Glossary of Medical Terms

This glossary provides brief explanations of some of the most common technical words and abbreviations used when talking about chronic kidney disease (CKD) and its treatment.

Access = a method of gaining entry to the bloodstream so that dialysis can be done. A fistula is one form of access for haemodialysis.

Anaemia = a shortage of red blood cells in the body, causing tiredness, shortness of breath, loss of appetite and pale skin. One of the functions of the kidneys is to make EPO (Erythropoietin), which stimulates your bone marrow to make blood cells. With kidney disease, your kidneys do not make EPO and you become anaemic. Read more in Preventing Anaemia.

Antibodies = substances that normally help your body to fight infection. They are made by white blood cells. After a transplant, antibodies can attack the new kidney and cause rejection. Antibodies also cause some kidney diseases such as glomerulonephritis.

Antigen = a type of protein that is found on the outer surface of the body's cells.

Arteries = blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body.

Biopsy = a kidney (renal) biopsy is a medical test that can identify the cause of your kidney problem. A tiny piece of tissue is removed from your kidney with a special needle and examined under a microscope.

Bladder = the organ where urine collects before being passed out of the body.

Blood cells = the microscopic cells that make up the solid part of the blood. There are three main types: red, white and platelets.

Blood group – an inherited characteristic of red blood cells. The common classification is based on whether or not you have certain antigens (called A and B) on your cells. People belong to one of four blood groups, called A, B, AB and O.

Blood pressure (BP) – the pressure that your blood exerts against the walls of your arteries as it flows through them. One of the functions of your kidneys is to help control your blood pressure.

Body mass index (BMI) – a measure of your weight relative to your height, which is associated with your body fat and health risk. If your BMI is more than 25, you are at risk of health problems. If your BMI is more than 30 you might have more complications during the transplant operation and you will tend to heal less well.

Bone marrow = the soft part in the middle of some bones, where blood cells are made.

Calcium = a mineral salt that strengthens the bones.

Catheter = a flexible plastic tube used to gain access to the interior of the body.

Cholesterol = one of the fat levels in the blood stream - a high cholesterol value is a risk for getting heart diseases or strokes. Diet and drugs can reduce levels of cholesterol.