10 Medical Terms Your Doctor Uses That You May Not Know

Senior Woman with DoctorHave you been here before?

Your doctor’s explains a troubling test result while you sit on the exam room table, its wide swatch of paper crinkling beneath you. You listen intently to his words, but you have no clue what he’s saying.

It’s like trying to read your iTunes agreement, but you can’t make heads or tails of it so you sigh and click the “I accept” button.

Well, we consider you a partner in your medical care at Memorial. Our “It’s OK to Ask” campaign encourages you to talk to their physicians, nurses and other caregivers about the care you’re receiving. We know it’s intimidating for many people to ask a physician to explain some medical jargon that they don’t understand, but we want you to.

We surveyed our physicians and nurse practitioners with Memorial Physician Services to find out what are some of the common medical terms that they know they need to explain to their patients. Here are the top 10:

ACUTE: An acute illness refers to one that hits you suddenly but only lasts a short time. This is as opposed to “chronic,” which refers to something you’ll have for a long time.

HYPERLIPIDEMIA: It’s a fancy word for too many lipids – or fat – in your blood, so says the American Heart Association. “That can cover many conditions, but for most people, it comes down to two better-known terms: high cholesterol and high triglycerides,” the AHA says.

ANGINA: This is a chest pain or discomfort you get when your heart muscle does not get enough blood, the National Library of Medicine’s website says. It’s a symptom of coronary artery disease, the most common heart disease.

HYPERGLYCEMIA and HYPOGLYCEMIA: When you’re hyperglycemic, your blood glucose (sugar) level is too high. When you’re hypoglycemic, your blood sugar level is too low, the American Diabetes Association says. If it’s severe, you could pass out.

DYSURIA: If you have this, you’ll know what it is. It refers to painful or difficult urination.

MORBIDITY vs. MORTALITY: Patients can confuse these terms. Morbidity refers to the incidence or prevalence of a disease. Mortality refers to the death rate.

GERD:  Simple translation – heartburn. This is a chronic (see the definition of “acute” above) digestive disease that occurs when stomach acid or occasionally bile flows back into your food pipe, according to the Mayo Clinic. It stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease.

NEUTROPHILS: It’s the most common type of white blood cell, which protects the body against diseases and fights infections. Your doctor wants to make sure the concentration of these cells is neither too low nor too high.

IN REMISSION: This means that a disease is not worsening or progressing. It is not the same thing as a cure.

CELLULITIS: This is when the tissue beneath your skin becomes infected and inflamed.