The Beginner’s Guide to Medical Terminology: A Professional Cheatsheet

medical terminology cheatsheet featured image

Learning the fundamentals of medical terminology early on can give you a big head start in your career.  

When you’re in school, it makes it easier to learn about other topics.  When you’re working, it makes it easier to communicate and keep everyone on the same page.

In this “mega guide”, I go over why medical terminology is important and where it comes from.  I then cover many of the key medical terms that I think will be the most beneficial for you to know in your career.

Let’s get started. 

What’s the Point of Learning Medical Terminology?

doctor holding lecturing off whiteboard

Don’t worry, it’s not a stupid question. 

When you think about it, your patients don’t really use medical terms to explain their symptoms. Most use everyday words and images to describe their pain or problems. 

I’ve rarely met a patient who describes an acute pain in their upper abdominal cavity. Instead, they tell me that their stomach is in agony or they’ve got a stabbing pain in their belly. 

So why do we, as medical professionals, have to learn proper medical terms if our patients don’t use them? 

Quite simply, because it’s a matter of life and death.

Patients describe their symptoms in their terms, but our job is to take that information and translate it into a diagnosis that we can share with our team, and hopefully cure.

Standardized terms help to keep everyone on the same page. If we all know what symptoms you are treating and where in the body it is, then we can take effective and targeted action. 

Using standard language to describe conditions and symptoms means that there is a shared understanding. It also takes away some of the subjectivity, the personal interpretation, which can be lethal. 

For example, ‘a lot of blood’ could mean different things to you and me depending on our experiences. If we use the phrase ’class III hemorrhage,’ then everyone involved in the patient’s care knows that they are losing 30-40% of their blood volume and they need a transfusion.

The devil really is in the details.

Patients also need their doctors and nurses to use the same terms.

Patient education is one of the most important parts of our job. It’s how we help our patients manage and control their own health.

If patients are educated using the same words and definitions, they have a far better chance of understanding what is wrong with them and how they deal with the problem. 

Just imagine if a patient came to you in the ER and said that their family physician had said that they were prone to feeling off if they eat too much sugar. You wouldn’t know whether they were diabetic or just mildly intolerant to sugar. 

A patient with an understanding of their health conditions is so much easier to treat quickly and efficiently.

Standardized medical terminology not only provides clarity,  it also creates efficiency. 

OMG, can you imagine how long and boring life would be without contractions and abbreviations? 

We use them every single day. Y’all, can’t, should’ve, LOL, BRB. These little shorthands help us speed up communication, and medical terms are no different. 

For example, CSU stands for catheter steam urine sample [1] and is so much quicker to say than the full term.

Let’s be fair though, you can’t use the abbreviations effectively unless you know the terms in the first place. So your understanding of medical terms needs to be top-notch so that you can work more efficiently. 

How Can Knowing Medical Terminology Improve Your Medical Career?

two doctors checking a clipboard

First and foremost, knowing medical terminology shows that you are a professional. It’s hard to get promoted if you don’t speak like a professional.

Then there is efficiency. A solid knowledge of medical terms means that you won’t waste your time trying to figure out what a patient’s notes or your colleagues are saying.

Speaking of colleagues, how annoying is it when you’re trying to complete a task or finish some work, but you just don’t get what your colleague or manager wants from you? Now add in all the blood, guts, and gore of a hospital.  

Being able to use lingo they understand will make your colleagues so much happier and they will have a much higher opinion of you.

Ultimately, people with good relationships with their colleagues are far more likely to progress within an organization. So it pays to please your workmates.

Most importantly, a solid grasp of medical terminology means that you can provide the best possible care for your patients. Ultimately, this is what matters the most as a medical professional.

Where Do Medical Terms Come From and Why Do We Use Them?

doctor thinking about something

Who’s up for a bit of etymology? 

The study of word meanings, etymology, is a bit of a nerdy, niche past time. Some people love it, some can’t be bothered with it. 

Whichever side you fall on, it pays to understand where medical terms come from. 

I don’t know about you, but when I can understand the connection between a word and it’s meaning, it sticks in my head better. 

Let’s take the word carcin as an example. It’s a greek word meaning crab but in the medical world, it means cancer. 

Why the link between cancer and crabs you ask? 

Well, an ancient Greek legend tells the story of a crab that was sent to attack Heracles. Heracles smashed the crab with his club, and the gods put the crab in the sky as a memorial to the creature. 

The word cancer is the anglicized or English version of the Greek word carcin (which means “crab”).  That’s why the zodiac symbol is called cancer. 

The disease we now know as cancer was given this name because of the way the cells grow in pincer-like shapes similar to a crab’s pincers. [2]

You don’t need to be able to read and speak ancient Greek or Latin to understand medical terms, but knowing the origin can help fix the words and meanings in your brain. 

Why are most medical terms are Greek or Latin in origin?  It’s really simple and obvious once you think about it. 

Modern medicine as we know it began in the ancient Greek and Roman times, so it makes sense that they would have named their discoveries in their own languages. 

Nowadays, using Greek and Latin terms is not just about sounding smart or following tradition, although that probably is a factor for some practitioners! 

Latin and Greek are neutral languages that aren’t biased towards one nation or language. This means that medical professionals who train all over the world can understand their international colleagues in a professional sense even if they speak different languages

Think about all the physicians, nurses, technicians, assistants, and patients you meet in a week. Now try to list where they come from originally and the languages they use. You’ll probably be in double figures.

A universal language is a literal and figurative lifesaver considering the diversity of the medical profession and patient base.

From the Beginning: Understanding Roots, Prefixes, and Suffixes

illustration of how roots prefixes and suffixes work

Ok, I won’t lie, this bit is going to be a bit grammar heavy. Don’t panic though, you’ll pick it up easily because it’s not as hard as it seems. 

There is actually a formula or recipe for medical terms which helps you to figure out what part of the body it relates to and what kind of problem it describes. 

How handy is that?

To put it simply, every medical term will have at least one root word while some have multiple root words. 

Prefixes can be added before the root word to change the meaning or add information, usually telling us a location or number. [3]

Suffixes can be added to the end for further information, and usually describe the kind of problem. [4]  

A medical term may have all three parts, prefix, root word(s), and suffix, or it may have just two parts, one of which will be a root word. 

Some terms do not have a prefix or suffix and are just root words.

Still with me? 

Often, words will have a joining vowel between each part of the words. More often than not, the letter ‘o’ is used, but ‘a’ and ‘i’ can also be used. These joining vowels are super useful because they separate the parts of the word, but they also make the word as a whole much easier to pronounce!

Let’s take a look at the term neuroblastoma. The root word is blast which refers to immature cells. 

Added to the beginning of this root word is neuro which is a prefix relating to nerves. Already we know this term has something to do with immature cells found in the nervous system. 

At the end of our root word, is a suffix, oma this word means tumor. 

All together now! 

Thanks to the formula we can work out that the word neuroblastoma means a tumor formed by immature nerve cells. [5]

What I’ve done below is to list some common prefixes, root words, and suffixes so that you can look up any tricky terms that trip you up. 

Unfortunately, it’s not an exhaustive list. That would take years! I’ve tried to include the common ones you’ll come across frequently. 

Eagle-eyed readers might notice that some of the words appear in both the prefix and the root word table. This is because these words like to keep busy and do more than one job! 

Root Words

Step 1 for deciphering medical terms: always start with the root word! 

Once you pick out the root word, it’s easier to see the prefix and suffixes. 

TermDefinition/ relating to…Origin
AbdominPart of the body below the chest but above the pelvis.Latin – Meaning hidden, i.e hidden part of the body.
AdenGlandGreek
ArteriRelating to arteriesGreek
AudiHearingLatin
BioLifeGreek -meaning the course of human life.
BrachioArm, especially the upper arm.Greek – literally meaning shorter probably in comparison to the longer forearm.
BronchBronchus – an airway that conducts air into the lungs.Greek
CarcinCancerGreek – literally meaning a crab.
CardiacHeartGreek
ColColonLatin
CytCellGreek – literally meaning a hollow receptacle.
Derm / dermatSkinGreek
DorsBackLatin
EnchepalBrainGreek – literally meaning in the head. 
GastStomachGreek
GynecFemaleGreek
Hemat / hemoBloodGreek/ Latin
HepatiRelating to the  liverGreek
HistTissueGreek – literally meaning web or structure.
IntestinIntestineLatin
LaparThe soft part of the body between the chest and pelvis (similar to abdomen).Greek 
LymphRelating to the lymphatic system which circulates fluids.Latin – water or water goddess. 
MalignBad/harmfulLatin – literally meaning bad born.
MyMuscleGreek –  literally means mouse. 
NephroKidneys Greek
NeurRelating to nerves.Greek – literally means sinew or string. 
OculEyeLatin
OncoTumorLatin – literally meaning mass or bulk. 
OphthalmolEyes and eye socketGreek – literally meaning eye and chamber.
OpticSightGreek
OrMouthLatin – meaning hole.
OsteoBonesGreek
OtEarLatin
PedChildGreek
PathDisease Greek – meaning suffering.
PharmacDrugGreek
PulmonLungsLatin – literally meaning floater or float.
SarcoTissueGreek  – meaning flesh.
SeptInfectionLatin – to rot.
ThoracChestLatin – meaning breastplate.
ThyroRelating to the thyroid gland found in the neck. Greek – literally meaning shield-shaped. 
ToxoPoisonGreek – literally meaning bow or related to archery because of the habit of dipping arrows in poison. 
TracheThe tube connecting the lungs to the larynx (or voicebox).Greek
TrichHairGreek
UmbilicNavelLatin
UreUrinary system.Latin
UterWombLatin
VentrRelating to the front of the body. Latin – meaning belly. 
ViceroRelating to internal organs.Latin

[6 – 9]

Prefixes

In medicine, prefixes are used to tell us where a thing is in relation to the body part or system. Sometimes they tell us how many things are present or affected. 

They can also tell us about timings or measurements. 

Don’t forget that the beginning of a word is not necessarily a prefix. Some words don’t have prefixes so in those cases, the first part of the word is the root. 

PrefixMeaningOrigin
A/anWithout or lackingGreek
AbAway fromLatin
AdTowardLatin
AnteIn front of Latin
Anti / ContraAgainstGreek
AutoSelfGreek
BiTwoLatin
DiTwo / halfLatin
DysDifficult / painfulGreek
EctoOutside / externalGreek
EndoInside / internalGreek
EpiUponGreek
Hemi Half Latin
HyperOver / excessive Greek
HypoUnder / deficient Greek
InfraBeneathLatin
InterBetweenLatin
IntraWithinLatin
NeoNewLatin
ParaBeside / nearGreek
PeriAroundGreek
PreBeforeLatin
PolyMultiple or manyGreek
PostAfterLatin
QuadFourLatin
SemiHalfLatin
SubBelowLatin
SynTogether withGreek
TriThreeLatin

[6 – 9]

Suffixes

Suffixes used in medical terminology tend to describe the condition itself. They tell us what sort of symptom the condition is causing or the nature of the problem.

Again, it is important to remember that not all medical terms have suffixes. The end of a word is not automatically the suffix. 

SuffixMeaningOrigin
-algia, -dyniaPainGreek
-centesisA surgical procedure involving puncturing. Latin
-dilationWiden or openLatin
-ectomySurgical removalGreek
-emiaBlood conditionLatin
-esis, -iasis, -osis, -ity, -ia, -yState or conditionGreek
-gramWritten or recordedGreek
-graphyProcess of writing or recording.Greek
-iacPertaining toGreek
-ites, -itisInflammationLatin
-ologyStudy ofGreek
-omaTumorGreek
-pathyDiseaseGreek
-peniaDeficiency or lack ofGreek
-phagia, -phagyEating or devouringGreek
-plastySurgical shapingGreek
-pneaBreathingGreek
-rrhageHeavy flowGreek
-rrhaphySutureGreek
-rrheaFlow or dischargeGreek
-stomySurgical openingGreek
-scopyTo examineLatin
-tomyCutting or incisionGreek

[6 – 9] 

In general, Greek suffixes go with Greek prefixes and visa versa for Latin. 

Sometimes, just to be confusing, the generally accepted term for something is a mix of both languages (example: neonatology). 

Everyday Medical Terms

illustration of medical dictionary

Some medical terms make their way into everyday usage, though not always correctly. (Thank you very much, prime time medical dramas!)

Many of the words below will probably be familiar to you due to exposure from television and film, or just everyday usage. 

These words are general medical terms that can be used to describe the intensity or type of symptom. 

We haven’t included names of diseases or body parts as there are far too many to list and some are covered in later sections!

TermDefinition
AbrasionA scrape or cut
AbscessA collection of pus within a body part. 
AcuteSomething that becomes painful or worsens quickly.
AsymptomaticDisplaying no symptoms.
BenignA non-cancerous mass.
BiopsyA medical procedure that removes and tests a small sample of skin or tissue. 
CAT or CT ScanComputer Tomography Scan. A combination of x-rays and computer imaging allows doctors to see inside the body. 
ChronicA recurring or consistent problem.
CommunicableCan be passed from person to person.
CongenitalFrom birth
ContagiousAble to be passed through the air.
ContusionA bruise
DegenerativeSomething that gradually gets worse.
EdemaSwelling caused by excessive fluid build-up.
EmbolismA blood clot (that travels through the bloodstream and then blocks bloodflow).
EndemicA disease or condition that is widespread in a certain group of people. 
FebrileRelating to a fever.
FungalCaused by a fungus.
GeneralizedAffecting multiple areas of the body.
IncurableUnable to be cured or healed.
InfantileAffecting babies and young children.
InfectiousA disease or illness that can spread from person to person.
InflammationRedness or swelling.
Intravenous or IVSomething that is inserted directly into the vein.
InvasiveA disease or procedure affecting the internal parts of the body. 
LocalOnly affects a small or particular area of the body.
LesionAbnormal area of tissue or skin.
MalignantA cancerous tumor.
MildNot serious.
MorbidCaused by a disease.
MortalSerious enough to cause death.
Non-specificHaving multiple causes.
ParasiticCaused by parasites 
PathologicalCaused by a disease
PerforatedAn organ or tissue that has a small hole in it.
PolypAn abnormal growth within an organ.
PsychiatricInvolving mental illness.
PsychosomaticA problem that is caused or made worse by your mental state or condition. 
QuiescentAn illness or disease which is not getting worse.
RefractoryAn illness or disease that does not improve following medical treatment.
SevereVery great or intense.
SporadicAppearing in separate areas of a body, region, or country at irregular intervals.
StrangulatedA body part that has been cut off from or does not have enough blood flowing to it. 
Susceptible More at risk of catching something.
SuspectedIn injury or illness that has not been confirmed yet.
SuturesStitches
SystemicAffecting your whole body.
TerminalCannot be cured and will eventually lead to death.
TransmitPass from one person to another.
TraumaticCausing serious injury or harm.
UnresponsiveDoes not respond to medical treatment.
ViralCaused by a virus.
VirulentVery dangerous and affects lots of people quickly.
WastingA disease that makes you thin and weak.
WaterborneTransmitted through water.
ZoonoticA disease or illness that can be passed from animals to humans and vice versa. 

[10 – 11]

Body Parts and Systems

illustration of the body and related words

The human body is complex and wonderful. It is an intertwined network of systems that control all of our conscious and unconscious processes. 

The reason that disease, illness, and injury can have such a devastating impact on a person, is because an interruption with one system has a downstream effect on other systems too. 

This section will take you through some of the major systems of the body and their parts. 

All Body Systems: 

  • Cardio-Vascular SystemMoves blood around the body.
  • Digestive System – Breaks down and absorbs nutrients from food.
  • Excretory System – Removes waste from the body.
  • Endocrine System – Creates and moves hormones around the body.
  • Integumentary System – Protects the body from outside threats.
  • Immune System – Combats threats that have entered the body. 
  • Lymphatic System – Moves lymph around the body. 
  • Muscular System – Moves the body.
  • Nervous System – Transmits signals from the brain to the body.
  • Skeletal System – protects and supports the body.
  • Reproductive System – Responsible for making and nurturing babies.
  • Respiratory System – Exchanges gases in the lungs.
  • Urinary System – Cleans the blood and body of waste. [12]

Integumentary System

Starting on the outermost part of the body, the integumentary system includes the skin and hair. It is the system responsible for protecting the body from invading microorganisms, environmental factors, and chemicals. 

Fun fact: the word integumentary comes from Latin and literally means covering, which tells us that it has to do with the skin. [13]

Each part of the integumentary system is listed below along with a brief description of its particular functions or characteristics.

PartFunction/Definition 
SkinThe largest organ in the body, believe it or not!
EpidermisThe top layer of the skin which contains no blood vessels. Instead, cells receive oxygen through diffusion.
The cells of the epidermis continually harden, die, fall off, and are replaced to maintain a harder outer layer. 
So all those bits of dead skin you find in your bed or on your clothes are epidermis cells!
The function of the epidermis is to protect the internal systems and organs. The harder cells protect from injury and microorganisms, while melanin found in the cells protects from UV rays.
DermisThis is the second layer of the skin and is much thicker than the epidermis. Blood vessels and glands are found in the dermis along with fat cells and pigment cells. 
The function of the dermis is to provide nutrients and oxygen to the cells in the epidermis via the blood vessels, and also to remove the waste from cells. 
The dermis also plays an important role in regulating temperature as it contains the sweat glands. 
HypodermisThis is the innermost layer of the integumentary system and is often described as the bottom layer of skin, though it is actually the deepest layer of tissue and contains the fat cells and connective tissues.
The purpose of the hypodermis is to attach the skin to the muscular and skeletal systems. 
The hypodermis is also responsible for insulating the body via the fat cells. 
GlandsAn organ that creates and secretes a substance (like snot in your nose 🙂 ).
Epidermis glandsGlands that are found in or reach the epidermis. 
Sudoriferous glandsAlso known as sweat glands. These are based in the dermis but mainly open directly onto the epidermis in humans. 
Did you know that the palms and soles of your feet have the most sudoriferous glands! 
DuctsThe tubes that form the main part of a gland.
GlomerulusThe part of the sweat gland that secretes sweat.
Sebaceous glandsResponsible for secreting an oily substance that coats hair follicles to keep them soft and provides a level of waterproofing. 
SebumThe oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands. 
Ceruminous glandsProduces ear wax in order to maintain the pH balance of the ear and to protect the ear canal from damage. 
CerumenEar wax. 
Mammary glandsThese glands produce milk during lactation. All humans have mammary glands though they are inactive in men.
HairMade in the epidermis from keratin. Hairs provide insulation to the body and also help in temperature regulation. 
Hair follicleA long tube through the epidermis inside which hairs are formed. 
NailsMade from the same material as hairs, keratin, the purpose of nails is to protect the soft tips of the fingers and toes. They also help in precision and tactile movements. 
Nail bedA pad of soft tissue that the nail rests on. 
CuticleA thin covering of skin cells that protects the area where the nail enters the epidermis. 
Nail plateThe hardened keratin cells that form the main part of a nail. 
MelaninA chemical in the dermis and epidermis which protects from UV light and gives pigmentation to the skin. 

[14 – 15]

The Muscular System

This system is the movement center of the body.

There are hundreds of named muscles in the human body and their combined weight makes up over half of your mass, more if you train and grow your muscles.

As well as moving the body, the muscular system holds body parts in place and is responsible for our posture and stability. 

The muscular system also helps to move blood through the body by contracting and relaxing, thereby squeezing blood through blood vessels. 

Having a solid grasp of muscle anatomy and terminology is useful for any medical jobs, but it’s especially important for surgeons, as well as physical or occupations therapists.

Below you will find a list of key terms relating to the muscular system. 

Full disclosure, I haven’t named every muscle as there are over 700! 

Some muscles are named for the number of bones they connect to.  For example, the bicep originates from two bones so it uses the prefix ‘-bi.’ [16]

Other muscles are named for their size, shape, and function. The gluteus maximus is the largest gluteal muscle so it gets the cool-sounding ‘maximus’ in its name. [16]

See what else you can figure out about the muscles from their names! 

TermDefinition
Visceral muscle (aka “smooth” muscle)This weakest type of muscle is found within organs like the stomach or blood vessels. 
These muscles are responsible for moving substances around the body. 
Cardiac muscleThese muscles are located in the heart and are responsible for moving blood around the body. 
Skeletal muscleThe most often occurring type of muscle and is responsible for movement. 
Involuntary muscleMuscles that are controlled by the unconscious part of the brain. Cardiac and visceral muscles are involuntary.
Voluntary muscleControlled by the conscious part of the brain. Skeletal muscles are voluntary. 
TendonsThick, dense fibers that connect the muscle to the bone. 
BellyThe belly of the muscle is the large part of the muscle that contracts and relaxes to move bones by pulling on tendons. 
OriginWhere a muscle connects with a stationary bone.
InsertionWhere a muscle connects to a moving bone.
ContractingWhen muscles are stimulated by nerves to become short and thick thus drawing bones towards them. 
RelaxingWhen muscles release and return to their normal, elongated form. 
Muscle groupA collection of muscles that work in conjunction to move the body. 

[17 – 18]

The Skeletal System

Made up of 206 bones, 207 in children, the skeletal system has a number of functions including support, protection, movement, and the creation of red blood cells. [19]

Bones are made from collagen and calcium and are living tissue that grows and repairs throughout their lifetime, which is why fractures in bones can heal (given enough time, of course).

Every bone is made up of two types of bone, cortical and trabecular. 

TermDefinition 
Cortical boneThe dense, compact outer part of a bone.
Trabecular boneSpongey, honeycomb-like tissue which makes up the inside of bones. 
CollagenA protein that forms the basis of bones. 
CalciumA mineral that gives bones their strength.
Axial skeletonMade up of the bones in the vertebral column, the ribs, and the head.
This part of the skeleton is largely responsible for posture and giving humans their upright posture.
Appendicular skeletonConsists of the shoulder, arms, legs, and pelvis. These bones are responsible for movement. 
LigamentA soft tissue that connects bones to other bones. 
Bone marrowSemi-solid tissue where red blood cells are produced. 
VertebraeIrregular bones are found in the spine that protects the spinal column and support the head.
SkullA collection of bones including the cranium that forms the head and protects the brain. 
PelvisLarge boney frame found at the base of the spine which joins to the legs. 
ArticulationJoint or connection made between bones.
CartilageFirm, flexible tissues found in joints. 

[20 – 21]

The Respiratory System

This system is made up of organs and vessels that exchange gases within the body. Essentially the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. 

The system is split into the upper and lower respiratory tracts and fills much of the space in the chest and throat. 

TermDefinition 
RespirationThe exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen in living cells. 
Upper respiratory tractContains the nose, nasal passages, pharynx, and part of the larynx.
Lower respiratory tract Includes the lower part of the larynx, trachea, and the lungs. 
Nasal passageA channel behind the nose which allows air to pass into the respiratory system. 
Pharynx (basically your “throat”)A passage that takes air from the mouth to the larynx.
Larynx (aka “voicebox”)Part of the throat where the vocal cords can be found. 
TracheaA tube made of cartilage that connects the larynx to the lungs.
BronchiTwo tubes that split off the larynx into each lung.
BronchiolesSmaller tubes that branch off the bronchi and each other. They get progressively smaller as they branch off before connecting to alveoli. 
AlveoliHollow sacks that have a thin membrane which allows for gas exchange. 
Pleural cavityA liquid-filled space around the lungs which helps keeps the lungs in place and allows the lungs to inflate during inhalation. 
Diaphragm A muscle below the lungs which contracts to initiate breathing. 
InhalationThe process of drawing air into the respiratory tract. 
Exhalation The process of expelling air out of the respiratory system. 

[22 – 23]

The Cardio-Vascular System

This is one of the most important systems in the body. 

Its job is to supply the body with oxygenated blood from the lungs and remove deoxygenated blood from the rest of the body. 

This system also transports other important substances like hormones and nutrients around the body in the blood. 

Another key function of the cardiovascular system is to keep your body temperature stable by drawing blood closer to the surface of the skin allowing it to cool before it recirculates around the body. [24]

TermDefinition
ChambersFour hollow spaces through which blood flows.
Right atriumA chamber that receives blood from the veins and passes it to the right ventricle chamber. 
Right ventricleA chamber that receives blood from the right atrium and passes it to the lungs. 
Left atriumReceives oxygenated blood from the lungs and passes it to the left ventricle. 
Left ventricleReceives blood from the left atrium and moves it around the body. This is the strongest chamber. 
Coronary arteries Large blood vessels that cover the heart and pass oxygenated blood to the heart muscles. 
Pulmonary veinCarries oxygenated blood into the heart to be passed around the body.
Pulmonary arteries Carry deoxygenated blood out of the heart and to the lungs. 
Vena cavaThe large vein that brings deoxygenated blood into the heart from the rest of the body. 
VeinMuscle-lined blood vessels that bring blood towards the heart.
Arteries Muscle-lined blood vessels that take blood away from the heart and around the body.
CapillariesTiny blood vessels that branch off veins and arteries and allow gases to pass into cells through diffusion due to the thin membrane. 

[24 – 25]

The Nervous System

This is a  hugely complex system that transmits signals from the brain to all other parts of the body. Imagine it as the electrical system of the body.

Without a functioning nervous system, the other systems cannot function. An injury or illness which affects the nervous system can have a devastating effect on a patient. 

The nervous system also receives sensory information from the external environment and transports these signals back to the brain for interpretation. Once these signals have been decoded, the brain sends signals to the other systems to adjust or change in response. [26] 

TermDefinition
Central nervous systemThe brain and spinal cord make up this part of the nervous system.
Peripheral nervous systemMade up of nerves and ganglia outside of the brain and spine.
Nervous tissueThe tissue that makes up the parts of the nervous system. 
NeuronsSpecialized cells that transmit information to other neurons, muscles, and glands.
Glial cellsCells that support and surround the neurons and protect the neurons from pathogens. 
NerveA white, fiber or bundle of fibers that carry impulses around the body. 
Autonomic nervous systemPart of the peripheral nervous system that is responsible for the function of internal organs.
This system is largely unconscious. 
Parasympathetic nervous systemThis is one of two divisions of the autonomic nervous system. It is responsible for stimulating rest activities in the organs such as digestion and sexual processes. 
Sympathetic nervous systemThe second division of the autonomic nervous system. This is responsible for homeostasis processes and also the fight or flight mechanism.  
Homeostasis The process of maintaining equilibrium.
SynapseA connection where neurons meet each other or a muscle or gland. The synapse allows the electrical impulse to pass from one neuron to another.
GanglionA collection of nerve cells outside the brain. 
Spinal cordA long tube of nervous tissue that extends down from the brain stem to the lumbar region of the spine. 
It is from this cord that signals from the brain are passed into the appropriate nerves. Damage to the spinal cord can lead to paralysis. 
Brain stemThe part that connects the brain tissue to the spinal cord and is responsible for facilitating communication between the brain and the spinal cord and thus the rest of the body. 
The brainstem is located below the brain tissue in the middle of the head. 
BrainAn organ composed of nervous tissue that functions as the center of sensation, nervous, and intellectual activity. 
Gray matterThe nervous tissue that makes up 40% of the brain. It is responsible for processing information brought into the brain from the nerves through the white matter.
White matterPaler tissue that is made up of bundles of nerves. This makes up 60% of the brain and is responsible for passing information to and from the gray matter areas of the brain. 

[26 – 28]

Final Thoughts

common words for patient problems

Ok, breathe. 

I know that was a lot to take in. 

Don’t feel like you need to memorize all this information. Just getting familiar with it will go a long way.  Then you can come back periodically and review the different sections to keep improving your skills.

You can also use this kind of like a dictionary. Dip in and out when you need to clarify a particular medical term.  

Of course this doesn’t cover everything, and you’ll have to keep learning new vocabulary little by little.  But if you learn at least the basics now, you’ll give yourself a solid foundation that will make life easier for years to come. 

Thanks for visiting!

References

  1. https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/the-nhs-app/abbreviations/ 
  2. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-basics/history-of-cancer/what-is-cancer.html
  3. https://globalrph.com/medical-terminology/a/ 
  4. https://globalrph.com/medical-terminology/a/
  5. http://www.cancerindex.org/medterm/medtm4.htm 
  6. http://www.cancerindex.org/medterm/medtm4.htm  
  7. https://www.dummies.com/health/common-medical-root-words/ 
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_medical_roots,_suffixes_and_prefixes 
  9. https://www.etymonline.com 
  10. https://selecthealth.org/blog/2016/08/25-important-medical-terms-you-need-to-know 
  11. https://www.vitalitymedical.com/basic-medical-terms 
  12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_systems_of_the_human_body 
  13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integument
  14. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integumentary_system 
  15. https://www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/integumentary-system 
  16. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/ap1x94x1/chapter/naming-muscles/
  17. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscular_system
  18. https://www.visiblebody.com/learn/muscular/glossary
  19. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_skeleton 
  20. https://www.innerbody.com/image/skelfov.html
  21. https://training.seer.cancer.gov/anatomy/skeletal/
  22. https://www.visiblebody.com/learn/respiratory/glossary 
  23. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Respiratory_system 
  24. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circulatory_system
  25. https://healthengine.com.au/info/cardiovascular-system-heart
  26. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nervous_system 
  27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279390/ 
  28. https://training.seer.cancer.gov/anatomy/nervous/ 

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