Welcome to our second lesson on expanding your medical vocabulary. Today, we’ll be looking at general medical terminology. It’s imperative to understand these concepts if you intend to excel in your coursework, gain invaluable experience as a medical scribe or thrive as a healthcare professional. Bear in mind that this list of terms will be longer and more challenging than the one we provided in our lesson on anatomical locations and direction phrases. To help you sort through and comprehend all of these complex terms, we’ll be splitting them up into sections and providing quick and simple memorization tips whenever possible. Let’s jump right in!
Medical conditions and afflictions that pertain to the lungs and breathing properly.
- Atelectasis: Refers to a partial collapse of the small airways in the lungs.
- Pneumothorax: Refers to the abnormal presence of air in the pleural space (chest cavity) outside of the lung, causing the lung to collapse.
- Orthopnea: Refers to a shortness of breath when lying flat
- Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea (PND): Refers to a sudden and severe shortness of breath at night that awakens a person from sleep.
Memorization Tip: Remember, nocturnal means “belonging to the night.” That’s why bats (who hunt and feed at night) are classified as nocturnal animals.
Medical conditions and afflictions that pertain to the genitals and groin region of the body.
- Adnexa: Refers to the ovaries and fallopian tubes. May also be referred to as “tenderness”
- Cervical: Pertaining to the neck or to the cervix of the uterus
- Os: Refers to an orifice, usually the mouth or cervix.
- Torsion: Refers to the twisting of a bodily organ on its own axis. Usually pertains to the twisting of an ovary or testicle.
- Fundus: Refers to the large, upper end of the uterus. Also used to refer to the bottom aperture of the internal surface of a hollow organ.
- Inguinal: Pertaining to the groin region of the body.
- Para: Refers to the number of live births that a woman has had.
- Dysmenorrhea: Refers to painful menstruation.
- Dyspareunia: Refers to painful intercourse.
- Dysuria: Refers to painful urination.
Memorization Tip: The last three terms on this list can be difficult to distinguish between. Remember, dysmenorrhea and menstruation both have the word “men” in them. Furthermore, dysuria and urination both contain the letters “uri.” From there, the only “dys” word left is dyspareunia.
Medical conditions and afflictions that pertain to the heart and blood.
- Aneurysm: Refers to any abnormal widening of a blood vessel due to pressure.
- Angina: Refers to chest pain due to ischemia (an inadequate supply of blood to an organ or part of the body)
- Arrhythmia: Refers to an abnormal heart rhythm.
Memorization Tip: Arrhythmia contains the word “rhythm.”
- Artery: Refers to any blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart
- Vein: Refers to a vessel that carries deoxygenated blood back to the heart.
- Cardiomegaly: Refers to an enlarged heart.
Memorization Tip: Any word with “cardio” in it is related to the heart, and the word “mega” is used to describe something that is very large.
- Embolism: Refers to the obstruction of a blood vessel by a clot of blood or a foreign substance in the body.
- Epistaxis: Refers to an acute hemorrhage from the nostril (nosebleed).
- Hemangioma: Refers to a tumor that consists of blood vessels
- Occult: Refers to a hidden process. Usually used to describe fractures or gastrointestinal bleeding.
Memorization tip: Outside of the world of medical care, the word “occult” refers to supernatural or magical phenomena, including invisibility. Teach yourself to associate occult with things that are invisible or hidden from sight.
- Guaiac: Refers to a stool guaiac test, a process that detects the presence of fecal occult blood (blood that is invisible in the feces).
- Hematuria: Refers to the presence of blood in urine.
- Hematemesis: Refers to the action or process of vomiting blood.
- Hematochezia: Refers to the presence of bright red blood in the stool.
- Hematoma: Refers to a swelling of blood inside of an organ or tissue
Memorization Tip: “Hema” terms are also hard to differentiate. Once again, you can use the presence of “uri” to connect urine and hematuria. Furthermore, you have to use the word “mess” to pronounce hematemesis. Remember to associate vomiting with creating a mess.
- Hemoptysis: Refers to the action or process of coughing up blood. Can also be used to refer to sputum (a mixture of saliva and mucus that is coughed up from the respiratory tract) that is stained by blood.
- Hemorrhage: Refers to excessive or profuse bleeding.
- Hemothorax: Refers to blood fluid in the pleural cavity.
- Hypotension: Refers to low blood pressure
- Infarct: Refers to a localized area of tissue that is dead or dying due to a lack of blood supply.
- Melena: Refers to stool that is black and tarry (due to the presence of partly digested blood).
- Sepsis: Refers to the presence of pathological microorganisms (or their toxins) in the blood.
- Ischemia: Refers to a temporary and localized lack of bloodflow.
Other General Medical Terminology
- Afebrile: Without fever. Used to refer to a patient with a normal body temperature.
- Ambulatory: Able to move/walk about.
- Arthralgia: Refers to pain in a joint.
Memorization Tip: Remember, arthritis (which also contains the letters “arthr”) is a condition that causes severe joint pain.
- Articulation: Refers to the connection between bones.
- Axilla: Refers to the underarm
- Cachectic: Refers to the condition of looking frail and weak due to loss of weight and muscle.
- Crepitus: Refers to crackling or grating sounds that are usually caused by two bones rubbing together.
- Debridement: Refers to the removal of foreign matter or dead tissue from a wound.
- Differential diagnosis: Refers to the process by which a clinician distinguishes a disease or condition from others with similar signs and symptoms.
- Dyspepsia: Refers to indigestion.
- Dysphagia: Refers to a patient’s difficulty with swallowing
- Edema: Refers to the swelling of body tissue due to an excessive accumulation of fluid.
- Effusion: Refers to the escape or movement of fluid into a body cavity.
- Emesis: Refers to the action or process of vomiting.
- Fascia: Refers to a fibrous membrane of connective tissues that support and separate muscles and body organs.
- Febrile: Pertaining to a fever.
- Hepatosplenomegaly: Refers to the enlargement of the liver and spleen.
Memorization Tip: Again, the word “mega” refers to things that are very large. Furthermore, hepatosplenomegaly contains most of the word “spleen.”
- Ileus: refers to the air or fluid level on abdominal X-rays.
- Joint: Refers to the articulation or junction between two or more bones or cartilage.
- Ligament: Refers to the fibrous tissue that binds the bones together.
- Lingual: Pertaining to the tongue.
Memorization Tip: Try to associate lingual with someone who is bilingual. In order to speak two languages effectively, you need to use your tongue.
- Malaise: Refers to generalized discomfort or weakness.
- Myalgia: Refers to muscular pain.
- Neuralgia: Refers to pain along the course of a nerve.
Memorization Tip: Remember, any word with “neural” in it is referring to a nerve or the nervous system.
- Palpable: Able to be touched or felt.
- Paresthesia: Refers to an abnormal tactile sensation that is often described as burning, tingling, or numbness.
- Purulent: Consisting of pus.
- Sputum: Refers to a mixture of saliva and mucus that is coughed up from the respiratory tract.
- Stenosis: Refers to the narrowing of a body opening or passage.
- Syncope: Refers to the loss of consciousness (fainting).
- Tinnitus: Refers to the ringing of the ears.
- Vertigo: Refers to a spinning sensation that is caused by an inner ear problem.
Effectively Studying Medical Terms
Don’t be overwhelmed by the large number of terms on this list. We recommend tackling one section at a time to break all of this new information up into digestible chunks. It may be useful to pick up flashcards in multiple colors to categorize these terms while you are reviewing them. Some of these words are also very difficult to spell, so you may find it beneficial to practice writing or typing them out several times instead of just reading them. If you want more tips on how to effectively memorize vocabulary words, then be sure to read through this article.
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Are you hungry for even more medical vocabulary words? Next time, we’ll be studying terms that pertain to medical and surgical history. Follow us on our blog to catch that piece as soon as it’s posted and to learn more about the latest news on patient care, medical scribing, and the healthcare industry.
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