Monday, 6 March 2017

Super quick guide to understand medical jargon

It is quite understandable that whenever medical doctors speak about the different conditions that affect us humans, we might blackout and go in-and-out consciousness for a while. Such happens because there is so much professional jargon spat a us that the normal brain would take in just the minimum bearable; that being - "Doc? Am I gonna be fine?".

Before your doctor comes up with yet another one of those super long terminology rampages that scare you more than the actual illness, it is time to breathe. The trick to understand that foreign 'Aramaic' language, regurgitated from the depths of some cold Alma Mater lost in both space and time, is actually reasonably simple.

Just close your eyes, listen to the word and break it into parts. 

I think I fool no one when I say that the secret, as in any other realm of knowledge, lies in the breaking of the whole into its component units. Is that Gestaltism? I remember vaguely something about it from my Psychology classes during my secondary school years... That and my professor's purple hair,..., oh and those five girls who never wanted to go out with me because apparently I was "too weird" for them.

Anyway, just look at the word has being made of two to three parts, tops: a prefix, a root and finally a suffix. The prefix, when present, either reinforces or changes the meaning of the word, as for example with the word 'Aniridia':

An - indicating absence or negation

Iridia - related to the iris of the eye

Then we have the root as being the central object (iris - in the previous example), and finally the suffix that is usually the action produced by or on the object.

But before you follow any of this as rule for life protected in the guts of some Ark of the Covenant, mind that I'm no linguist, and my intention here is just to help you at least understand what that guy in the white masonic gown is bragging about, so you avoid misinterpretations as the ones suggested in the picture.

Let's take a look at yet another example with the word 'Abiotrophy'. This means a progressive loss of an organ's/tissue's vitality that can result in loss of function. Now we Shogun-knife-cut-it-into-parts:

A - (prefix) meaning absence/negation of

Bio - (core object) meaning life

Trophy - (suffix action) meaning development

Now imagine you get the latest doctor's newsletter on the observations taken from your medical exams. You read that your records all point towards 'Thrombocytopenia'. "That can't be good, man, there's penia there" you think it to your self. But rather than immediately checking your parts for something wrong with the supposed 'penia', you can just apply the aforementioned method and break the word into its constituting parts:

Thrombo - relates to blood clots.

Cyto - relates to cells.

Penia - relates to deficiency.

Immediately you know your penis is actually fine! The issue is now to make sense of this big word by learning the meaning of these individual parts. You go with 'deficiency'... 'of cells'... 'of blood clots'. Hmmmmm! After a while, if you're not versed in the ways of medicine like most people aren't, you can at least comprehend that what is suggested is that you might have a low blood platelet count.

And this system works quite well for a lot of other really weird ailments, such as:

Osteopenia = Osteo + Penia = Bone + Deficiency = low bone density.

Myositis = Myo + Itis = muscle + inflammation = inflammation of the muscle tissue.

Hepatomegaly = Hepato + megaly = liver + large = enlarged liver condition.


You have now, at least, the very basics to understand health care professionals. What you really need now is a very basic, very straightforward list that can offer you some direct understanding of the human body and its conditions. I tried and did that for you! In this table you can find the most popular human bits and bobs, some suffixes that can guide you to an understanding of the ulterior condition. It's not the ultimate encyclopaedia, but I'm sure it will be helpful:

Human Bits and Bobs
Core word (few examples)
Actions (few examples)
Condition = -pathy
Infection/inflammation = -itis
Pain = -algia, -dynia
Vestibular-, Labyrinth-, Acoust-, Audit-
Deficiency = -penia 
Cornea-, Retina-, Iridia- 
Enlargement = -dilat 
Death = -nephrosis 
Gingiv-, Laryng-
Excessive = -hyper
Derma-, Derm-, Dermat-
Insufficient = -hypo
Weakness = -paresis
Respiration = -pnea
Endocard-, Myocard-
Paralysis = -paresia 
Degeneration = -(a)trophy 
Blood condition = -emia
Pneum-, Pulmonar-, Bronchi-
Irritation = -erethism
Formation = -genesis
Abnormal condition = iasis
To reduce = -lytic
To breakdown = -lysis
To cut = -spadia, -sect
Bring forth = -para

Spleen-To lead to = -duct

Well, for what is worth this is a mere guide to help you make a bit more sense of all those complicated terms. But my advice is that you resort to your healthcare professional for he/she is the one that can easily unblock any confusion resulting from complicated medical jargon.

See you soon!

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