In my long and winding post I mentioned setting off on my career path by taking medical terminology. This one class has done more to open up my world than just about anything else I've done.
I hear people complain about medical professionals using medical terminology to communicate, and feel that we do this as a way of making it hard for them to understand what we're talking about. Well, yeah, that is one benefit. We can discuss some scary issues that need discussing immediately without alarming the patient. But understand we aren't doing it to hide things from you. It's a shortcut; sort of like verbal shorthand, and unfortunately we get so used to doing it that sometimes we forget to revert to layman's terms when we talk to patients.
But that isn't the main purpose for the use of medical terms. The practice of medicine has been around for thousands of years. It has only been a couple of thousand or so years that someone put any thought to describing what is they're looking at and what it's doing. Without getting into too detailed a history of the medical field, it was in Rome that the art of medicine really took off. So naturally most things anatomical were given Latin names. For example "osteo" for bone, "cyte" for cell and "atrium" for, uh, a little room but is used to describe a chamber in the body, usually the heart.
Lately there has been a big fuss in the scientific community about naming conventions. Throughout much of history body parts were named according to their structure, location or function. More and more there is a trend toward naming things for people. For example the area in the brain that controls speech is called "Broca's area" for the fella who spent a lot of time in there.
Personally I'd rather like naming things for their structure, location and function. When I see a medical word,for example "suprarenal arteriogram" (and I just made that up; I don't even know if there is such a thing). I can figure out what the heck it is by analyzing the word. "Supra" means above or over something. "Renal" means kidney so I know that there is something above the kidney. "Arterio" is a combining form of "artery" so okay, I know that the thing in question over the kidney is an artery. Then "gram" is a diagnostic study. So AHA - this is a diagnostic study of an artery that is over the kidney.
If they had named this test or this artery for someone I'd be lost. Let's say Dr. Slim Goodbody spent his career studying arteries above the kidney and he figured out a way of looking at the artery with some cool instruments he had lying around, they could have called this a Goodbody Study or a Slimogram. Then I'd be forced to have to look up the word then make the effort to remember that a Goodbody Study is a way of checking the renal arteries. It's a lot easier for me to be able to analyze the word when I see it and not have to commit it to memory.
But that's just me.
The other thing I like about medical terminology is it's a great way of concatenating a whole sentence into one word. Orthostatic hypotension is a way of saying "when-the-patient-stands-up-his-blood-pressure-drops-and-he-passes-out." See? Isn't orthostatic hypotension so much better?
No? Okay. For your amusement I have created a list of medical words that describe everyday events and situations.
alopecia - I am bald
bezoar - I have a hair ball
borborygami - My stomach is growling
coryza - I have a cold
diplopia - I'm seeing double
dypnea - I can't breath
dysgeusia - everything tastes funny
dysmenorrhea - My periods are horrible
dysuria - It hurts when I pee
echolalia - Hey! Stop repeating everything I say.
epistaxis - My nose is bleeding. AAAAHHH! MY NOSE IS BLEEDING!!
eructation - Erp! Excuse me
flatulence - Okay, who floated the air biscuit?
hematuria - there's blood in my pee
hemoptysis - I'm coughing up blood
hirsutism - I am a woman with a moustache
masticate - I am chewing
melena - There's blood in my poo
menometrorrhagia - I bleed like a stockyard hog
orthopnea - I can't breath if I lie down flat
pectus excavatum - I'm a dude who's chest is caved in instead of out and therefore I never take my shirt off in public
piloerection - I'm so scared that my hair is standing on end
polyuria - I pee all the time
presbyopia - I need reading glasses now that I'm 40
priapism - I have a boner that won't quit
pyrexia - I have a fever
pseudocyesis - I have all the symptoms of pregnancy but I'm not pregnant
somnambulism - I walk in my sleep
syncope - I passed out
tinnitus - my ears are ringing
vertigo - I'm dizzy
Who knew that a four-hour erection could have such an interesting name?