A Glossary of Key Terms : Medically Speaking

Every profession has its own set of acronyms, terminology, and special vocabulary. Even if you have no intention of working in healthcare, it’s good to have a foundation of basics down as it will help you communicate with and understand the healthcare professionals you will regularly interact with. It is not possible to include each and every term used in medicine.

In this blog, we will explore and demystify the essential medical terms, making it easier for patients and enthusiasts alike to understand the terminology used in the field of healthcare.

An A to Z Guide: Common Medical Terms

Acute Onset 

This term is used when the onset of disease ranges from hours to days or a few weeks. Treatment must be obtained within 24 hours of the sudden and unexpected outbreak or recurrence.


The branch of medicine that deals with the causes of diseases. Each and every disease can be described, diagnosed and treated on the basis of the cause of disease. 

Chronic Onset

It is a slow insidious onset ranging from weeks to months. Diseases with chronic onset include diabetes, arthritis, asthma, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, lung cancer etc. 


The act of process of identifying the nature of a disease by way of examination is termed as diagnosis. It is actually, conclusion reached at the end of analysis of symptoms, signs and examinations. 


A condition occurring during the disease and aggravating it, is called a complication of that disease. Complications can vary in severity, ranging from mild and easily manageable to severe and life-threatening. 


This term refers to a constant presence of a disease or an infectious agent within a given geographic area , without importation from outside. For example – Goitre is endemic in himalayan areas. 


It is a rapid outbreak of a disease, a specific health related problem clearly in excess of expected occurrence in a region. Epidemics of infectious diseases like cholera occur in developing countries. 


Is defined as the ability to fight or resist induction or a disease. This may be inherited or acquired after disease or by immunization. 

Incubation Period

The period between introduction of an organism and appearance of the first symptom of the disease. During the incubation period, the pathogen begins to multiply within the body, and the individual may be infectious to others, even though they have not yet developed symptoms.


In medicine, it is the act , manner or practice of managing , supervising or controlling a disease or dor disorder. There are many key aspects of medical management such as diagnosis, treatment planning, preventive care, monitoring and follow-up etc. 


An epidemic occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting a large proportion of the population. Basically, it refers to the worldwide spread of a new infectious disease, typically caused by a novel virus or bacterium, that affects a significant portion of the global population.

Risk Factor

A factor which increases the risk of developing a specific medical condition is called a risk factor for that medical condition or disorder. 


It is the ability of a test to identify correctly all those who have the diseases, that is true positive. For example, 90% sensitivity of a test means positivity of the test in 90 persons out of 100. 


In medicine, this term is defined as a bodily manifestation indicating the presence of a disease or malfunction. For example, edema of the feet is a sign of congestive heart failure. Signs are usually noticed by the doctor.


This term refers to the complaint of the patient. It is defined as the phenomenon experienced by an individual as a departure from normal function, sensation or appearance. It may or may not be an indication of disease or a disorder.


It is a medical application of remedies so as to affect cure. For example, medical treatment means application of drug therapy to affect cure. Surgical treatment refers to application of surgery to affect a cure. 

The Importance of Medical Literacy

Health literacy skills allow patients to take control of their own well-being by making smart healthcare choices, maintaining a healthy relationship with the doctors, improving their communication with doctors and equipping them with information to advocate for themselves in a medical setting. There are many community programs which help in improving medical literacy nationally and can affect people’s ability to manage their health, take medications appropriately and engage in shared health care decision-making. 

Conclusion: Speaking the Language of Health

As we conclude our journey through the glossary of key medical terms, you’ll have gained valuable insights into the language of healthcare. Whether you’re a patient, a healthcare professional, or simply curious, understanding medical terminology is a step towards better health and effective communication in the world of medicine.

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