Medical terms and jargon can be intimidating. Dr Tilla Muller, a general practitioner at Mediclinic Hermanus, explains some common ones.

Acute condition/illness: Develops suddenly and lasts a short time, usually only a few days or weeks.

Ambulatory care: Healthcare you get without having to stay in hospital, e.g., visiting a doctor, having a scan or blood test, or monitoring your blood pressure at home.

Benign: Any medical condition that doesn’t harm you or cause cancer.

Biopsy: A sample of cells or a piece of tissue that’s taken from you for analysis in a laboratory.

A skin biopsy under a microscope.

Cellulitis: An infection of the deeper layers of your skin and the tissue beneath the skin. It’s caused by bacteria and usually shows up as redness, swelling, and pain.

Comorbidity: When you have two or more medical conditions at the same time, e.g., someone with COVID-19 who also has diabetes and/or hypertension.

Chronic condition/illness: Lasts for a long time or keeps recurring.

Emesis: Vomiting.

Epistaxis: Nosebleed or bleeding from the nose. 

It’s important that your blood pressure remains with the normal range.

Hypertension: Blood pressure (BP) that’s higher than normal. This usually means a BP reading above 140/90mmHg.

Hypotension: A BP reading lower than 90/60mmHg.

Iatrogenic illness: Caused unintentionally by medical examination or treatment, e.g., an infection or injury after surgery.

Internal medicine: Deals with prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases affecting any organs inside your body. A specialist in internal medicine is called a physician or internist. 

Ischaemia: Lack of blood flow to an organ or part of your body – usually your heart. If left untreated, it can lead to tissue damage.

Laparoscopic procedure: When a surgeon uses a special camera (laparoscope) inserted through a keyhole-sized wound to get access to your abdomen and pelvis.

Malignant: The opposite of benign. A medical condition that harms your health. It’s usually used to describe cancerous growths or diseases.

Myocardial infarction: Also known as a heart attack, this medical emergency occurs when an artery that supplies blood to an area of your heart muscle becomes blocked. If the blockage is severe it can lead to heart muscle damage and death.

NSAIDs: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are medicines that reduce pain, inflammation and fever and prevent blood clots. Depending on the particular drug, its dose, and how long you take it, you may have side-effects, e.g., an irritated stomach lining.

Oedema: Swelling as a result of fluid retention or build-up.

Otolaryngologist: More commonly known as an ear, nose and throat surgeon or ENT specialist. They also treat some other conditions of the head and neck.

Palliative care: Applies to people living with serious illness and focuses on improving quality of life for the patient and their family. The aim is to provide relief from the stress and symptoms of the illness rather than to cure it.  

Xerostomia: Dry mouth. It can have several possible causes, e.g., sleeping with an open mouth, medication side-effects, dehydration, or diabetes.

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