Medical Terminology

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Medical terminology is something that many of us find quite confusing and often unnecessary. How many times have we gotten test results for something we’ve been anxious for a while, but we couldn’t read them properly because most of the results were written to complex. It can be pretty frustrating when we’re suffering from some unpleasant symptoms for a while, but still have to wait longer for a doctor to interpret the results and tell us exactly what is wrong. However, medical terminology is actually necessary for many reasons, both in a practical and psychological aspect.

The basic usage of medical terminology

Medical terminology is actually quite simple once you get the hang of it, but requires you to be familiar with the old Latin and Greek languages. Medical terminology follows the principle of precision, using Latin or Greek words for certain body parts or organs, and then completing their meaning by adding suffixes or prefixes. Both the base words and prefixes/suffixes are in Latin or Greek, but the process of combining them actually follows the rules of basic linguistics. Let’s take an example that you can find practically anywhere; doctors often refer to heart attacks as “cardiac arrest”. “Cardiac” is based on the ancient Greek term “cardiacus”, which basically means “concerning the heart”. This is just a basic example of medical terminology, but you’ll now learn why exactly terms like these are used.

Reasons for using medical terminology

Based on the example of “cardiac arrest”, we can actually explain why medical terminology is used. For instance, let’s assume that we didn’t use “cardiac arrest”, but actually used the term “heart attack”. What does it make you think of when you hear it or read it? Most of us would focus on the heart, obviously. The heart stopped or may have an abnormal rhythm, so we need to focus on the heart, right? Well, no, that could be potentially fatal in many cases. The basic Greek word “cardiacus” means “regarding the heart”, and literally includes everything regarding the heart. Heart attacks may have different causes, such as a blocked artery located away from the heart. The term “cardiac arrest” basically means that the exact reason for the heart attack may be unknown, and that anything regarding to the heart may be the cause. If the cause is known, then doctors will use more precise terms, such as the names for the arteries in question.

Why you should not interpret medical terminology yourself

Although medical terminology may sound unfamiliar to many of us, we can now research medical terms ourselves, thanks to the Internet. However, this can actually be more harmful than you think. Many online search results may focus on the basic terms while a lot of meaning lies in the suffixes and prefixes of medical terminology. As an example, let’s take a relatively common condition such as epilepsy. Depending on the suffixes or prefixes, medical terminology regarding epilepsy may drastically different meanings. It can designate a chronic condition, or simply something resembling epileptic seizures. So, if your test result includes the term “epilepsy” or a variation of it, it may not mean you have the actual neurological condition known as epilepsy. There are many causes for epileptic seizures, with extreme stress being the most common one. Simply said, we often scare ourselves by researching medical terminology, especially since we don’t know how they’re used. Your doctors will properly interpret these results, and you are free to ask them any questions regarding the results if you may want to.



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