25 Important Medical Terms You Need to Know
These medical terms will keep you informed not only in daily conversation but in situations when they matter most.
Have you ever been watching a live sporting event when an athlete suddenly left the game due to injury? Of course you have. The media coverage goes to commercial and at the first glance of a medical update, the sports broadcaster is back on live TV saying something about a “contusion” or “abrasion.”
One of two things usually happens from there. One, you may think it’s ridiculous that the media referred to a bruise as a contusion, or a scrape as an abrasion. Two, this may actually pique a desire in you to learn some medical vocabulary. For most of us, it’s probably the first.
It's helpful to know commonly used medical terms, so we've compiled a list of 25 that will surely get you through a live sports broadcast, and help you out next time you’re at the doctor’s office.
Top 25 medical terms to know
- Benign: Not cancerous
- Malignant: Cancerous
- Anti-inflammatory: Reduces swelling, pain, and soreness (such as ibuprofen or naproxen)
- Body Mass Index (BMI): Body fat measurement based on height and weight
- Biopsy: A tissue sample for testing purposes
- Hypotension: Low blood pressure
- Hypertension: High blood pressure
- Lesion: Wound, sore, or cut
- Noninvasive: Doesn’t require entering the body with instruments; usually simple
- Outpatient: Check in and check out the same day
- Inpatient: Plan to stay overnight for one or more days
- In remission: Disease is not getting worse; not to be confused with being cured
- Membrane: Thin layer of pliable tissue that serves as a covering or lining or connection between two structures
- Acute: Sudden but usually short (e.g., acute illness)
- Angina: Pain in the chest related to the heart that comes and goes
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Heartburn
- Cellulitis: Inflamed or infected tissue beneath the skin
- Epidermis: Outermost layer of skin
- Neutrophils: Most common type of white blood cell
- Edema: Swelling
- Embolism: Blood clot
- Sutures: Stitches
- Polyp: Mass or growth of thin tissue
- Compound fracture: Broken bone that protrudes through the skin
- Comminuted fracture: Broken bone that shatters into many pieces
Next time you hear one of these terms—whether on TV, in a medical environment, or elsewhere—you won’t miss a beat. Just beware, you may be asked to translate for others.