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Menopause Glossary

Menopause is a difficult transition period in a woman’s life often accompanied by a number of uncomfortable symptoms that can affect your overall health, well-being and quality of life. 

To help women better understand the terminology associated with the anatomy, causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention of menopausal issues, At Last Naturals offers a complete and comprehensive Menopause Glossary. 

Our Menopause Glossary aims to educate women so that they can better identify any issues, concerns, treatments or prevention methods relating to their menopause symptoms.

A     
Abdomen. The part of the body above the pelvis and below the ribs.

Abnormal uterine bleeding (AUB). Bleeding that is abnormal in severity, frequency, or duration. AUB is not the same as normal irregular periods during perimenopause or bleeding from menopause hormone therapy including proestrogen and estrogen. Possible causes of abnormal uterine bleeding are pregnancy, hormone imbalance, cancer, fibroid tumors, uterine lining abnormalities, and other conditions of the vagina or cervix. See also Dysfunctional uterine bleeding.

Alternative medicine. See Complementary and alternative medicine.

Alzheimer's disease. A progressive disease in which nerve cells in the brain degenerate and brain matter shrinks, resulting in impaired memory, behavior, and thinking.

Amenorrhea. The absence of a woman's monthly period not related to menopause.

Antidepressant drug. Prescription therapy government approved to treat anxiety and depression. An example of an antidepressant drug is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).

Antihypertensive drug. Prescription therapy government approved to treat high blood pressure. An example of an antihypertensive drug is hydrochlorothiazide.

Anti-inflammatory drug. A type of prescription and nonprescription therapy used to relieve swelling, inflammation, joint pain and stiffness. Anti-inflammatory drugs work by affecting prostaglandins and can therefore be useful in treating cramping associated with menstrual cycles. An example of an anti-inflammatory drug is ibuprofen.

Anxiety. A feeling of fear, nervousness, apprehension, or dread accompanied by tension or restlessness.
Arthritis. A disease of inflammation in the joints that may be associated with stiffness, pain, redness and swelling as well as deformities of those affected joints.

Atherosclerosis. Also called hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis is a disease characterized by a narrowing of the arteries caused by cholesterol-rich plaques on the inside of the artery wall. Atherosclerosis is a common cause of heart disease and can affect the arteries of the brain as well as the arteries of the extremities.

B   
Benign.
Noncancerous.

Bilateral oophorectomy. The surgical removal of both ovaries (and usually, fallopian tubes).

Biofeedback. The technique of making involuntary or unconscious bodily processes (as brain waves or heartbeats) perceptible to the senses (in order to manipulate these bodily processes by conscious mental control).

Biopsy. A minor surgical procedure during which a small tissue specimen is removed and microscopically examined for the presence of disease (often cancer).

Birth control. A way for men and women to prevent pregnancy. Birth control methods for women include condoms, birth control pills, vaginal spermicides, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and more.

Black cohosh. An herb, Black cohosh is typically used in nonprescription supplement form. Among its uses is for the relief of mild hot flashes Bladder. A saclike organ in the pelvic region where urine is stored before it leaves the body.

Bladder prolapse. A condition in which the bladder moves downward from its normal position. Bladder prolapse is usually caused by a weakness in the pelvic floor after childbirth. See also Prolapse.

Body mass index (BMI). A number calculated from a person’s height and weight that provides for most people a reliable indicator of body size. Body Mass Index is used to screen for size categories that may lead to chronic health problems.

Bone density or Bone mineral density (BMD). The amount of bone tissue in a segment of bone. Measuring BMD is the best way to predict fracture risk and evaluate bone strength. BMD results are reported as Z-scores and T-scores. See also DXA scan.

Breast cancer. A disease in which abnormal cells in the breast divide and multiply in an uncontrolled fashion. These abnormal cells can invade nearby tissue and can spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system (lymph nodes) to other parts of the body.

Breast ultrasound. A safe, noninvasive technique that creates images of structures deep within the body using sound waves. Breast ultrasounds are often used as a follow-up to mammograms or breast exams, and can determine if an abnormality is a solid tissue or cyst.

C    
Calcium.
A mineral that ensures proper functioning of cells in the body including nerves, bones, muscles and the heart. Calcium is found in the blood, in the cells, and in the skeleton and teeth. Adequate calcium intake is essential for healthy bones with beneficial effects on colorectal cancer, hypertension, obesity as well as kidney stones. Calcium is best absorbed through dietary sources, including dairy foods, oily fish, some leafy green vegetables, tofu, calcium-fortified foods, and nuts. Nonprescription calcium supplements are also available. An example is calcium carbonate (marketed as Tums, among others).

Cancer. A general term used for more than 100 diseases in which there is an abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system and bloodstream (metastases).

Cardiovascular disease (CVD).  Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term used to describe many conditions related to the circulatory system, both outside and inside the heart. Heart disease, coronary heart disease (CHD) and coronary artery disease (CAD) as well as peripheral vascular disease can all be described as cardiovascular diseases. See also Coronary artery disease, Heart disease.

Cataract. Associated with aging, a cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye that obstructs the passage of light.

CAT scan. An abbreviation for a computerized axial tomography scan, a CAT scan is a special kind of body imaging that is processed by a computer and displayed on a screen for viewing.

Cervix. The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus (or womb). A Pap smear tests for cancer of the cervix and for changes that would progress to cancer with time (dysplasia).

Chemotherapy. The use of chemical agents in the control or treatment of disease (such as cancer). The drugs have a toxic effect on cells and may cause damage to the ovaries, resulting in early menopause for many women.

Chondroitin sulfate. Part of a large protein molecule that gives cartilage elasticity, chondroitin sulfate is used as a nonprescription supplement for arresting (or possibly reversing) the degenerative process of osteoarthritis with glucosamine, its common partner agent. See also Glucosamine.

Chronic condition. A chronic condition is a condition that lasts or keeps coming back over a long period of time.

Clinical trial. An organized research program conducted with patients to evaluate a medical treatment, device, or drug.

Cognitive function. Conscious intellectual activity (reasoning, thinking, remembering).

Colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a test to view inside the colon that also allows for the biopsy and removal of precancerous polyps. See also Sigmoidoscopy.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
A broad range of healing approaches and philosophies that are not typically used in conventional medicine. A therapy is called “complementary” when it is used in addition to conventional medicine, whereas it is called “alternative” when it is used in place of conventional treatment. See also Black cohosh, Dong quai, Isoflavones, Phytoestrogens, Red clover, and St. John’s wort.

Congestive heart failure. Congestive heart failure is a condition in which the heart is unable to maintain an adequate circulation of blood in the body.

Contraception. Any method used to prevent pregnancy during sexual activity. Perimenopausal women who wish to avoid pregnancy are advised to use reliable contraception until 1 year without a menstrual period has lapsed.

Coronary artery disease (CAD).
Sometimes called coronary heart disease (CHD), coronary artery disease is  the most common form of heart disease. CAD refers to diseased or damaged blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. See also Cardiovascular disease, Heart disease.

Coronary heart disease (CHD). See Coronary artery disease.
Cystectomy. A cystectomy is the surgical removal of an ovarian cyst that is frequently performed with a minimally invasive technique called laparoscopy. See also Laparoscopy.

Cystitis. Inflammation of the urinary bladder. See also Urinary tract infection.

Cystocele. Protrusion of the urinary bladder through the vaginal wall. Cystocele can contribute to urinary symptoms such as incontinence.

D    
D&C.
Abbreviation for dilation and curettage. D&C is a surgical procedure that involves dilating (opening) the cervix and scraping, removing, and analyzing the uterine lining (endometrium) to determine the cause of certain conditions such as abnormal uterine bleeding.

Depression. A disorder marked by a persistent sadness, anxiety, or empty mood, and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that affects sleeping, eating and activity. Major depression is not the same as the mood swings or feeling blue reported by some perimenopausal women.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Produced mainly in the adrenal glands, Dehydroepiandrosterone is one of the androgens circulating in the body that is a precursor of androstenedione, estrogen, and testosterone. A decrease in DHEA levels occurs with aging, not menopause. DHEA is available as a nonprescription supplement.

Diabetes. A group of diseases in which the body cannot properly control the amount of sugar in the blood, resulting in high sugar levels that may cause a variety of complications ranging from blindness and kidney failure to cardiovascular disease. Diabetes occurs when the body fails to use insulin properly (insulin resistance) or when it does not produce enough insulin.

Digital mammogram. A digital mammogram is a mammogram that records the image of the breast directly into a computer and can be highlighted or enlarged. Digital mammogram technology is more expensive than film mammography and not as widely available. See also Mammogram.

Dong quai. An herb, Dong quai is typically used in nonprescription supplement form to relieve a variety of conditions including menstrual cramps and mild hot flashes. DXA. An abbreviation for dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, DXA is the standard test used for the measurement of bone mineral density (BMD). DXA uses the principles of absorptiometry (the degree to which tissues absorb radiation) to determine hip, spine, or total body BMD. See also Bone density.

Dysfunctional uterine bleeding (DUB). Erratic or heavy menstrual bleeding that is usually caused by variations in ovarian hormone levels, not caused by a lesion, fibroid, or tumor. Dysfunctional uterine bleeding is the most common type of abnormal uterine bleeding. See also Abnormal uterine bleeding.

Dysmenorrhea. Cramping and pelvic pain associated with a menstrual period.

Dyspareunia. Vaginal pain during intercourse.

Dysplasia. Characterized by the growth of abnormal cells, Dysplasia is a precancerous condition that may or may not develop into cancer at a later time.

E    
Endometrial ablation.
A surgical procedure in which heat energy, in the form of electrical currents or lasers, is used to thin down or remove the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) for the treatment of abnormally heavy uterine bleeding.

Endometrial biopsy. A procedure in which a sample of endometrial tissue is removed through the opening of the cervix and examined microscopically for abnormal cells. See also Biopsy.

Endometrial cancer. Cancer of the inner lining (endometrium) of the uterus.

Endometrial hyperplasia. An overgrowth of tissue or a thickening of the uterine lining, probably caused by excess estrogen. Endometrial hyperplasia is a risk factor for cancer of the uterus.

Endometriosis. A condition in which the same kind of tissue that lines the inside wall of the uterus (endometrium) grows outside the uterus (e.g., on the bowel or ovaries), often resulting in infertility and severe pelvic pain.

Endometrium. The endometrium is the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus.

Estrogen. A variety of hormonal chemical compounds produced by the ovaries that influence the health and growth of female reproductive organs. Estrogens are active in many cells throughout the body by interacting with estrogen receptors and the three main naturally occurring estrogens in women are estrone, estradiol, and estriol. Estrogen levels fall after menopause. Several types of estrogen therapies are available for menopause indications. Estrogens are also available in some contraceptives, but at much higher doses than those used for menopause treatment.

F    
Fallopian tubes.
Narrow, muscular tubes attached to the upper part of the uterus that serve as tunnels for the egg to travel from the ovaries to the uterus. The fertilization of an egg by a sperm (conception) normally occurs in the fallopian tube.

Fertile. Capable of reproducing.

Fertilization. The moment at which a sperm penetrates an egg and an embryo begins to develop into a baby.

Fibrinogen. A protein in the blood that helps blood to clot.

Fibroids. Common, benign (noncancerous) tumors (myomas) made up of muscle cells and connective tissue that develop within the wall of the uterus. Fibroids are a common cause of abnormal uterine bleeding in midlife and beyond. See also Abnormal uterine bleeding.

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Follicle-stimulating hormone is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland (located at the base of the brain). In women, FSH stimulates the growth of ovarian follicles (the small cysts that hold the eggs) and the supporting cells responsible for the nurturing and growth of the egg. FSH also stimulates production of estrogen by the ovaries. When estrogen production is low (after menopause), FSH levels will be high.

Formication. Formication refers to irritating sensations to the skin, ranging from severe itching to phantom symptoms of “ants crawling on their skin.” Formication is experienced by some perimenopausal women.

Fracture. A fracture is the breaking of bone, resulting from either trauma (such as a fall) or because bone has become weakened from a condition such as osteoporosis. See also Osteoporosis.

FRAX. A is risk-calculating computer software developed by the World Health Organization that evaluates the 10-year fracture risk in patients.

G    
Glaucoma.
Glaucoma is a disease of the eye marked by increased pressure within the eyeball. Glaucoma can result in damage to the optic disk and a gradual loss of vision.

Glucosamine. An amino sugar present in almost all human tissues that is believed to play a role in cartilage formation and repair. As a nonprescription supplement, alone and with chondroitin, Glucosamine has been shown to be effective for treating symptoms of osteoarthritis. See also Osteoarthritis, Chondroitin sulfate.

Gynecologist. A doctor who specializes in the health and care of the female reproductive organs.

H    
HDL cholesterol.
HDL is an abbreviation for high-density lipoprotein, and is referred to as "good" cholesterol. High HDL helps to lower the risk of heart disease.

Heart disease. Heart disease refers to any disorder that affects the blood vessels of the heart or heart muscle (e.g., arrhythmia, coronary heart disease, coronary artery disease, dilated cardiomyopathy, heart attack, heart failure, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, mitral regurgitation, and pulmonary stenosis). See also Cardiovascular disease, Coronary artery disease.

Homeopathy. Homeopathy is a system of medical practice that treats a disease by the administration of minute doses of a remedy that in healthy persons would produce symptoms similar to those of the disease.

Hormone. Specifically, a sex hormone (such as progesterone, estrogen, testosterone) produced by the testes (in men), ovaries (in women), or adrenal gland (in both men and women) that affects the development of secondary sex characteristics and the growth or function of the reproductive organs. Hormones can also be used as medications when made in a laboratory to be identical to what the body makes, or somewhat different but with similar effects. Also includes non-sex hormones such as thyroid hormone.

Hot flash. A hot flash is a condition resulting in a red, flushed face and neck, a rapid heartbeat, an increased pulse rate, and perspiration, often followed by a cold chill. Sometimes called a hot flush, this is the most common menopause-related discomfort thought to be the result of changes in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates temperature in the body. If the hypothalamus mistakenly senses that a woman is too warm, it starts a chain of events to cool her down. Blood vessels near the surface of the skin begin to dilate (enlarge), increasing blood flow to the surface in an attempt to dissipate body heat. See also Vasomotor symptoms.

Hyperplasia. See Endometrial hyperplasia.

Hypertension. Hypertension is abnormally high blood pressure.

Hysterectomy. The surgical removal of the uterus. A hysterectomy does not result in menopause, but ends fertility and menstrual periods. The term is often mistakenly used to describe removal of both ovaries and the uterus, which results in surgical menopause.

Hysteroscopy. A surgical procedure used to examine the inside of the uterus through the insertion of a thin, lighted tube into the vagina and through the cervix (lower, narrow end of the uterus).

I    
Incontinence.
Involuntary loss of bowel control (fecal incontinence) and/or bladder control (urinary incontinence).

Induced menopause. Menopause that occurs earlier than expected when both ovaries are permanently damaged by cancer treatments (chemotherapy or pelvic radiation) or are surgically removed.

Infertility. The condition of being unsuccessful in, or incapable of reproducing (in women, becoming pregnant).

Insomnia. Difficulty waking early, falling asleep, or staying asleep.

Intrauterine device (IUD). Also called Intrauterine system (IUS), this is a device with either copper or progestin inserted in the uterus by a healthcare provider to prevent unwanted pregnancy. The progestin device can be used with estrogen for EPT. See also Estrogen plus progestogen therapy.

Isoflavones. Naturally occurring estrogen-like compounds found in red clover, soybeans, and soy products. Isoflavones are also available in nonprescription supplements.

K    
Kegel exercises.
Kegel exercises are urogenital muscle exercises that are sometimes helpful for urinary incontinence.

L    
Lactose intolerance.
Exhibiting diarrhea, gas, and bloating when dairy products are consumed.

Laparoscopy. A laparoscopy is a surgical procedure to look inside the pelvic cavity by inserting a tube-like instrument through a small cut in the abdomen.

LDL cholesterol. The abbreviation for low-density lipoprotein, LDL cholesterol is considered to be "bad" cholesterol. Elevated LDL cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease.

Leiomyoma. The technical term for a fibroid tumor. See also Fibroids.

Lupus. Also known as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), Lupus is an autoimmune inflammatory connective tissue disease that occurs chiefly in women that is characterized by skin rash, fever, and arthritis.

Luteinizing hormone (LH).
A hormone produced by the pituitary gland (located at the base of the brain). In women, LH causes the dominant follicle to release its egg from the ovary (ovulation).

M    
Macular degeneration.
An incurable eye disease caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness for individuals aged 55 and older in the United States.

Mammogram. Specialized x-rays of the breast used to detect changes or abnormal growths in the breast tissue.

Melatonin. A hormone that is secreted by the brain in response to darkness. Melatonin has been linked to the regulation of the body’s 24-hour (circadian) rhythm. Available as a nonprescription supplement.

Menarche. The first menstrual period.

Menopause. The final menstrual period, which can be confirmed after going 12 consecutive months without a period. This time marks the permanent end of fertility and menstruation. Menopause is a normal, natural event associated with reduced functioning of the ovaries, resulting in lower levels of ovarian hormones (primarily estrogen).

Menses. The menstrual period.

Menstrual cycle. The time each month (typically every 4 weeks) when an egg develops in the ovary, the lining of the uterus thickens, and the egg is released into the uterus. If the egg is not fertilized by sperm, the lining of the uterus (with the egg tissue) is shed through menstruation and the cycle begins again. The menstrual cycle typically becomes irregular during perimenopause and ends completely at menopause. See also Menstruation.

Menstruation. A woman's "period”— menstruation is the discharge of secretions, blood, and tissue debris from the uterus that recurs in non-pregnant women. See also Menstrual cycle.

Metabolic syndrome. The presence of 3 or more of the following factors: central obesity (increased waist circumference), low HDL cholesterol, elevated triglyceride levels, elevated fasting glucose level, elevated blood pressure. Women with metabolic syndrome are at increased risk for stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes (adult onset diabetes).

Migraine. A condition typically marked by a moderate to severe throbbing pain, usually aggravated by physical activity, that is worse on one side of the head. Other symptoms of migraines include sensitivity to light and noise, nausea, and vomiting.

Mind/body medicine. Self-care approaches to healing for the management of illness or symptoms. Components of mind/body medicine integrate relaxation techniques with exercise, nutrition, and cognitive skills.

MRI. Abbreviation for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, an MRI is an imaging technique that allows for the viewing of the soft tissues of the body.

Myomectomy. An operation to remove fibroid tumors (myomas).

N    
NAMS Menopause Practitioner.
A licensed healthcare provider who has passed a competency examination and achieved a certification in the field of menopause from The North American Menopause Society.

Night sweats. Hot flashes that occur at night that can interfere with sleep, even if they are not strong enough to cause awakening, resulting in heavy perspiration. While it is a myth that menopause makes a woman irritable, inadequate sleep causes fatigue, which may lead to irritability. See also Hot flashes.

O    
Obesity.
Excessive accumulation of fat in the body defined as a body mass index over 30. Obesity is associated with adverse health consequences including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, some cancers, hypertension, osteoarthritis, and premature death. See also Body Mass Index.

Oophorectomy. Surgical removal of an ovary. See also Bilateral oophorectomy.

Orgasm. Excellent sexual climax.

Osteoarthritis (OA). The most common form of joint disease. Osteoarthritis particularly affects aging women and increases in frequency with the “wear and tear” of aging. Considerable research on Osteoarthritis is ongoing to clarify the relationship between arthritis and hormones. See also Rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoporosis. Postmenopausal osteoporosis is a disease of older women in which the bone density of the skeleton has decreased to a point where bone has become fragile and is at higher risk for fractures, often with little or no trauma. In most women, bone loss that is related to the decline in estrogen levels accelerates during the first few years after menopause.

Ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is an abnormal growth of tissue in a woman’s ovaries that develops into a malignant tumor.

Ovarian cyst. A sac filled with a semisolid material or fluid that forms on or within one of the ovaries, usually noncancerous.

Ovary. The female gonad, one of a pair of reproductive glands located in the pelvis in women, one on each side of the uterus. In premenopausal women, the ovaries produce eggs (ova) and hormones such as progesterone, estrogen or testosterone. During each monthly menstrual cycle, an egg is released from one
ovary. The egg travels from the ovary to the uterus through a fallopian tube. The ovaries are the main source of female hormones before menopause.

Ovulation. The release of a mature egg cell from the ovary.

P    
Pap test or Pap smear.
A screening test in which a sample of cells is taken from a woman's cervix and examined for precancerous conditions under a microscope. The Pap test is named after George N. Papanicolaou.

Pelvic cavity. The space inside the lower abdomen that holds the reproductive organs (e.g., ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes).

Pelvic examination. Clinical exam of the vulva (external genitalia), cervix, ovaries, vagina, and uterus. A speculum is inserted into the vagina and a Pap test is usually done during this exam. See also Pap test, Speculum.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). An infection in the pelvis caused by bacteria, usually from a sexually transmitted disease. PID can affect the ovaries, uterus, and/or fallopian tubes, and may cause fever, pain, scarring of the pelvic organs, and infertility.
Pelvic ultrasound. A pelvic ultrasound is a test that uses sound waves to produce an electronic image of the organs of the pelvis.

Pelvis. The lower part of the abdomen, located between the hip bones.

Perimenopause. Perimenopause is a span of time typically lasting 6 years or more that begins with the onset of menstrual cycle changes and other menopause-related symptoms and extends through menopause (the last menstrual period) to 1 year after menopause. Perimenopause is experienced only with spontaneous (natural) menopause, not induced menopause. Perimenopause is also called the menopause transition. See also Induced menopause.

Phytoestrogens. Plant compounds (such as isoflavones) that have a chemical structure similar to that of estrogen and have weak estrogen-like biologic activity. Phytoestrogens are available in foods (such as soy) and as nonprescription supplements. See also Isoflavones, Red clover.

Placebo. An inactive substance used in controlled experiments to test the effectiveness of another substance (such as a drug).

Postmenopause. Postmenopause refers to the span of time after menopause (the final menstrual period).

Premature menopause. Menopause that occurs at or before the age of 40, which may be the result of autoimmune disorders, genetics, treatments or medical procedures.

Premature ovarian failure (POF). A condition that occurs at an earlier age than 40 when the ovaries “fail,” causing menstrual periods to stop. POF differs from premature menopause in that ovarian activity may resume.

Premenopause. The span of time from puberty (onset of menstrual periods) to perimenopause.

Progesterone. A female hormone that is released by the ovaries after ovulation to prepare the lining of the uterus (endometrium) to receive and sustain the fertilized egg and thus permit pregnancy. If pregnancy does not occur, progesterone (and estrogen) levels fall, resulting in menstruation. Prolapse. The slipping or falling down of a body part from its usual position (eg, with a bladder or uterus if the ligaments holding it in place become stretched). See also Bladder prolapse.

R    
Red clover.
A member of the legume plant family, red clover is rich in phytoestrogens, and available in nonprescription supplements used to reduce mild hot flashes. Reduced libido. Also called inhibited sexual desire; reduced libido refers to a decrease in interest in sexual activity.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). A joint disease caused by the immune system attacking healthy tissue, causing inflammation. RA is different than the aging-related wear and tear that leads to osteoarthritis (OA), and Rheumatoid arthritis often affects women at midlife and beyond. See also Osteoarthritis.

S    
Sexual health.
The many factors that impact reproduction and sexual function—mental, physical, and emotional.

Sexually transmitted disease (STD). A disease passed from one person to another by unprotected sexual contact involving the vagina, mouth, or anus. Examples include HPV (human papilloma virus - the infection that causes precancer and cervical cancer), HIV (the infection that causes AIDS), and gonorrhea. Sometimes called sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Sigmoidoscopy. A test to view inside the lower colon and rectum. See also Colonoscopy.

Sonogram. A sonogram is an imaging procedure (called ultrasound) in which echoes from sound waves passing through tissue create pictures of structures deep within the body.

Soy. Soy foods (such as tofu and soy nuts) are nonprescription supplements sometimes used for health benefits such as relieving mild hot flashes. Speculum. A plastic or metal instrument inserted into the vagina to help examine the cervix, vagina, and uterus. See also Pelvic examination.

Spontaneous menopause. Menopause that is not caused by any surgery or medical treatment. Spontaneous menopause occurs, on average, at age 51. Also known as natural menopause. See also Menopause.

Statins. Statins are a group of prescription drugs government approved to lower cholesterol. See also HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol.

Stress incontinence. An involuntary loss of urine that occurs during activities such as sneezing, laughing, coughing, or exercising.

Surgical menopause.
Induced menopause can occur at any age before spontaneous menopause, and results from the surgical removal of both of the ovaries (bilateral oophorectomy) for medical reasons. See also Bilateral oophorectomy, Induced menopause.

T    
T-score, Z-score.
Values that report the results of predicting fracture risk and evaluating bone strength. The T-score compares bone density to young women and is a rough index of the need for treatment, whereas the Z-score compares the bone density to similar-age women and is a rough index of the need for extra diagnostic studies. See also Bone density, DXA scan.

Temporary menopause. Term used to describe the event of menstrual periods stopping temporarily due to lifestyle factors such as excessive exercising, high levels of stress and/or dieting, or due to medications used to treat PMS, fibroids, or endometriosis. Once a woman stops her medication or adopts a healthier lifestyle, her ovaries may resume normal production of hormones.

Testosterone. The male androgen hormone that is essential for sperm production and responsible for maintaining and inducing male secondary sex characteristics. In women, testosterone (partially produced by the ovaries) may help maintain bone and muscle health and may also regulate sexual desire.

Thyroid gland. A gland located beneath the voice box in the throat that produces thyroid hormone, which helps regulate metabolism and growth.

Tubal ligation. The clamping, tying, and/or cutting of the fallopian tubes to induce sterility and prevent pregnancy. See also Vasectomy.

U    
Urge incontinence.
Involuntary leakage of urine accompanied by a sense of urgency (cannot reach the bathroom on time), usually due to overactive bladder. Urge incontinence may be helped by pelvic floor therapy and/or medication. See also Kegel exercises.

Urinary incontinence. Involuntary loss of urine caused by any number of conditions including pelvic relaxation, urinary tract infection, and bladder contractions. See also Incontinence, Stress incontinence, Urge incontinence.

Urinary tract infection (UTI). An often uncomfortable condition that occurs when bacteria in the urinary tract cause inflammation and infection. Typical treatment for a UTI is an antibiotic.

Urogynecologist. A gynecologist specially trained to treat problems of the female urogenital (reproductive and urinary) system, such as pelvic relaxation problems and incontinence.

Urologist. A doctor specially trained to treat problems of the urinary system.

Uterine bleeding. Any bleeding that originates in the uterus (including a menstrual period) but typically used to describe abnormal uterine bleeding. See also Abnormal uterine bleeding.

Uterus. The hollow, small, pear-shaped organ in a woman's pelvis in which a fetus develops and where menstrual bleeding originates. See also Hysterectomy, Womb.

V    
Vagina.
Also known as the birth canal, the vagina is the tube that joins the cervix (the lower part of uterus) to the outside of the body.

Vaginal atrophy. A condition in which estrogen loss causes the lining of the vagina and tissues of the vulva (the external parts of the female genital organs) to become dry, thin, and less elastic. Vaginal secretions diminish, resulting in decreased lubrication.

Vaginal dryness. Inadequate lubrication of the vagina that can be caused by medication, low estrogen levels, or lack of sexual arousal.

Vaginal moisturizer. Nonprescription products similar to vaginal lubricants, but offering longer effect or duration by maintaining and replenishing water content in the vagina, often preferred by women who have symptoms of itching, irritation, and burning that are not limited to intercourseVaginitis. Inflamed vaginal tissues that result in burning, irritation, or vaginal discharge. Tissues may be prone to tearing, injury and bleeding during a pelvic examination or sexual intercourse.

Vasectomy. A vasectomy is an outpatient surgical procedure to induce sterility in males.

Vasomotor symptoms. Also known as night sweats and hot flashes, vasomotor symptoms are common symptoms that occur during perimenopause and early postmenopause. In almost all women, menopause-related vasomotor symptoms subside over time without any intervention. See also Hot flashes, Night sweats.

Vitamin D. A nutrient that enables the body to absorb calcium, among other things. Vitamin D is normally produced within the skin in response to sunlight, provided no sunscreen is worn. Vitamin D is also available in supplement form and usually recommended for those at risk of inadequate sun exposure.

Vulva. The external parts of the female genitalia (labia or lips) around the opening of the vagina.

Vulvodynia. Pain in the vulva, usually described as a stringing, burning, irritating, itching or raw feeling.

W    
Weight-bearing exercise.
Exercise during which muscles and bones bear the body’s weight or work against the force of gravity. Examples include brisk walking, jogging, resistance training exercises, and dancing. May slow bone loss in the early postmenopausal years and reduce fracture risk.

Womb. Another name for the uterus, the womb is the female organ in which a fetus develops.

Women's health specialist. A doctor, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, or other allied health professional specializing in women's health issues.

Y    
Yeast infection.
A yeast infection is an infection of the vagina caused by one of the many species of fungus called Candida.