Medical Terms Most People Don’t Understand But Should

September 21, 2016  |  
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Image Source: Shutterstock

Being in a doctor’s office can sometimes feel like being the beginner’s student who somehow snaked her way into level four Mandarin — you don’t know what anyone is saying, but the professor (doctor) is looking at you like you should! Doctors can easily forget that we non-doctors don’t spend all day tossing around jargon like appendectomy and hematemesis in the lunch room as if we’re just discussing the weather. They mean well, but they’re sort of like teenagers who are so used to using terms like ROFL and TBH that they don’t realize not everybody understands their lingo. Doctors are also typically in a rush so you can feel like it’s rude to ask them to explain a term. But you should know what procedures and medications your doctor is recommending. And you should know what condition he said he found in your blood work. It may be more serious than he is letting on. Or it may not be as serious as it sounds at all. So here is a look at medical terms nobody understands but everybody should.

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Ectomy

If you’re undergoing an appendectomy, that means your appendix is being removed. Ectomy essentially means the act of cutting something out. When a woman undergoes a hysterectomy, she has many of her reproductive organs cut out.

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Image Source: Shutterstock

An Epi

Epi means on or upon and refers to some form of injection. An epidural, for example, is the painkiller injection given to women in labor.

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Shutterstock

Dyspepsia

Dyspepsia is just a blanket term for all sorts of conditions which cause discomfort during the digestion process, or that interrupt proper digestion in some way. Nausea and a stomach ache are both forms of dyspepsia, for example.
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Image Source: Shutterstock

Itis

You hear this at the end of things like bronchitis and arthritis. Itis simply means that something is inflamed. Depending on what’s inflamed the condition can be life-threatening (like in the case of appendicitis) or just painful, like in the case of arthritis.
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Image Source: Shutterstock

Phagy

Phagy basically means to eat something, and when you hear it at the end of a medical term, whatever came before it is what is being eaten. So, example, embryophagy means to eat an embryo–something many animals do. Humans might suffer from autophagy, in which a cell essentially eats itself as a form of preservation.
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Image Source: Shutterstock

Cryo

Cryo means cold, so when one hears a term that starts with it, cold is probably being used to treat some condition. One example of this is a cryoablation in which doctors use cold to destroy cells that are bad for the body. They may, for example, use cryoablation to remove kidney tumors.
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Shutterstock

Hepatitis

We hear about certain celebrities being diagnosed with hepatitis, but then recovering. Then we hear about people dying from it. How are the cases so different? Well, hepatitis simply means inflammation of the liver. This, however, can vary in severity. Hepatitis can be caused by toxic chemicals, over-consumption of alcohol and a few other issues. Sometimes it can be controlled with medication, but sometimes it can evolve into liver cancer or liver failure.
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Shutterstock

Hema, hemo, haemato

All of these are just a variation of hema, which means blood. So when you hear this prefix at the beginning of a condition, it means something is wrong with your blood. The second part of the word can tell you what that problem is.
fitness

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Aer

You mostly hear this in reference to aerobic exercises. Essentially, when you do something aerobic, you send plenty of oxygen into your cells. Your muscles need oxygen to contract in these types of exercises. These include things like dancing, swimming, and spinning.
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Image Source: Shutterstock

Anaer

Anaer is the opposite of Aer. So, when one does anaerobic exercises, their muscles do not require oxygen to contract. These are typically high-intensity workouts. These include things like weight training and jumping.
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Image Source: Shutterstock

Otomy

Otomy, like ectomy, refers to cutting but in any type of otomy nothing is being removed. Instead, the body is just being cut into. Sometimes, something is inserted, like in the case of a gastronomy, when a feeding tube is put inside the stomach.
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Shutterstock

Pathy

Pathy just means disease. Whatever comes before “pathy” is what is suffering from a disease. For example, people who suffer from psychopathy have a disease of the mind and those who suffer from cardiopathy have a disease of the heart. Sometimes, however, pathy can refer to the treatment of a disorder like with the word homeopathy.
"Woman flexing her arm muscles"

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Myo

Myo refers to muscles. So if a person has myopathy, then we know from the previous term that they have a disease of the muscles. Here’s another way we can combine our learned terms: myophagy means something is eating the muscles.
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Corbis

Hydro

Hydro simply means water or the use of water. So hydrotherapy, for example, can mean treating a condition through the use of water.
stomach feat

Entero

One can remember what entero refers to because it sounds like “enter” or “internal,” and it refers to the intestines–through which food moves internally in the body. Enteropathy, for example, means a disease of the intestines. An enteroscopy is a procedure of looking through your intestines with a small camera.

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