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This glossary aims to provide accurate definitions of key terms. Words in italics have their own explanations. If you feel there are terms that should be added to the glossary, please send an e-mail to with your suggestion.

Click one of the letters above to advance the page to terms beginning with that letter.


AACE search for term

American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (North America)

Adherence search for term

Describes how patients follow (or have steady observance of) any therapeutic regimen agreed between themselves and their healthcare practitioners.

AME search for term

Associazione Medici Endocrinologi (Italy)

Antibody search for term

Protein found in the blood that plays a key function in immune response. An antibody is produced following the introduction of an antigen in the body; a specific antibody is designed to combine with the specific antigen that triggered its production

Antigen search for term

Foreign substance or toxin in the body. Induces an immune response, leading to the production of an antibody

Antiperoxidase antibody search for term

Also known as antimicrosomal antibody. Antibody against peroxidase

AOTA search for term

Asia-Oceania Thyroid Association

ATA search for term

American Thyroid Association

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BMI search for term

Body mass index. A subject’s weight in kg divided by his or her height in m2. There are differences in BMI levels that constitute normal, overweight and obese situations, depending on the ethnic origin of the individual.

BP search for term

Blood pressure.

BTA search for term

British Thyroid Association (United Kingdom)

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CAD search for term

Abbreviation for coronary artery disease.

CHD search for term

Abbreviation for coronary heart disease.

Chronic autoimmune thyroiditis search for term

See Hashimoto’s disease

CME search for term

Continuing medical education. Common term for medical education that helps physicians, surgeons and other key healthcare professionals to refresh their skills and knowledge.

CNS search for term

Central nervous system: the brain and spinal cord.

Cognitive function search for term

Higher function of the brain, concerned with generating and working with ideas, including thinking, learning, remembering and reasoning. There is some evidence that hypothyroidism is associated with impairment of cognitive function in later life, although such findings remain controversial.

Cold nodule search for term

Thyroid nodule that does not concentrate radioactive isotopes in a thyroid scan. Non-functioning nodules have about 20% risk of malignancy

Compliance search for term

Describes how patients follow a treatment regimen in accordance with the advice given to them by their health care professional. Thus, people comply well or badly with things such as medication (e.g. taking the right tablets in the right numbers at the right times), or special diets (e.g. eating the right foods in the right amounts and avoiding other foods, etc.).

Congenital hypothyroidism search for term

Condition observed in infants born in areas where iodine deficiency disorder and hypothyroidism are common. May also be caused by thyroid agenesis/dysgenesis or a defect in thyroid hormone synthesis (dyshormonogenesis). Congenital hypothyroidism may also be associated with neck dysmorphology, cretinism and consumptive hypothyroidism (haemaingioma)

Cretinism search for term

Hypothyroidism in utero or soon after birth, due to any cause (most commonly due to severe iodine deficiency during pregnancy), may have major effects on the fetus. If untreated, cretinism may lead to physical stunting, bone and soft tissue dystrophy, and mental retardation in the infant. Cretinism is also known as infantile myxoedema. The clinical manifestation of cretinism depends on the severity and onset of hypothyroidism in the fetus or neonate

CV search for term


CVD search for term

Cardiovascular disease. Diabetes is associated with direct alterations in normal cardiovascular function.

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DALYs search for term

Disability-associated life years

DBP search for term

Diastolic blood pressure; pressure of blood against arterial walls during cardiac relaxation phase (phase between heart beats).

Deiodinase search for term

Also known as monodeionodinase or iodide peroxidase. Enzyme involved in deactivation or activation of T4 to T3

Development search for term

A broad term to encompass the physical and cognitive changes accompanying growth, usually applied to young people. Optimizing nutrition to maintain normal development is important: iodine deficiency remains a co-factor in the development of thyroid disorders in some countries

Disseminated thyroid cancer search for term

Thyroid cancer that has metastasized. Should not be confused with differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC)

DM search for term

Diabetes mellitus. A group of metabolic conditions characterised by hyperglycaemia due to defects in insulin secretion, action or both. It is important to ensure that blood pressure is effectively monitored in people with DM (type 1 or type 2).

DTC search for term

Differentiated thyroid cancer is a cancer of follicular epithelial cells within the thyroid and is the most common thyroid cancer observed. DTC is treated with surgery, which requires precision and specialist training; complete surgical resection is a key determinant of eventual outcome. Postoperatively, some patients require radioactive iodine therapy

Dysmorphology search for term

Aberrant physical development, observed on physical examination. Congenital hypothyroidism might lead to dysmorphology in affected newborn.

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E/e’ search for term

Ratio of mitral peak velocity of early filling (E) to early diastolic mitral annular velocity.

EACCME search for term

European Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education

Endocrine disruptors search for term

Environmental chemicals that may mimic hormones and thereby cause disruption in endocrine function, including thyroid function

Enzyme search for term

Enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts for biochemical reactions essential to life.

ES search for term

Endocrinology Society

ESE search for term

European Society of Endocrinology

ESMO search for term

European Society of Molecular Endocrinologists

ETA search for term

European Thyroid Association

Euthyroid search for term

Term used to describe a person who has normal thyroid function

Executive function search for term

Term that describes several of the higher functions of the brain. Examples of executive function include exercising will, insight, or judgement, coordinating use of resources (such as memory) to achieve a desired goal, planning tasks, generating strategies or placing complex activities in order to complete a larger task, correcting errors, troubleshooting, adapting behaviour in the light of new information, generating behavioural responses based on actions that are not already well learned, or performing well in situations that require overcoming temptation or force of habit. Studies in populations with iodine deficiency and related thyroid disorder have found reduced executive function, increased depression/anxiety and poor working memory, on average, compared with populations without iodine deficiency and related thyroid disorder.

Exophthalmos search for term

Protrusion of the eye from the orbit, typically associated with hyperthyroidism (Graves’ disease)

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Follicular thyroid cancer search for term

Thyroid follicular epithelial cell neoplasm, not belonging to papillary thyroid carcinoma, with evidence of capsular and/or vascular invasion. Second most common form of thyroid cancer, which affects the follicular cells.

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GDM search for term

Gestational diabetes mellitus

Gene search for term

A sequence of DNA that determines the structure of a particular protein.

Genotype search for term

The pattern of mutations present in particular genes, at the level of the DNA of an individual.

Goitre search for term

Abnormal swelling of the neck or larynx, resulting from enlargement of the thyroid gland; often due to underlying thyroid disease.
Diffuse smooth goitre describes a thyroid gland that is larger than normal but feels smooth. Typically, smooth goitre is observed in people with colloid goitre, Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s disease.
Nodular goitres nay be multinodular (where the thyroid feels lumpy) or may involve a single nodule (which could be a fluid-filled cyst, a solid or semi-solid tumour. Many people with a goitre may be euthyroid

GP search for term

General practitioner/family physician

Graves’ ophthalmopathy search for term

Autoimmune disease that is commonly observed in people with Graves’ disease, causing orbitopathy or exophthalmos

Graves’ disease search for term

An autoimmune thyroid disorder that usually causes hyperthyroidism, due to the overproduction of antibodies that act like TSH. These antibodies trigger overactivity of thyroid hormone production in the thyroid gland, which results in hyperthyroidism. Named after Dr Robert Graves

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Hashimoto’s disease search for term

Also known as chronic autoimmune thyroiditis, this is the most common form of hypothyroidism. Hashimoto’s disease is associated with Tg/TPO thyroid antibody positivity

HbA1c search for term

Glycosylated haemoglobin

HCP search for term

Healthcare professional

Heterozygous search for term

We each have two copies of each gene. A subject with a particular mutation of one gene, but not the other, is said to be heterozygous for that mutation.

Homozygous search for term

We each have two copies of each gene. A subject with an identical mutation of both genes is said to be homozygous for that mutation.

Hot nodule search for term

Nodule with increased radioactive isotope uptake on the thyroid scan, often associated with hyperthyroidism

HRQoL search for term

Health-related quality of life; describes the effect that a medical condition (and/or its therapy) has on a patient’s physical and occupational function, psychological state, level of social interaction and somatic sensation.

Hyperthyroidism search for term

Also known as overactive thyroid or thyrotoxicosis. Hyperthyroidism describes a state where the thyroid produces too much of the hormone thyroxines (T4 and/or T3). Common causes include Graves’ disease, toxic multinodular goitre or subacute thyroiditis

Hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis search for term

Serum levels of thyroid hormones are regulated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis. In the brain, the hypothalamus secretes thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH), which controls the secretion of thyrotropin (also known as thyroid stimulating hormone, TSH) by the pituitary gland. TSH stimulates the thyroid gland to synthesize and secrete thyroid hormones (T4 and T3) Thyroid hormones provide feedback to the hypothalamus and pituitary gland resulting in inhibition or stimulation of TRH and TSH release depending on the level of thyroid hormone, leading to normal thyroid hormone homeostasis

Hypothalamus search for term

Brain region that regulates the production and secretion of TRH

Hypothyroidism search for term

A condition where not enough thyroid hormones are produced for the body’s needs. Primary hypothyroidism is caused by loss of functional thyroid tissue, defects in thyroid hormone biosynthesis and release (caused by iodine deficiency, administration of certain drug classes, or congenital deficits). Secondary (central) hypothyroidism is associated with functional deficits in TSH; consumptive hypothyroidism is rare and is associated with haemiangiomas or increased type 2 or type 3 deiodinase activity, which degrades T4/T3

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IDD search for term

Iodine deficiency disorder

IDF search for term

International Diabetes Federation

IGT search for term

Impaired glucose tolerance

IHD search for term

Ischaemic heart disease

IIF search for term

International Insulin Foundation

Insertion search for term

A mutation where additional DNA (one or more base pairs) is added to the gene

Introns search for term

DNA sequences within a gene that are not represented in the final protein. RNA sequences arising from introns will be removed during processing, to form the messenger RNA that will be used for translation into protein

Iodide search for term

Iodine is an essential component of thyroid hormone; dietary iodine is absorbed in the small intestine and transported in plasma to the thyroid. Good dietary sources of iodine include seafood, dairy produce, iodised salt; the RDI is 150 μg; intakes < 50μg/day are associated with goitre

Iodine deficiency search for term


ISDF search for term

Institute for Studies on Diabetes Foundation

Isthmus search for term

Area that connects the two lobes of the thyroid gland

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L-thyroxine search for term

L-thyroxine (L-T4), also known as levothyroxine sodium or levothyroxine, is a synthetic hormone, chemically identical to thyroxine (T4). L-thyroxine is administered as replacement or supplemental therapy to people with thyroid disorders such as hypothyroidism, or requiring TSH suppression (e.g. thyroid cancer, nodular disease, goitre)

L-triiodothyronine (L-T3) search for term

Also known as liothyronine. Synthetic pharmaceutical preparation of the levorotatory isomer of triiodothyronine.

LATS search for term

Latin American Thyroid Society.

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MENA search for term

Middle East and North Africa

Mental retardation search for term

A lack of normal development of intellectual capacities. Iodine deficiency may lead to severe mental retardation early in life.

MetS search for term

Metabolic syndrome

Microcephaly search for term

An abnormally small head due to a failure of growth of the brain. Microcephaly is evident in some children with congenital hypothyroidism

MMI search for term

Methimazole drug treatment for hyperthyroidism that reduces the amount of thyroid hormone produced by inhibiting TPO. Less hepatotoxic than PTU, but not suitable for use in the first trimester of pregnancy

MTC search for term

Medullary thyroid cancer accounts for ~5% of all thyroid cancers and is the third most common type of thyroid cancer. MTC originates from the parafollicular cells (C cells), which release the hormone calcitonin. MTC can be sporadic, or inherited. Sporadic MTC is the most common form; inherited MTC is caused by a mutation in the RET proto-oncogene. The 5-year survival rate for MTC is reported at > 80% but < 90%.

Mutation search for term

Vast numbers of proteins are required to support life. The structures of these proteins are determined by genes, made up of strands of DNA. Mutations are changes in the DNA sequence that may alter the way that proteins work. Papillary thyroid cancers are often associated with mutations in the BRAF gene (the gene for the B-type Raf kinase, BRAF). Medullary thyroid cancer is linked with a mutation in the RET proto-oncogene

Myxoedema/Myxedema search for term

Swelling of the skin and underlying tissues giving a waxy consistency, typical of patients with underactive thyroid glands. Synonymous with hypothyroidism, especially severe disease

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Natural thyroid search for term

Also known as desiccated thyroid. Produced using pig thyroid glands. Natural thyroid drugs therefore contain all thyroid hormones

Nodular disease search for term

Thyroid nodules are common, and may be asymptomatic and associated with a euthyroid state. However, nodules should always be investigated: they carry a < 5% risk of malignancy. Nodules arise within an otherwise normally-functioning thyroid gland and manifest as a lump in the throat; in individuals with low BMI, lumps in the neck may be observed on standard examination. Some nodules are thyroid cysts, which are fluid-filled or contain solid and fluid components; occasionally the solid components may be malignant. Nodular disease is characterised using ultrasound; histopathology (using fine-needle aspiration biopsy) may also be undertaken. Measurement of TSH, thyroid function tests (TFT) or anti-thyroid antibodies may be performed, to identify functional thyroid disorders

Nodular goitre search for term

May be multinodular (where the thyroid feels lumpy) or may involve a single nodule (which could be a fluid-filled cyst, a solid or semi-solid tumour). Many people with a goitre may be euthyroid

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OADs search for term

Oral antidiabetes drugs

OGTT search for term

Oral glucose tolerance testing

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Papillary thyroid cancer search for term

A type of well-differentiated thyroid cancer that appears as an irregular solid or cystic mass or nodule in a normal thyroid parenchyma. The most common type of thyroid cancer, globally. See thyroid cancer

Parathyroid gland search for term

Usually four small glands behind the thyroid that secrete parathyroid hormone. Involved in calcium and bone metabolism

Pituitary gland search for term

Small gland, situated in a bony space behind the eyes at the base of the brain. Secretes thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) as part of the closed-feedback mechanism that results in normal thyroid hormone homoestasis

Postpartum thyroiditis search for term

Inflammation of the thyroid occurring after pregnancy, which may cause short-term hyperthyroidism followed by hypothyroidism

PPC search for term

Provider-patient communication

PPHG search for term

Postprandial hyperglycaemia

PTU search for term

Propylthiouracil is a second-line treatment for hyperthyroidism. Reduces the amount of thyroid hormone produced, by inhibiting TPO and by inhibiting peripheral T4/T3 conversion. Can be administered in first trimester of pregnancy

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Radioactive iodine search for term

Broad description used for any of the isotopes of iodine, especially I131 or I123, which are used as tracers in medicine. Radioiodine (also known as RAI; I-131) is administered orally to some patients with benign or malignant thyroid disorders: malignant thyroid cells absorb the radioactive iodine. This therapy can be effective at offering targeted radiotherapy, even for metastatic disease. RAI is also used to treat hyperthyroidism by reducing the volume of the thyroid. RAI aims to destroy enough thyroid tissue so that the patient becomes euthyroid or hypothyroid. Radioactive iodine is taken up by the iodide transporter in the thyroid; the follicular cell is then destroyed by radioactivity

RCT search for term

Randomized clinical trial.

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SAPPHIRe search for term

Stanford Asia Pacific program for hypertension and insulin resistance

SBP search for term

Systolic blood pressure. Highest force of blood against arterial walls during the contraction phase of cardiac muscle.

Subacute thyroiditis search for term

Rare inflammatory condition in the thyroid gland, usually associated with a recent history of viral upper respiratory tract infection and more common in middle-aged female patients. Associated with pain. Under investigation, anti-thyroid antibodies are undetectable or present at low levels; biopsy of the thyroid gland shows giant-cell inflammation. The condition is usually self-limited. In mild cases, treatment aims to reduce pain and inflammation (using simple anti-inflammatory agents). If hyperthyroidism is identified, this should be treated with beta-blockers. More severe cases can be treated with steroids, to control inflammation

Subclinical hypothyroidism search for term

Abbreviated as SCH. Also known as subclinical hypothyroid disorder. SCH describes a state where a patient exhibits increased serum TSH levels, but circulating T4 and T3 concentrations are within the population reference range

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T2DM search for term

Type 2 diabetes mellitus

TD search for term

thyroid dysfunction

Thyroglobulin search for term

Thyroglobulin (Tg); a 660 kDa dimeric protein that is only produced by cells in the thyroid gland. In patients with thyroid cancer, absence of Tg is a marker that the tumour has been eradicated

Thyroid binding globulin search for term

Serum glycoprotein, synthesized in the liver. Binds tightly to thyroxine but less firmly to triiodothyronine, thereby preventing their removal from the blood and releasing them as needed elsewhere in the body

Thyroid cancer search for term

Thyroid cancer is rare, but the incidence of differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) is increasing globally, to the extent that it is the most frequently observed endocrine cancer. However, the five-year survival rate for DTC is high, at 97.7%. Histologically, thyroid cancer is defined as papillary thyroid cancer, thyroid follicular cell cancer, medullary thyroid cancer and other subtypes (such as lymphoma, sarcoma). DTC is a cancer of the follicular epithelial cells in the thyroid. Papillary cancer comprises about 85% of cases, ~10% have follicular histology, and the remainder are oxyphil or Hürthle cell tumours. DTC is treated with surgical excision (thyroidectomy); disease recurrence or persistence is most likely to occur in metastatic lymph nodes. Accurate postoperative disease staging is critical, to aid decisions relating to prognosis and further management. Radioactive iodine is administered in some cases, either for thyroid tissue remnant ablation, or to treat any residual disease or metastases. MTC accounts for ~5% of all thyroid cancers and is the third most common type of thyroid cancer. MTC originates in the parafollicular cells (C cells), which release calcitonin. MTC can be sporadic, or inherited. Sporadic MTC is the most common form; inherited MTC is caused by a mutation in the RET porto-oncogene.

Thyroid gland search for term

The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland in the neck. It synthesizes the thyroid hormones tetraiodothyronine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), and plays an important role in cell and organ function; the thyroid works with the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in a closed feedback loop, to regulate the production of hormones responsible for metabolism, growth and maturation

Thyroid peroxidase search for term

Also known as TPO. Enzyme within the thyroid that catalyzes the incorporation of iodide to tyrosine residues in the production of thyroxine. This process is called organification.

Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) search for term

Also known as thyrotropin, TSH is a glycoprotein hormone, secreted by thyrotrope cells in the pituitary gland. TSH regulates the production of thyroxine (T4), and subsequently T3. TSH is the most sensitive marker of thyroid status. Small changes in free T4 can result in large changes in TSH. Measuring TSH is important when thyroid dysfunction is suspected

Thyrotoxicosis search for term
Thyroxine search for term

Also known as tetraiodothyronine, T4. Iodine-containing hormone secreted by the thyroid gland. Prohormone of T3. Primary function of T4 is to increase the rate of cell metabolism

Toxic multinodular goitre search for term

Condition associated with hyperthyroidism. Also known as toxic nodular goitre, or toxic nodular struma. This is a multinodular swelling in the region of the body where the thyroid gland is found

Transitional countries search for term

Countries that are classified between ‘developing’ and ‘developed’.

TRH search for term

Thyrotropin-releasing hormone produced by the hypothalamus, TRH is important for the regulation of TSH and prolactin secretion. TRH is the simplest hypothalamic neurohormone. Tripeptidal, its sequence is glutamic acid-histidine-proline

Triiodothyronine (T3) search for term

Also known as T3, triiodothyronine is an iodine-containing thyroid hormone, liberated from thyroglobulin, that helps to control metabolism but also inhibits secretion of thyrotropin in the pituitary gland. T3 production is activated by TSH in a closed feedback loop (see hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis). T3 has effects on target tissues that are approximately four times more potent than the effects of T4; approximately 20% of thyroid hormone is produced as T3, with the remainder produced as T4

TSH search for term

Thyroid stimulating hormone

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YLD search for term

Years of life with disability

YLL search for term

Years of life lost

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