Health Talk Simplified

"I was told that I had acute Celapalgia” she said as she sat in my office. "Can you help?”

"What was your complaint when you went in to that clinic?” I asked not quite getting it.

"Well, I’ve been getting really bad headaches for the last two weeks.” she replied.

"Oh, acute Cephalalgia!” I countered.

"Yes that’s it.” She said, "What is it?”

"It means ’really bad headaches’ in Latin instead of English.” I told her as I watched her eyes roll.

We have all had a brush with confusing health related terms at one time or another. If it relates to a problem we, or someone we know is having, it can be intimidating or even down right scary. Those of us who work in health care spend many hours learning the language of health until complex terms roll off our tongue with relative ease. Occasionally health workers forget that others don’t speak that language or, shame on them, use that language to deliberately confuse.

Those without an advanced health education pick up a lot of terminology from television programs, reading, or on line; however, confusion can still result. As a simple example, I often have to explain that the term "Arthritis” simply means "joint inflammation”. Very many things can cause joint inflammation each requiring different treatment, so the term arthritis is easily misunderstood. The same goes for Fibromyalgia. Just this morning, a patient jokingly said that she thought the term Fibromyalgia meant "I don’t know what’s wrong with you so don’t bother me!” Not understanding medical terms however does not make you stupid or ignorant any more than not understanding Icelandic or Cantonese.

Most medical terms come from Latin or Greek, so they are in another language after all. The good news about most of these medical terms is that they consist of smaller words stuck together like Leggo. My personal favorite is Hypertrophic Pulmonary Osteoarthropathy. It rolls off your tongue like the Supercalifragalistic- you know the rest.

The following are two lists of medical prefixes and suffixes the first relating to anatomy, the second referring to areas or procedures. Seeing them this way may help to de-mystify some of those medical terms. You can even have some fun making up your own new "diseases”, for example:

Hypoplastic Glutosis- Saggy buns from too much time on the couch.

Ocular Umbilitis – Inflammation of the navel from too much grazing.

Glottal Hypertrophy- Overdeveloped tongue from talking endlessly

Hypocardiosis – Too small of a heart, like the Grinch.

Androptosis – Dropping your man.

Got the idea? Remember as they say "sticks and stones may break my bones but medical words will only cause dolor-cauda.” [pain in the tail].

Here are a few medical terms and their meanings:

ITIS – Inflammation

ADIP- fa

OSIS – Disease

ADEN- gland

TROPH – Nourishment

ANGI – vessel

HYPER – Too much

ARTHR – joint

HYPO – Not enough

BRACHI – arm

PRO – Before

CAPIT -head

DOLOR – Pain

CARDI – heart

RUBOR – Redness

CAUD – tail

CALOR – Heat

CEPAHL – head

TACHY – Rapid

DORS – back

FETOR – Offensive Odor

ECT – outside

CATA – Down or against

FACI – face

CYTO – Cell

GASTR – stomach

LEUKO – White

GLOTT – tongue

MEDULLA – Middle

GLUTEAL – buttocks

ENDO – Within

GYN – woman

XANTHO – Yellow

HEM – blood

EPI – Upon

HYSTER – womb

PLASTY – Repair of

NEUR – nerve