Important Medical Terms You Need to Know

Reviewed on 3/24/2021

At your doctor's appointment, you may hear a lot of medical terminology you are unfamiliar with. Be sure to understand the following medical terms, from abrasion and lesion to tachycardia, and ask questions when you don't understand.
At your doctor's appointment, you may hear a lot of medical terminology you are unfamiliar with. Be sure to understand the following medical terms, from abrasion and lesion to tachycardia, and ask questions when you don't understand.

Medical terminology and jargon can be confusing. Following is a list of some common and important medical terms you may hear on your next visit to your doctor. 

  • Abrasion: a cut or scrape that typically only affects the skin, usually minor
  • Abscess: a pus-filled sac that forms in tissue, usually caused by infection
  • Acute: a condition that begins suddenly but doesn’t last long (may still be severe)
  • Angina: pain or discomfort in the chest due to reduced blood flow to the heart
  • Anti-inflammatory: something that reduces pain, inflammation, and soreness (such as ibuprofen or naproxen)
  • Arrhythmia: irregular heart rate 
  • Benign: not cancerous
  • Biopsy: a small tissue sample removed from the body for testing
  • Body Mass Index (BMI): a body fat measurement index based on height and weight
  • Bradycardia: slow heart rate
  • Cellulitis: a bacterial skin infection
  • Chronic: a recurring, persistent condition 
  • Compound fracture: a broken bone that protrudes through the skin
  • Comminuted fracture: a bone that has broken into more than two pieces 
  • Contusion: bruise
  • Edema: swelling caused by fluid accumulation
  • Embolism: blood clot
  • Epidermis: outer layer of skin
  • Fracture: broken bone or cartilage
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): heartburn/indigestion
  • Hypertension: high blood pressure
  • Hypotension: low blood pressure
  • Inpatient: a patient who requires admittance to a hospital for a night or more
  • Intravenous: medication or fluids administered through a needle to a catheter into a vein
  • Ischemia: lack of blood flow to a body part
  • Lesion: wound, sore, or cut
  • Malignant: usually refers to cancerous cells, but can also refer to serious forms of certain diseases that can be fatal if not treated
  • Membrane: a thin, pliable layer of tissue that covers, lines, or connects two structures
  • Myocardial infarction: heart attack
  • Neutrophils: the most common type of white blood cell
  • Noninvasive: in terms of disease, it doesn’t spread; in terms of a procedure, it doesn’t require entering the body with instruments
  • Outpatient: care that can be received without hospital admission
  • Polyp: abnormal mass or growth of thin tissue from mucus membranes
  • Remission: symptoms lessen or go away (not the same as a cure)
  • Sepsis: the body’s response to a severe infection, can be fatal
  • Sutures: stitches
  • Tachycardia: fast heart rate

If your healthcare provider uses words you don’t know, always ask for definitions and explanations so you understand your health condition and what to do.  

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Reviewed on 3/24/2021
References
https://www.sgu.edu/blog/medical/medical-terms-abbreviations-and-acronyms/

https://selecthealth.org/blog/2016/08/25-important-medical-terms-you-need-to-know

https://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/health-sciences/blog/basic-medical-terms/