Useful medical terms explained.

Abscess – a pocket of bacterial infection somewhere in the body.  The bacterial infection will show as pus.  This can happen anywhere in the body (dental abscesses are common, for example) and are triggered by bacteria in the body.

Acute – a term that applies to a disease and implies a short or severe symptoms.  A disease can be chronic and have acute flare-ups.  See below for ‘chronic’.

Antibiotic – drugs that treat bacterial infections (see above).

Bacteria – one of the types of micro organism in the body and in the environment.

  • Some bacteria are harmless in the body.
  • Some are necessary for life itself (eg in the gut and vagina) because they have an essential job there.
  • Some cause disease because they invade the body – eg trichomonas, gonorrhea, syphilis, pneumonia.  The body’s immune system should deal with bacteria where they get out of balance.  But if a person is having treatment for cancer (chemotherapy) or has some other illness that affects their immune system, bacterial infections can be very serious.
  • Antibiotics should treat bacterial infections.
  • Over use of antibiotics has lead to them being less effective, or not effective at all against diseases that they used to treat.

Chronic – a term that applies a disease.  It means long-term and often means not curable.  An example is COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – or chronic prostatitis.

Ectopic pregnancy – where a pregnancy develops outside the womb, normally in the fallopian tube.  This can be life-threatening.

Fungus – another type of micro-organism in the body and in the environment.

  • Some fungi are harmless in the body.
  • Some are necessary for life itself (eg vagina) because they have an essential job there.
  • Some cause disease because they invade the body or get out of balance (eg thrush or athlete’s foot).  The body’s immune system should deal with fungi where they get out of balance.  But if a person is having treatment for cancer (chemotherapy) or has some other illness that affects their immune system, fungal infections can be very serious.
  • Anti fungal meds should treat fungal infections.

Infection – a disease caused by bacteria, fungi or viruses.  These micro-organisms invade an area that is normally sterile in the body.  Urine infections, septicaemia (infection in the blood) and prostatitis are examples of this.

Alternatively they may get out of balance in an area where they normal live in the body.  Examples are thrush in the vagina and athlete’s foot.

Swab – a sterilized cotton wool swab on the end of a stick that’s used for taking samples of tissue or body matter.  They can then be sent to the lab for testing.

Urinalysis – a urine test that will show up abnormalities.   The kidneys filter out certain levels of impurities from the body.  If there are high levels of these then that can indicate a problem.

The urinalysis can be done at the doctor’s clinic using a sample of urine and a special strip of paper that is impregnated with chemicals.

Virus – another of the types of micro organisms in the environment that can cause disease.

  • Most viruses cause disease – eg HIV/AIDS, genital herpes, colds, flu.
  • Viruses are hard to kill and need anti-viral meds to do the job.  There are not enough anti-viral meds to kill all viruses.  For example colds and flu are caused by viruses.
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