumothorax may improve without treatment. But a more
serious pneumothorax usually is treated by inserting a needle or a chest tube
into the chest cavity. This relieves the pressure on the lung and allows it to
April 13, 2011
Podiatrists are health professionals who diagnose and treat medical
and surgical problems and injuries of the feet and ankles, such as corns,
warts, plantar fasciitis, bunions, or hammer toes. They also perform
Podiatrists provide extended care for people who need it, such as
those who have foot problems caused by diabetes.
A podiatrist completes a degree at a college of podiatric medicine after undergraduate college. After receiving
his or her podiatry degree, a podiatrist typically spends time in a
hospital-based residency program.
Podiatrists can be board-certified through
the Council on Podiatric Medical Education. Certification is not required in
Polycystic ovary syndrome (say "pah-lee-SIS-tik OH-vuh-ree SIN-drohm") is a hormone imbalance in women that can affect ovulation. It can cause problems with a woman's periods and make it harder to get pregnant.
Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine & Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Polycythemia is an abnormal increase in the number of red blood
cells produced by the bone marrow. The extra numbers of red blood cells cause
blood to thicken and may increase the risk of blood clots that may cause heart
attacks or strokes.
Treatment for polycythemia (also called erythrocythemia) sometimes
involves removing red blood cells (much like donating blood) from the blood.
But this procedure may decrease iron levels in the body.
October 15, 2012
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Brian Leber, MDCM, FRCPC - Hematology
Postherpetic neuralgia is pain, headaches, and nerve problems that
occur as a complication of shingles (herpes zoster). Postherpetic neuralgia
lasts for at least 30 days and can continue for months to years.
People who develop shingles after age 50 and who have severe pain
and rash during shingles have the greatest risk for having postherpetic
neuralgia. It most commonly occurs on the forehead or chest. The pain
linked with postherpetic neuralgia may make it difficult to eat, sleep, and
do daily activities. It may also increase the risk for depression.
treatment of shingles with antiviral medicines may prevent postherpetic neuralgia. If postherpetic neuralgia does occur, certain
over-the-counter and prescription medicines can relieve
December 18, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Christine Hahn, MD - Epidemiology
The postmenopausal phase of a woman's life begins at menopause,
which is 1 year after her last menstrual period. While postmenopause usually
begins around age 50, some women become postmenopausal in their mid-40s, and
others do so in their later 50s.
In early postmenopause, a woman's estrogen stabilizes at a low
level. Although low estrogen helps reduce the risk of various types of cancer,
it also leads to bone thinning, which sometimes results in osteoporosis. A
variety of hormonal and nonhormonal treatments are available for postmenopausal
women who have menopausal symptoms. Women are generally encouraged to try
nonhormonal treatment to avoid the cancer, heart, and dementia risks of hormone
Menopause can begin early and suddenly after removal of the
ovaries or after cancer treatment that damages the ovaries.
April 26, 2012
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Carla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine
Post-thrombotic syndrome (also called postphlebitic syndrome) is a
complication of a blood clot that forms in a deep vein. Post-thrombotic syndrome
occurs because of damage to the vein caused by the blood clot
Post-thrombotic syndrome can be a long-term problem that lasts for years. It can cause sores that are painful and hard to treat.
The symptoms include:
Compression stockings may be used to reduce swelling and relieve symptoms.
December 28, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Jeffrey S. Ginsberg, MD - Hematology
Potassium is a mineral in the body that helps maintain fluid
balance, nerve function, and muscle contraction, as well as the proper
transmission of electrical impulses in the heart. Potatoes and bananas are
especially good sources of potassium, which also is found in many meats, milks,
fruits, vegetables, and grains.
Both low and high potassium levels can disrupt the normal
electrical impulses in the heart, which leads to irregular heartbeats
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar is too high, but not high enough to call it diabetes. Having prediabetes makes you at risk for type 2 diabetes.
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & David C.W. Lau, MD, PhD, FRCPC - Endocrinology
Preeclampsia is high blood pressure that some women get during pregnancy. It affects the kidneys, liver, brain, and placenta. It can cause a headache that won't go away, vision problems, belly pain, and swollen hands and face.
Preeclampsia can be treated with bed rest, medicine, and close monitoring. If not treated, it can be deadly for the mother and baby.
Preeclampsia usually goes away after the baby is born.
November 5, 2012
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & William Gilbert, MD - Maternal and Fetal Medicine
A pressure sore (bed sore) is an injury to the skin and/or the
tissues under the skin, caused primarily by constant pressure. People confined
to a bed or chair and unable to move are at greatest risk for developing
pressure sores, which form most often in bony areas such as the hips, heels, or
Pressure sores develop when constant pressure reduces blood supply
to an area of skin and tissue. Oxygen and nutrients carried by the blood cannot
reach the cells in the tissue, causing the cells to die. Pressure sores can
range from mild reddening of the skin to severe tissue damage that extends into
muscle and bone. These sores are difficult to treat and slow to heal.
For people who are confined to a bed or chair or are unable to
move, changing positions frequently and distributing body weight evenly will
relieve pressure on any one area of skin. Eating a balanced diet with adequate
protein promotes healthy skin, as does keeping skin clean and free of body
fluids or feces. Moisturizing dry skin with good-quality lotions will keep the
skin from drying out and cracking, which makes it vulnerable to pressure
Healing a pressure sore depends on relieving the pressure on the
area. Treatment for pressure sores includes changing positions frequently to
restore blood flow to the tissue and washing the sore daily. Unaffected tissue
around the sore should be kept clean and dry to prevent further damage.
Removing dead tissue and applying medicated ointments or creams will help
reduce the risk of infection.
February 15, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Margaret Doucette, DO - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Wound Care, Hyperbaric Medicine
Priapism is a painful condition in which the penis stays erect
without sexual stimulation. Priapism can occur in short, repeated episodes, or
it may last for days or weeks.
Priapism can be a serious problem.
It can cause unbearable pain and may damage the penis, making it impossible to
get a normal erection (erectile dysfunction). Erectile dysfunction is the main
long-term result of priapism, and it can occur after just one episode of
Priapism can affect males of any age. Although the cause
is often unknown, it can result from sickle cell disease, diabetes, leukemia,
or the use of certain medicines.
Ice packs may ease the pain.
Any episode of priapism that lasts for more than 3 hours requires urgent
March 1, 2011
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & David Messenger, MD
Progestin is a synthetic hormone used to affect a woman's body in
the same ways as the hormone progesterone. The ovaries produce progesterone
during the second half of the menstrual cycle to help prepare the uterus for
pregnancy; at the time of menopause, the level of progesterone declines.
Progesterone regulates the cyclic growth and breakdown of the
uterine lining (endometrium). When a woman's progesterone levels are low,
progestin can be used to treat endometrial problems such as heavy, irregular
menstrual bleeding. Women with an intact uterus who take estrogen are also
prescribed progestin, which prevents the estrogen from causing cancerous cell
growth in the endometrium.
November 29, 2010
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Ross Berkowitz, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Prolactin is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland in both men
and women. In women, it prepares breasts to produce milk (lactate); in men,
prolactin's function is not well understood.
In a lactating woman, more prolactin is produced when her breasts
are emptied frequently, resulting in more milk production. Less frequent
emptying of the breasts reduces the amount of prolactin produced, which in turn
reduces the milk supply. Above-normal prolactin levels in women can cause
ovulation to stop.
Above-normal levels of prolactin can indicate a problem with the
pituitary gland that may affect reproductive functions.
April 14, 2011
Protein is an essential nutrient made up of building-block
chemicals called amino acids. Protein provides energy and is needed for the
body to make new cells, to maintain and rebuild muscles, to carry other
nutrients, to act as messengers in the body, and to support the immune
August 29, 2011
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Psoriasis (say "suh-RY-uh-sus") is a long-term (chronic) skin problem that causes skin cells to grow too quickly and form thick, white, silvery, or red patches. They're most often found on the knees, elbows, scalp, tailbone, and back.
Psoriasis isn't contagious. It tends to run in families. There are many types of treatment that can help keep it under control.
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Amy McMichael, MD - Dermatology
Psychologists are health professionals who have training and expertise
in human behavior and psychological health. Psychologists are not medical
doctors, but they hold a doctor of psychology (PsyD degree) or doctor of
philosophy (PhD degree) in clinical psychology, counseling, or school
Psychologists evaluate and treat people who have mental health
problems, such as depression. Psychologists also provide counseling and other
mental health services. Some states allow psychologists to prescribe medicine.
Psychologists are licensed in the state in which they
The pulmonary artery carries oxygen-depleted blood from the right
side of the heart to the lungs, where it is re-oxygenated. The freshly
oxygenated blood then travels to the left side of the heart through the
pulmonary vein to be pumped to the rest of the body.
November 18, 2011
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & John A. McPherson, MD, FACC, FSCAI - Cardiology
Pulmonary edema is the buildup of fluid in the lungs, usually
resulting from the heart's inability to pump blood through the body
effectively. It can be caused by heart or kidney failure, poisoning, widespread
infection, stroke, or near-drowning.
Symptoms of pulmonary edema
include difficulty breathing, restlessness, shortness of breath that is worse
when lying down, rapid heart rate, and a cough that sometimes produces foamy
Although pulmonary edema can be a life-threatening
condition, it is treatable, depending on the cause. Treatment may include
oxygen given through the nose or a face mask. In severe cases, relief may
require a breathing tube placed into the windpipe (intubation) and use of a
breathing machine (ventilator). Medicines to strengthen the heart muscle or to
relieve the pressure on the heart may also be given as needed.
February 22, 2012
Pulmonary embolism happens when an artery in the lung is suddenly blocked. It's usually caused by a blood clot in a leg vein that breaks loose, travels to a lung (pulmonary) artery, and blocks blood flow. This is very serious and can be deadly.
January 10, 2013
Pulmonary hypertension is a condition of abnormally high pressure
within the lungs or respiratory system. This pressure can eventually lead to
progressive heart failure.
Pulmonary valve stenosis is a narrowing of the valve between the
lower right heart chamber and the pulmonary artery, which carries blood from
the heart to the lungs. It is a structural problem that develops before a baby
is born (congenital heart defect).
Because the valve is narrow, the heart pumps harder to try to get
enough blood through it. The narrower the valve, the more symptoms the baby
Treatment for pulmonary valve stenosis is typically a minimally invasive catheter-based procedure called a percutaneous
balloon pulmonary dilation (valvuloplasty) to open up the valve.
repair of the defect (heart valve surgery) may be needed if the valve is badly deformed.
Before these treatments, medicines may be given to maintain the blood flow or
to otherwise improve heart function and blood flow.
Pulmonologists are medical doctors who further specialize in the
diagnosis and treatment of lung disease, such as asthma, emphysema, or
pneumonia. Pulmonologists perform tests to check how well a person is
breathing. And they may use procedures such as bronchoscopy to diagnose a
Pulmonologists can be board-certified through the Board of Internal
Medicine, which is recognized by the American Board of Medical
Pulse is the regular expansion of the arteries caused by the
surge of blood that occurs each time the heart beats (contracts). It can be
felt by gently pressing the fingers on certain blood vessels that are close to
the skin's surface.
Pulse is also called heart rate, which is the
number of times the heart beats per minute (bpm). The wrist and neck are
common places to take a pulse.
Doctors usually check a person’s
pulse at checkups or in an emergency. A weak pulse or a change in pulse rate or
rhythm may be a sign of heart disease or other problem.
One way to know how hard you are exercising is to use your target heart rate. Your target heart rate is a percentage of your maximum heart rate. One way to find your maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220. After you know your maximum heart rate, you can find your target heart rate for moderate and vigorous aerobic activity.
Target heart rate is only a guide. When you exercise, pay attention to how you feel, how hard you breathe, how fast your heart beats, and how much you feel the exertion in your muscles.
Chronic health problems and certain heart medicines affect a person's target heart rate range.
October 25, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Heather Chambliss, PhD - Exercise Science
A pulse oximeter is a device that checks how much oxygen is in the blood.
clip is put on a finger, toe, or earlobe. The light beam in the clip measures
the oxygen of the red blood cells that move through the cells in the finger,
toe, or earlobe. The person's oxygen level can be read on the display.
The pulse oximeter often has an alarm for blood oxygen levels that
fall below a safe level.
September 30, 2011
Adam Husney, MD, MD - Family Medicine & John M. Freedman, MD, MD - Anesthesiology
The pupil is the black area in the center of the iris, the colored
part of the eye. The iris controls the size of the pupil in response to light
outside the eye so that the proper amount of light is let into the eye.
Light passes through the pupil to the back of the eye, where an
image is formed of what the eye is looking at.
June 9, 2011
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology