...AND HIS TRUSTY MOUNT, FIRESTORM THE WONDER HORSE
Oxidative stress is caused by an imbalance between
the production of reactive oxygen and a biological system's
ability to readily detoxify the reactive intermediates or easily repair the
resulting damage. All forms of life maintain a reducing environment within their cells. This
environment is preserved by enzymes that maintain the reduced state through a constant
input of metabolic energy. Disturbances in this normal redox state can cause
toxic effects through the production of peroxides and free
radicals that damage all components of the cell, including proteins, lipids, and DNA.
To put it in terms your General Chem prof would have understood, oxidative stress is a large increase (ie, more negative) in cellular reduction potential, which is the tendency of a chemical species to sop up electrons and become reduced. You could also call it a decrease in the reducing capacity of cellular redox couples.