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Diseases & Conditions

Arthritis Glossary

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

Aerobic exercise — Exercise that conditions the heart and lungs to use oxygen to more efficiently—thus supplying the entire body with larger amounts of oxygen-rich blood—and to build stronger muscles. Examples of aerobic activities include walking, swimming, low-impact aerobic dance, skiing and biking.

Acetaminophen — A type of pain-relieving medication (for example, Tylenol®)

Achilles tendon — The tendon at the back of the ankle.

Acupuncture — A procedure based on traditional Chinese medicine in which disposable stainless steel needles are used to stimulate the body’s 14 major meridians, or energy-carrying channels, to resist or overcome illnesses and conditions by correcting these imbalances.

Acupuncturist — A person who performs acupuncture.

Adhesive capsulitis — A condition resulting in loss of motion in the shoulder; also called frozen shoulder.

Aldolase — A muscle enzyme, elevated levels of which suggest that there is an inflammatory muscle disease.

Allergic angiitis — An extremely rare disease that results from inflammation of the blood vessels and causes injury to many organ systems. The areas most commonly involved are the nose, sinuses, lungs, heart, intestinal tract and nerves. Allergic angiitis also is known as Churg Strauss vasculitis (CSV), Churg Strauss syndrome and granulomatosis.

Allopurinol — A medicine that lowers uric acid levels. It may be recommended for people who have had multiple attacks of gout or kidney stones due to uric acid.

ANA (Anti-nuclear antibody) — A blood test that is used in the evaluation of possible lupus or other connective tissue disorders. When the ANA is positive, it indicates that someone may have an autoimmune disorder, but it alone cannot make the specific diagnosis.

ANA profile — A series of tests, consisting of an ANA and measurement of other related antibodies. This may be done if the ANA is found to be positive or possibly at the same time as the ANA.

Antineutrophil Cytoplasmic Antibodies (ANCA) — Antibodies found in the blood in most people with Wegener’s granulomatosis, a disease that affects the upper respiratory tract, lungs and kidneys.

Anemia — A condition defined by a low red blood cell count. (Red blood cells are the cells that carry oxygen throughout your body.)

Angiography — A procedure that yields X-ray pictures of the inside of blood vessels. During angiography, a long slender tube called a catheter is inserted into a large artery (generally in the groin or arm). The catheter is slowly and carefully threaded through the artery until its tip reaches the segment of vessel to be examined. A small amount of dye is injected into the blood vessel through the catheter, and X-rays are taken. The dye enables the blood vessels to appear on the X-ray pictures.

Ankylosing spondylitis — A type of arthritis that affects the spine and sacroiliac joints. Spondylitis may cause pain and stiffness from the neck down to the lower back.

Anticoagulants — Medications that "thin" blood and impair coagulation.

Antiphospholipid antibodies — Abnormal proteins that may increase the tendency of the blood to clot.

Aquatherapy — A program of exercises performed in a large pool. Aquatherapy may be easier on painful joints because the water takes some of the weight off the painful areas while providing resistance training. Aquatherapy also is called hydrotherapy or water therapy.

Arteritis — A general term that refers to the inflammation of arteries, blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart and to the rest of the body.

Artery — A blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart and to the rest of the body.

Arthritis — A general term that means inflammation in joints.

Arthritis mutilans — A severe, deforming and destructive arthritis associated with psoriasis that primarily affects the small joints in the fingers and toes closest to the nail but also is frequently associated with lower back and neck pain.

Arthrocentesis — A procedure during which fluid is removed from an inflamed joint through a needle. Removing the fluid cannot only aid in diagnosing the condition, but it may reduce pressure within the joint thereby reducing pain.

Arthroplasty — A surgical procedure in which diseased portions of a joint are removed.

Asymmetric arthritis — A type of arthritis with a joint distribution typical of psoriatic arthritis, usually affecting one to three joints — large or small — such as the knee, hip, or one or several fingers. Asymmetric arthritis does not affect matching pairs of joints on both sides of the body. Psoriatic arthritis is a form of inflammatory arthritis that affects some people who have psoriasis.

Autoimmunity — A malfunction of the immune system where one's own tissues or organs are not recognized as self and are attacked by the body's immune system.

B

Benign hypermobility joint syndrome (BHJS) — A common source of joint or muscle complaints by children and young adults. Benign hypermobility describes looseness of joints that may be associated with daytime pain, nighttime awakening or discomfort after exercise.

Bioelectric therapy — The delivery of a precise dose of electric current through electrodes placed on the skin. These currents cause a biological change and interrupt pain signals to the brain. Bioelectric therapy relieves pain by blocking pain messages to the brain.

Biopsy — The removal of a tissue sample for analysis.

Bursa — A sac filled with lubricating fluid, located between tissues — such as bone, muscle, tendons and skin — to decrease rubbing, friction and irritation.

Bursitis — Inflammation or irritation of the bursa.

C

Calcium pyrophosphate (CPP) crystals — Crystals that form in the cartilage (cushioning material between the bones) during a sudden illness, joint injury or surgery and are later released into the joint fluid. When CPP crystals are released into the joint, they can cause a sudden attack of arthritis, similar to gout called pseudogout. People with over-functioning parathyroid glands often get this.

Carpal tunnel syndrome — A condition that occurs when the median nerve, which relays sensation from the palm of the hand and fingers, becomes pinched, usually from swelling of the tendons. This leads to numbness and sometimes pain in the fingers and hand, and sometimes the forearm or even shoulder. Carpal tunnel syndrome may result from long-term, repetitive motion in the fingers, wrist or arm, or from other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, hyperthyroidism and multiple myeloma.

Cartilage — A firm, rubbery material that covers the ends of bones in normal joints. Its main function is to reduce friction in the joints and serve as a "shock absorber."

Central nervous system — The brain and spinal cord.

Chemotherapy — In cancer treatment, chemotherapy refers to particular drugs used to kill or slow the reproduction of rapidly multiplying cells. In rheumatology, chemotherapy is designed to decrease the abnormal behavior of cells, rather than kill cells. The doses of medication used for rheumatic or autoimmune conditions are lower than the doses used for cancer treatment.

Churg Strauss vasculitis (CSV) — An extremely rare disease that results from inflammation of the blood vessels and causes injury to many organ systems. The areas most commonly involved are the nose, sinuses, lungs, heart, intestinal tract and nerves. CSV also is known as Churg Strauss syndrome or allergic angiitis and granulomatosis.

Chondroitin — A normal component of cartilage and a nutritional supplement that may help rebuild cartilage and relieve pain in some people with osteoarthritis.

Chronic illness — An illness that is ongoing and long-term.

Cyclolophosphamide (Cytoxan®) — A chemotherapy drug that is sometimes used to treat autoimmune disorders.

Collateral blood vessels — Alternate routes of blood flow.

Complement — A system consisting of a network of proteins that can be activated by the immune system leading to inflammation. Decreased levels of various components of complement — C3, C4 or CH50 — can be found in people with lupus and certain other autoimmune conditions.

Computed axial tomography (CAT scan) — A process using X-rays and computers to produce images of internal organs, including large blood vessels.

Corticosteroids — Drugs that suppress the abnormal cells of the immune system, working to decrease the inflammation and pain. Often called "steroids," drugs in this category are prednisone or prednisolone. These drugs are structurally similar to hydrocortisone, which is produced by the normal adrenal gland.

Cortisone — A potent anti-inflammatory corticosteroid that may be given as an injection (shot) to decrease swelling and relieve pain.

Counter-force brace — An elastic band that wraps around the forearm just below the injured elbow (tendon) to help relieve pain associated with tennis elbow.

COX-2 inhibitors — A newer type of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that relieves inflammation with a decreased chance of gastrointestinal side effects that can occur with older NSAIDs, especially stomach ulceration and bleeding.

C-reactive protein (CRP) — A protein that indicates the amount of inflammation present in the body.

Creatine phosphokinase (CK) — A muscle enzyme. If CK is high, it suggests that there is an inflammatory muscle disease. Higher levels of CK from muscle also can be found after trauma, injections into a muscle, and muscle disease due to an under-active thyroid.

Cytoxan® (cyclophosphamide) — A chemotherapy drug used to treat the most aggressive and dangerous rheumatic diseases, such as severe systemic lupus erythematosus and some forms of vasculitis.

D

Degenerative joint disease — The most common type of arthritis. It is associated with a breakdown of cartilage in joints and can occur in almost any joint in the body. It most commonly occurs in the fingers, hips, knees and spine. Degenerative joint disease also is called osteoarthritis.

Degenerative scoliosis — A type of scoliosis that may result from traumatic (from an injury or illness) bone collapse, previous major back surgery, or osteoporosis. Scoliosis is a condition causing a lateral (toward the side) curvature in the normally straight vertical line of the spine.

De Quervain's disease — Painful inflammation (swelling) of tendons in the thumb, resulting in pain at the base of the thumb.

Discoid lupus — A type of lupus that affects only the skin, causing large red, circular lesions that may scar. Skin rashes in lupus are usually aggravated by sunlight.

Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) — Prescription medications that have been shown to slow the progress of rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis. DMARDs include methotrexate, sulfasalazine and Plaquenil®.

Distal interphalangeal (DIP) predominant psoriatic arthritis — A type of psoriatic arthritis that involves primarily the small joints in the fingers and toes closest to the nails. Psoriatic arthritis is a form of inflammatory arthritis that affects some people who have psoriasis.

E

Electromyogram (EMG) — A test that measures the electrical activity in nerves and muscles. It measures the ability of specific nerves to transmit electrical impulses or messages and is done to document the extent of nerve damage.

ELISA — See Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay.

Endorphins — Morphine-like chemicals produced in our own bodies during times of pain or stress. Pain-blocking chemicals—called endorphins—that decrease or eliminate painful sensations.

Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay (ELISA) — A type of blood test used to detect and measure antibodies. An example of this is a test used to help diagnose Lyme disease. This test measures the levels of antibodies against the Lyme disease bacteria.

Eosinophils — White blood cells with red-staining granules that play a role in allergic reactions and resistance to parasitic infections.

Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (sed. rate or ESR) — A test that can indicate the degree of inflammation in the body. It actually is a measurement of the speed with which red blood cells fall in a test tube of blood. In the measure of certain proteins produced in response to inflammation, red cells form "stacks" or "rouleaux" (small rolls) and settle out at a more rapid rate than normal.

F

Fibromyalgia — A condition characterized by aching and burning pain in muscles, tendons and joints all over the body, but especially along the spine. In fibromyalgia, the body also is tender to touch in specific areas - called tender or trigger points.

Finkelstein test — A test frequently used to diagnose de Quervain's disease. During the Finkelstein test, the doctor will ask you to make a fist with your thumb placed in your palm. When the wrist is suddenly bent toward the outside, the swollen tendons are pulled. If this movement is painful, you may have de Quervain's disease.

G

Giant cell arteritis (GCA) — A disorder that causes inflammation in the walls of large and medium-sized arteries. Because some of the affected arteries provide blood to the head, including the temples, the condition may also be called temporal arteritis.

Glucosamine — A nutritional supplement that has been suggested to help rebuild cartilage and relieve pain in some people with osteoarthritis.

"Golfer’s elbow" — A condition caused by overuse of arm and forearm muscles that results in elbow pain. Golfer’s elbow specifically involves the area where the muscles and tendons of the forearm attach on the inside of the elbow. It also is called medial epicondylitis.

Gout — A form of arthritis that causes acute, severe attacks of pain, tenderness, redness, warmth and swelling (inflammation) in some joints. The large toe is most often affected, but gout also can affect other joints in the leg (knee, ankle, and foot) and, less often, joints in the arm (hand, wrist, and elbow).

H

HLA-B27 — A cell surface protein on white blood cells associated with a gene that has been linked to ankylosing spondylitis. People carrying this gene are more likely to develop ankylosing spondylitis. When HLA-B27 is present, it indicates susceptibility to a group of diseases called seronegative spondyloarthropathies.

Hydrotherapy — A program of exercises performed in a large pool. Hydrotherapy may be easier on painful joints because the water takes some of the weight off the painful areas while enabling resistance training. Hydrotherapy also is called aquatherapy or water therapy.

Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil®) — A medication used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and mild lupus-related problems,such as skin and joint disease. Plaquenil® is an antibiotic originally used to treat malaria and is the most commonly used antimalarial in arthritis treatment.

Hyalgan® — A medication (hyaluronate) given as a series of 3 to 5 weekly injections into affected joints that can relieve pain in some people with osteoarthritis.

I

Idiopathic scoliosis — A type of scoliosis that has no specific identifiable cause. Scoliosis is a condition causing a lateral (toward the side) curvature in the normally straight vertical line of the spine. Idiopathic scoliosis is the most common type of scoliosis.

Immune system — The body’s specific defense system against diseases.

Impingement syndrome — A common condition of the shoulder often seen in aging adults. It typically results in difficulty reaching up behind the back, pain with overhead use of the arm and weakness of shoulder muscles. It may be a precursor to rotator cuff tear.

Imuran® — An immunosuppressive drug, also known as azathioprine, originally used to prevent graft rejection in patients receiving kidney transplants. Imuran® also is used to suppress the abnormal immune response in some patients with vasculitis, systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Inflammation — A process by which the body's white blood cells and chemicals protect the body against infection and foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses. Inflammation is characterized by redness, warmth, swelling and pain.

Informed consent — When a patient is given all available information necessary to understand what the risks and benefits of proposed treatments are. He or she can then give or withhold informed consent.

Intravenous — Through a vein; a route by which medications can be given.

Isometrics — A group of exercises that help strengthen muscles without bending painful joints. Isometrics strengthen muscle groups by using an alternating series of isolated muscle flexes and periods of relaxation.

Isotonics — A group of exercises that involve joint mobility. Isotonic exercises achieve strength development through increased repetitions or by introducing light resistance with small dumbbells or stretch bands.

J

Joint — The area where two bones meet. All synovial joints have a cavity, lined with synovial membrane, containing a small amount of fluid that allows for movement.

Joint aspiration — The removal of some fluid from a joint to examine under a microscope, or subject to other testing such as culture, protein determination, etc.

Joint replacement surgery — A surgical procedure in which natural joints are replaced with synthetic ones to restore function in the affected area.

L

Lumbar sympathetic block — An injection (shot) of numbing medication placed in the nerve tissue in the lumbar, or lower, back to provide pain relief.

Lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus) — A disease in which the immune system inappropriately attacks tissues in various parts of the body, leading to tissue damage and illness.

Lyme disease — A specific bacterial infection transmitted by a tick. Lyme disease can cause arthritic problems, as well as heart, brain and nerve complications.

M

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) — A test that produces images of the human body without the use of X-rays. MRI uses a large magnet, electromagnetic energy waves and a computer to produce these images.

Methotrexate (Rheumatrex®) — A chemotherapy drug that sometimes is used to treat autoimmune disorders.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) — A naturally occurring sulfur-containing chemical that is taken as a dietary supplement. Some people take MSM for arthritis, but there is little medical evidence showing its benefits.

Myositis — Inflammation of muscle.

N

Neurotransmitters — Body chemicals that carry nerve impulses between nerve fibers.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — A class of medicines that reduces inflammation and relieves pain. Inflammation is the body's response to irritation or injury, and is characterized by redness, warmth, swelling and pain. NSAIDs work by blocking the production of certain chemicals in the body that cause inflammation.

Neuromuscular scoliosis — A type of scoliosis that is a result of abnormal muscles or nerves. It frequently is seen in people with spina bifida or cerebral palsy, or those with various conditions that are accompanied by, or result in, paralysis. Scoliosis is a condition causing a lateral (toward the side) curvature in the normally straight vertical line of the spine.

Neutropenia — A low white blood cell count. This condition may cause decreased resistance to infection. Also called leucopenia.

O

Occlusion — A blockage, as of a blood vessel.

Occupational therapy — Teaches you how to reduce strain on your joints while doing everyday activities. Also can recommend and show you how to use assistive devices, suggest ways to make everyday and work activities easier, and teach you how to reduce strain on your joints and conserve energy.

Osteoarthritis — The most common type of arthritis. It is associated with a breakdown of cartilage in joints and can occur in almost any joint in the body. It most commonly occurs in the fingers, hips, knees and spine. Osteoarthritis also is called degenerative joint disease.

P

Pericardium — The membrane covering of the heart.

Pericarditis — Inflammation of the membrane around the heart.

Phalen maneuver — A test used for diagnosing carpal tunnel syndrome that involves flexing the wrist to try to reproduce the person’s symptoms. It is named after Dr. George Phalen, a hand surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic who devised it.

Photosensitivity — A reaction or sensitivity to sunlight.

Physical therapy — A program of exercise and other treatments to help keep your muscles strong and your joints from becoming stiff. Also can show you how to use special equipment to help you move better and how to use devices such as crutches, walkers and canes.

Placebo — An inactive substance that looks exactly like a drug being tested in a clinical trial.

Plaquenil® — See hydroxychloroquine.

Pleura — The membrane covering of the lungs.

Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) — An inflammatory condition, usually occurring after the age of 55, that causes pain or aching, usually felt in the large muscle groups, especially around the shoulders and hips. (Polymyalgia literally means "pain in many muscles." Rheumatica means "changing" or "in flux.") PMR may be associated with giant cell arteritis in some patients.

Prednisolone — A type of corticosteroid medication (often called "steroids").

Prednisone — A type of corticosteroid medication (often called "steroids").

Probenecid — A medicine that lowers uric acid levels. It may be recommended for people who have had multiple attacks of gout. It has been largely replaced by the newer and more effective allopurinol., stiffness, tenderness, redness, warmth and swelling in some joints due to the deposit of calcium pyrophosphate crystals. Pseudogout most commonly affects the knee or wrist.

Psoriasis — An inflammatory skin disorder characterized by frequent episodes of redness and itching; thick, dry, silvery scales on the skin; and nail abnormalities.

Psoriatic arthritis — A form of inflammatory arthritis that affects some people who have psoriasis.

Pulmonary embolus — A blood clot that forms in a vein (often in the leg) and moves to the lung, where it deposits and blocks the flow of blood.

R

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) — A procedure in which an electrical current produced by a radiowave is used to heat up a small area of nerve tissue, thereby decreasing pain signals from that specific area.

Range of motion — The normal distance a joint can move in certain directions.

Range-of-motion exercises — Exercises that help maintain normal joint function by increasing and preserving joint mobility and flexibility. In this group of exercises, gently straightening and bending the joints in a controlled manner as far as they comfortably will go can help condition the affected joints. They also are called stretching or flexibility exercises.

Reiter's syndrome — A form of arthritis that, in addition to joints, also affects the eyes, urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body) and skin. Reiter's syndrome also is called reactive arthritis, which is the preferred name.

Rheumatoid arthritis — A type of chronic inflammatory arthritis that occurs (typically, though not always) in corresponding joints on both sides of the body (such as both hands, wrists or knees). This symmetry helps distinguish rheumatoid arthritis from other types of arthritis. In addition to affecting the joints, rheumatoid arthritis may occasionally affect the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood, nerves or kidneys.

Rheumatoid factors — A variety of antibodies that are present in 70 percent to 90 percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). These antibodies are directed against IgG, a protein that is present in normal blood.

Rheumatrex® — A brand name for the chemotherapeutic drug methotrexate used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and certain other rheumatic diseases (especially polymyositis and certain types of vasculitis).

S

Sarcoidosis — An inflammatory disease characterized by small rounded growths (granulomas) that can develop almost anywhere in the body, usually affecting the skin, lungs, eyes or joints. These growths are made up of blood vessels, cells and connective tissue.

Scoliosis — A condition causing a lateral (toward the side) curvature in the normally straight vertical line of the spine.

Sjögren's syndrome — A chronic disorder that causes insufficient moisture production in certain glands of the body. It occurs when a person's normally protective immune system attacks and destroys moisture-producing glands, including salivary glands and lacrimal (tear-producing) glands. The lungs, bowel and other organs are less often affected.

Spondylitis — A type of arthritis that affects the spinal column and sacroiliac joints, and may cause inflammation and stiffness in the neck, lower back, spinal vertebrae or sacroiliac region (pelvic area), making motion difficult. Spondylitis also may attack connective tissue, such as ligaments, or cause arthritic disease in the joints of the arms, hips, legs or feet.

Steroids (short for corticosteroids) — Synthetic drugs that closely resemble cortisol, a hormone that your adrenal glands produce naturally. Steroids work by decreasing inflammation and reducing the activity of the immune system. Steroids are used to treat a variety of inflammatory diseases and conditions.

Strengthening exercises — Exercises that target specific muscle groups. When performed properly, strengthening exercises can maintain or increase muscle tissue without aggravating the joints.

Supportive (assistive) devices — Devices that have been developed to make activities easier and less stressful for the joints and muscles. These devices also may help to stabilize the ligaments and tendons, and decrease pain. Examples of assistive devices include canes, knee supports, crutches and bath tub grab bars.

Synovial fluid — Fluid found in joints that among other functions, provides lubrication that allows for movement.

Synovium — The lining of a joint.

Synvisc® — A type of medication (hylan G-F 20) given as a series of 3 to 5 weekly injections that can relieve pain in some people with osteoarthritis.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) — A disease in which the immune system inappropriately attacks tissues and blood components in various parts of the body, leading to tissue damage and illness.

T

Takayasu's arteritis (TA) — An uncommon condition in which a characteristic type inflammation involving "giant cells" damages large and medium-sized blood vessels.

Tender points — Specific areas of the body that are tender to the touch in people with fibromyalgia. They also are called trigger points.

Tendinitis — Inflammation or irritation of a tendon, a thick cord that attaches bone to muscle.

Tendon — A thick cord of tissue that attaches bone to muscle.

Tenosynovitis — Inflammation of the sheath around a tendon.

"Tennis elbow" — A common term for lateral epicondylitis, a condition caused by overuse of arm and forearm muscles that results in elbow pain. Tennis elbow is caused by either abrupt or subtle tearing of the muscle and tendon area around the outside of the elbow. Tennis elbow specifically involves the area where the muscles and tendons of the forearm attach to the outside bony area (called the lateral epicondyle) of the elbow.

Thrombocytopenia — A low platelet count. This condition may cause impaired blood clotting.

Thrombosis — Blood clots anywhere in the body.

Tinel maneuver — A test for diagnosing carpal tunnel syndrome that involves tapping on the palm side of the wrist. Tingling sensations in the fingers caused by the tapping indicates carpal tunnel syndrome.

Tophi — Gritty nodules that form just under the skin in people with gout from an accumulation of uric acid crystals.

Training range — A calculation based on maximum heart rate—220 minus age—and exercise at a level of intensity between 60 percent and 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. This also is called the target heart rate.

Trigger finger and thumb — Painful conditions that cause the fingers or thumb to catch or lock in a bent position. The problems often stem from inflammation of tendons located within a protective covering called the tendon sheath.

Trigger points — Specific areas of the body that are tender to the touch in people with fibromyalgia. They also are called tender points.

U

Uric acid — A substance created by the natural breakdown of the genetic material in cells—RNA (ribonucleic acid) and DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). Some foods contain large amounts of uric acid, especially red meats and organ meats (such as liver and kidneys), some shellfish and anchovies.

V

Vertebrae — The bones of the spine.

Vasculitis — Inflammation of blood vessels, including veins and/or arteries.

W

Wegener's granulomatosis — A rare but potentially deadly disease of uncertain cause. It is characterized by inflammation of small and medium-sized blood vessels (vasculitis). This inflammation can damage many organs. Wegener's granulomatosis primarily affects the upper respiratory tract (nasal sinuses, nose and trachea, the upper airway), lungs and kidneys.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 5/1/2007…#10941