V Glossary

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Vacuum aspiration - procedure in which a suction tube attached to a vacuum pump is inserted through the vagina into the uterus to loosen and remove its contents.

Vacuum extraction - procedure used to ease delivery by applying a metal or plastic cup to the baby's scalp and using suction to pull the baby gradually out of the vagina.

Vagina (Also called the birth canal) - the passageway through which fluid passes out of the body during menstrual periods. The vagina connects the cervix (the opening of the womb, or uterus) and the vulva (the external genitalia).

Vaginal atrophy - often a symptom of menopause; the drying and thinning of the tissues of the vagina and urethra. This can lead to dyspareunia (pain during sexual intercourse) as well as vaginitis, cystitis, and urinary tract infections.

Vaginal hysterectomy - the uterus is removed through the vaginal opening.

Vaginitis - inflammation, redness, or swelling of the vaginal tissues; usually resulting from a bacterial infection.

Vaginitis, atrophic - a form of noninfectious vaginitis which usually results from a decrease in hormones because of menopause, surgical removal of the ovaries, radiation therapy, or even after childbirth - particularly in breastfeeding women. Lack of estrogen dries and thins the vaginal tissue, and may also cause spotting.

Vaginitis, bacterial - very common vaginal infection characterized by symptoms such as increased vaginal discharge or itching, burning, or redness in the genital area.

Vaginitis, noninfectious - a type of vaginitis that usually refers to vaginal irritation without an infection being present. Most often, the infection is caused by an allergic reaction to, or irritation from, vaginal sprays, douches, or spermicidal products. It may also be caused by sensitivity to perfumed soaps, detergents, or fabric softeners.

Vaginitis, viral - very common vaginal infection, often sexually transmitted, that is caused by one of many different types of viruses (e.g., herpes simplex virus, human papillomavirus).

Vagotomy - operation to cut the vagus nerve, which causes the stomach to produce less acid.

Vagus nerve - one of the 12 cranial nerves, the vagus nerve travels from the brain to the intestines. Among other things, it controls production of stomach acid..

Valgus deformity - a condition in which the end of a bone furthest away from the center of the body turns outward from where it attaches at the joint. An example is hallux valgus (bunion), where the big toe turns outward toward the second toe.

Valve - a structure within an organ or blood vessel that prevents fluid from flowing backward.

Valvuloplasty - the repair of a heart valve using a balloon catheter inside the valve.

Varices - swollen veins such as those that form in the esophagus from cirrhosis.

Varicose veins - enlarged, curving veins just beneath the skin, usually in the legs.

Varus deformity - acondition in which the end of a bone furthest away from the center of the body turns inward from where it attaches at a joint. An example is talipes equinovarus (clubfoot), where the foot turns inward.

Vas deferens - the tubes leading to the testes (testicles).

Vascular - pertaining to blood vessels.

Vasculitis - inflamed blood vessels.

Vasectomy - a surgical procedure performed to make a man sterile, or unable to father a child. It is a permanent male birth control measure, and a means of contraception used in many parts of the world.

Vasopressors - a medication that raises blood pressure.

Vasodilator - a medication that dilates or widens the opening in a blood vessel. This helps to decrease blood pressure and lessen the workload on the heart.

Vein - a blood vessel that carries blood from the body back into the heart.

Velocardiofacial syndrome - inherited disorder characterized by cleft palate, heart defects, characteristic facial appearance, minor learning problems, and speech and feeding problems.

Venipuncture - drawing blood with a needle from a vein, usually in the forearm.

Ventilation - movement of air (gases) in and out of the lungs.

Ventricle - one of the two pumping chambers of the heart. The right ventricle receives oxygen-poor blood from the right atrium and pumps it to the lungs through the pulmonary artery. The left ventricle receives oxygen-rich blood from the left atrium and pumps it to the body through the aorta.

Ventricular fibrillation - a condition in which the ventricles contract in rapid and unsynchronized rhythms and cannot pump blood into the body.

Ventricular tachycardia - a condition in which the ventricles cause a very fast heartbeat.

Vernix caseosa (Also called vernix) - a white substance that covers the skin of the fetus (while inside the uterus) and helps to protect the fetus.

Vertebrae (Also called the back bones) - bony structures that surround the spinal cord.

Vertigo - illusion of movement; sensation that the external world is revolving around an individual (objective vertigo) or that the individual is revolving in space (subjective vertigo).

Vesicoureteral reflux (VUR) - the abnormal flow of urine from the bladder back into the ureters; often as a result of a urinary tract infection or birth defect.

Vestibular neuronitis - an infection of the inner ear that can affect at the vestibular nerve, causing vertigo.

Vestibular system - system in the inner ear that is responsible for maintaining the body's orientation in space, balance, and posture; also regulates locomotion and other movements and keeps objects in visual focus as the body moves.

Vestibule - bony cavity of the inner ear.

Vibrotactile aids - mechanical instruments that help hearing-impaired individuals detect and interpret sound through the sense of touch.

Villi - tiny, fingerlike projections on the surface of the small intestine that help absorb nutrients.

Viral hemorrhagic fevers - a group of viral illnesses with effects that range from mild to life-threatening. The illness is caused by a virus from one of four distinct viral groups. Examples of these illnesses include Ebola hemorrhagic fever and Lassa fever.

Visual acuity -a term related to how well a person can see. A person who can see both near and far objects well, without wearing glasses, is said to have good visual acuity.

Vitiligo - smooth, white patches in the skin caused by the loss of pigment-producing cells.

Vitrectomy - a surgical procedure done to remove the fluid (vitreous humor or vitreous gel) inside the eyeball when blood has clouded the fluid as a result of certain eye conditions.

Vitreous body (Also called vitreous humor or vitreous gel) - a clear, jelly-like substance that fills the center of the eye.

Vocal cord paralysis - inability of one or both vocal folds (vocal cords) to move because of damage to the brain or nerves.

Vocal cords (Also called vocal folds) - muscularized folds of mucous membrane that extend from the larynx (voice box) wall; enclosed in elastic vocal ligament and muscle that control the tension and rate of vibration of the cords as air passes through them.

Vocal tremor - trembling or shaking of one or more of the muscles of the larynx resulting in an unsteady-sounding voice.

Voice - sound produced by air passing out through the larynx and upper respiratory tract.

Voice disorders - group of problems involving abnormal pitch, loudness, or quality of the sound produced by the larynx (voice box).

Volvulus - twisting of the stomach or large intestine.

Vomiting - the release of stomach contents through the mouth.

Vulva - external, visible part of the female genital area.

Vulvitis - an inflammation of the vulva, the soft folds of skin outside the vagina. This is not a condition but rather a symptom that results from a host of diseases, infections, injuries, allergies, and other irritants.