Frequently used medical terms you may encounter

Have you ever wondered how health care providers learn the thousands of terms they use every day?  Often it is a case of learning suffixes and prefixes.  From there, you can join organ names with prefixes or suffixes to fully describe a condition.  Here are some of those most commonly used:

  • arthr–   Of/Pertaining to joint or limb,  arthritis is inflammation of the joint(s); arthralgia is joint pain.
  • dys-   Abnormal,  Dyssomnia is abnormal sleep functioning; dysmenorrhea is abnormal menstrual functioning.
  • -ectomy   The process or procedure of removing, e.g., appendectomy is the removal of the appendix; colectomy is the removal of the colon.
  • -emia  In the blood, typically combined with hyper- or hypo-.  Hyperemia is too much blood in the blood); hyperglycemia is too much glucose (blood sugar) in the blood; hypokalemia is too little potassium in the blood; hypoproteinemia is too little protein in the blood.
  • graphy   The process of recording or capturing, Mammography is capturing images of the breasts; thermography is capturing images using a device that captures heat signatures.
  • hemo- or hema-  Blood,  Hematuria is blood in the urine; hemotympanum is blood behind the eardrum.
  • hyper –  Excessive, e.g., hyperthyroidism is a condition of having an overactive thyroid gland (too much thyroid hormone); hypertension is a condition of having too much tension (pressure) in the blood vessels, also called high blood pressure.
  • hypo-   Insufficient, Hypothyroidism is a condition of having an underactive thyroid gland (insufficient thyroid hormone production); hypotension is a condition of having too little tension (pressure) in the blood vessels, also called low blood pressure.
  • -itis (eye’-tiss)   Inflammation,  Cellulitis is inflammation of the skin; appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix; diverticulitis is inflammation of the diverticuli (pockets) that are found in many individuals’ colons.
  • -itus (eye’-tuss)   With,  Tinnitus is the condition of having hearing with a “tinny” sound; pruritus is the condition of having itching.
  • lingual  Relating to the tongue,  Sublingual administration of a medication means to take it under the tongue.
  • normo-   Normal, Normotensive means having normal tension (pressure) in the blood vessels.
  • -osis   Condition of,  Psychosis is a condition of psychiatric illness; diverticulosis is a condition of diverticuli (pockets) such as those found in the colon.
  • osteo-   Pertaining to the bones,  Osteoporosis is the condition of having large pores (holes) in the bones; osteoarthritis is a condition of inflammation on or near the bones.
  • pathy   Having disease,  Neuropathy is disease of the nerves; retinopathy is disease of the retina of the eye.
  • plasia   A condition relating to tissue or cells, can be hypo-, hyper, or normo-.  It means an organ is too large or too small because of the number of cells.  Hyperplasia of the prostate means the prostate is abnormally large from having too many cells.
  • scopy   An activity using an instrument for viewing,  Colonoscopy is a study that uses an instrument to view the walls of the colon; laryngoscopy is a study that uses an instrument to view the larynx and vocal cords.
  • -thymia  Condition of mind and/or will,  dysthymia is persistent, abnormal, chronic form of low-grade depression.
  • -trophy   A condition of growth or development, can be hypo-, hyper-, a, or normo-.   Hypertrophy is extra growth of the bones than can lead to bone spurs; atrophy is the loss of development such as atrophy of the muscles; hypertrophy of the toenails means the nails are thick or overgrown; muscular dystrophy is abnormal growth or development of the muscles.
  • uria   In the urine, Hematuria is blood (heme) in the urine; glucosuria is glucose (blood sugar) in the urine, proteinuria is protein in the urine.

© Trinity Integrative Family Medicine, Inc., glkocourek, Jul-2016, latest revision 09-May-2021

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