RealTime Health: Your trusted source of patient and carer experiences.

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Asthma Action Plan: An Asthma Action Plan is written in conjunction with the doctor and helps the person with asthma and/or their carer recognise worsening asthma symptoms and gives clear instructions on how to treat them promptly, when to seek medical help and asthma First Aid procedures.

Asthma attack: Asthma attack is when there is difficulty in breathing due to narrowing of the air tubes in the lungs. There may be feelings of chest tightness, with wheezing and coughing.

Asthma Friendly Schools: The Asthma Friendly Schools (AFS) program is a national initiative aimed at all primary and secondary schools across Australia. An Asthma Friendly School adopts the AFS program strategies to support the whole school community in understanding and managing asthma. (Source: Asthma Friendly Schools website, accessed 15/01/10)

Preventers: Preventers help to control asthma by reducing the frequency and severity of asthma attacks by reducing the swelling (inflammation) inside the airway. They need to be taken every day, usually morning and night, regardless of whether there are any asthma symptoms

Puffer: A common term used for an aerosol inhaler, technically known as a 'Metered Dose Inhaler (MDI)'. Puffers provide a quick and efficient way of getting a measured dose of medication directly into the lungs.

Relievers: See definition for 'Ventolin'.

Trigger: An asthma trigger is anything that irritates the airways and causes inflammation (or swelling) and narrowing in the airways.

Ventolin: Ventolin is an inhaled asthma reliever medication in the form of a puffer that opens the airways by relaxing the tight muscles around the airway and relieves asthma symptoms quickly. There are a number of types and brands of reliever medication.

Wheezing: Wheezing is the whistling noise of air passing in and out of a narrow air tube and may be accompanied by a cough, shortness of breath or both. An expiratory wheeze suggests asthma but may not always be asthma

All definitions sourced from the Asthma Foundation of Victoria, unless otherwise stated.


Absence seizures: An absence seizure causes loss of awareness for a brief period. The person stares vacantly, the eyes may drift upwards and flicker. It may be mistaken for daydreaming. (Source: Epilepsy Australia website, accessed 15/01/10)

Aura: Visual disturbances, such as flashing lights, zigzagging lines or partial loss of vision. (Source: Better Health Channel website, accessed 15/01/10)

EEGs [electroencephalogram]: In its commonest form, it is a measurement of the electrical activity of the brain measured from an array of electrodes on the scalp. (Source: Virtual Medical Centre website, accessed 15/01/10)

Fits: See 'Tonic Clonic seizures'.

Myoclonic jerks: Myoclonic jerks are very quick twitches or muscle jerks that can involve the whole body, just one limb or a single group of muscles. Myoclonic jerks may cause someone to drop something they are holding, or to fall down if the jerk involves the legs. (Source: Epilepsy Research Centre website, accessed 15/01/10)

Neurologist: A neurologist is a medical doctor or osteopath who has trained in the diagnosis and treatment of nervous system disorders, including diseases of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles. (Source: Neurology Channel website, accessed 15/01/10)

Partial seizures: In partial seizures the electrical disturbance is limited to a specific area of one cerebral hemisphere (side of the brain). Partial seizures are subdivided into simple partial seizures (in which consciousness is retained); and complex partial seizures (in which consciousness is impaired or lost). (Source: Epilepsy Foundation website, accessed 15/01/10)

Seizure: A seizure is a result of a temporary electrical disturbance within the brain. The nerve cells (neurons) within the brain communicate with one another through tiny electrical impulses and when this activity becomes disturbed, abnormal electrical impulses fire simultaneously at a much faster rate resulting in a seizure. (Source: Epilepsy Action Australia website, accessed 15/01/10)

Steven Johnson's Syndrome: A potentially deadly skin disease that usually results from a drug reaction. (Source: Skin Association website, accessed 15/01/10)

Tonic Clonic seizures: previously referred to as 'grand mal' and are sometimes called a fit or convulsion. They are the most universally recognised seizures. The body becomes quite stiff (tonic) shortly followed by jerking of the muscles (clonic). (Source: Epilepsy Action Australia website, accessed 15/01/10)

Families & Chronic Illness

Chronic illness: An illness that is permanent or lasts a long time. It may get slowly worse over time. It may lead to death, or it may finally go away. It may cause permanent changes to the body. It will certainly affect the person's quality of life. (Chronic Illness Alliance)

Cancer: Cancer is a disease of the body's cells. (Chronic Illness Alliance)

Diabetes Type 1: Type 1 diabetes is marked by a total or near-total lack of insulin. It results from the body destroying its own insulin producing cells in the pancreas. People with this form of diabetes require daily insulin therapy to survive. (Australian Government: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website, accessed 15/01/10)

Diabetes Type 2: Type 2 diabetes is marked by reduced levels of insulin (insulin deficiency) and/or the inability of the body to use insulin properly (insulin resistance). The disease is most common among people aged 40 years and over and accounts for 85-90% of all people with diabetes. (HealthInsite website, accessed 15/01/10)

Kidney failure: Kidney failure (or renal failure) may be temporary or permanent. Permanent, or chronic, renal failure usually progresses slowly and is the most common type of kidney damage requiring dialysis or kidney transplantation. (HealthInsite website, accessed 15/01/10)

Hearing Impairment

Auslan: Auslan (Australian Sign Language) is the sign language of the Australian Deaf Community. It is a recognised community language and is different from English in its grammar and vocabulary.

Cochlear implant: A cochlear implant is a reliable and effective treatment for severe-to-profound hearing loss in children and adults. It consists of two parts:

The speech processor converts sound into an electrical signal which is transmitted by radio waves to the implant. The implant then sends the electrical signals to the nerve endings in the inner ear (cochlea) so they can travel up the hearing nerve to the brain, allowing the listener to hear sound.

Eardrum: The ear drum sits between the ear canal (outer ear) and the middle ear. It is connected to a chain of 3 small bones (the auditory ossicles) of the middle ear, which in turn connect to the inner ear (cochlea). When sound waves hit the ear drum it vibrates. This causes the ossicles in the middle ear to move which sends sound through to the cochlea and then up the hearing nerve to the brain, which causes the listener to hear the sound.

Sometimes a middle ear infection can cause a hole (perforation) in the ear drum. If this perforation does not heal it can cause a hearing loss.

FM: FM (frequency modulated) systems are commonly used to transmit sound from one person to another over distance overcoming the effects of noise, reverberation and distance. FM systems may benefit children with permanent hearing losses. An FM system is like the hearing impaired student's personal radio station.

The FM consists of a Transmitter with a microphone that is worn by the person speaking. The transmitter sends an FM radio signal to a receiver that is attached to the student's hearing aid or cochlear implant speech processor.

Hearing aid: A hearing aid makes speech and other sounds louder. Its key components are:

MicroLink : A particular model of FM receiver.

RF: (Radio frequency) see "FM"

All definitions sourced from Australian Hearing.

Mental Health

AMSWS: Aboriginal Medical Service of Western Sydney

Bereavement: Grief following loss.

Bipolar Disorder: Bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic-depression) is an illness, a medical condition. It affects the normal functioning of the brain, so that the person experiences extreme moods - very high and over-excited or very low and depressed.

Clinical Depression: Clinical depression is an illness, a medical condition. It significantly affects the way someone feels, causing a persistent lowering of mood. Depression is often accompanied by a range of other physical and psychological symptoms that can interfere with the way a person is able to function in their everyday life. The symptoms of depression generally react positively to treatment.

Drug-induced psychosis: Is caused by drugs like speed, LSD, marijuana ecstasy or magic mushrooms. The symptoms last until the effects of the drugs wear off (hours or days). (Better Health Channel website, accessed 18/01/10)

GP: General Practitioner

Major depression: See 'Clinical Depression'.

Mental illness: A mental illness is a health problem that significantly affects how a person feels, thinks, behaves, and interacts with other people. It is diagnosed according to standardised criteria. The term mental disorder is also used to refer to these health problems. (Australian Government Department of Health and Aging website, accessed 18/01/10)

Orygen Youth Health: Orygen Youth Health (OYH) is Australia's largest youth-focused mental health organisation.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: According to the American Psychiatric Association (1994), post traumatic stress disorder develops after someone is exposed to an extremely traumatic event and they reacted to the event with intense fear, horror or helplessness. (Anxiety Australia website, accessed 18/01/10)

Psychosis: There is a group of illnesses which disrupt the functioning of the brain so much, they cause a condition called psychosis. When someone experiences psychosis they are unable to distinguish what is real - there is a loss of contact with reality. Most people are able to recover from an episode of psychosis.

All definitions sourced from SANE Australia, unless otherwise stated.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes: Type 1 diabetes (formerly known as Insulin Dependent Diabetes or Juvenile Diabetes) occurs when the pancreas is unable to make enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that acts as a key to let glucose from the food we eat pass from the blood stream into the cells to provide energy.

Type 2 Diabetes: Unlike type 1 diabetes where the body produces no insulin, people with type 2 diabetes are still able to produce their own insulin. There may not be enough insulin for the body's needs and/or the cells in the body are resistant to the action of insulin (insulin resistance).

Insulin: Insulin is a hormone naturally produced in the body by the beta cells of the pancreas. Insulin allows glucose to enter the body's cells where it is used for energy. It also allows excess glucose to be stored in the liver for later use, such as overnight and between meals. A small amount of insulin is released from the pancreas into the bloodstream throughout the day and when food is eaten.

BSL or BGL: Blood sugar level or Blood Glucose Level

Carbohydrates (carbs): People with diabetes are advised to include carbohydrate foods in their eating plan as they provide the body with energy. Carbohydrates are broken down in the intestine and enter the blood stream as glucose.

Insulin pump: Insulin pumps are battery operated devices that deliver a continuous small dose of insulin with extra insulin given with meals.

Hypoglycaemia (hypo): Hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) is a blood glucose level (BGL) below 4 mmol/L. It is a side effect of insulin treatment and mild hypoglycaemia will occur from time to time. Severe hypoglycaemia (needing help from someone else to treat it) is dangerous and must be avoided. Hypoglycaemia makes it hard to concentrate and do normal activities. BGLs should be above 5mmol/L before driving and operating machinery.

VCE: Victorian Certificate of Education

Insulin punp: Insulin pumps are battery operated devices that deliver a continuous small dose of insulin with extra insulin given with meals.

Hypoglycaemia (hypo): Hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) is a blood glucose level (BGL) below 4 mmol/L. It is a side effect of insulin treatment and mild hypoglycaemia will occur from time to time. Severe hypoglycaemia (needing help from someone else to treat it) is dangerous and must be avoided. Hypoglycaemia makes it hard to concentrate and do normal activities, so driving and operating machinery are not safe if blood glucose levels are less than 4 mmol/L.

VCE: Victorian Certificate of Education

All definitions sourced from Diabetes Australia VIC.

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