Simplifying Medical Terms for Better Understanding

grayscale photo of tubes
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Key Takeaways:

– Medical terminology can be complex and difficult to understand.
– Simplifying medical terms can improve communication and understanding.
– There are many examples of hard medical terms and their simpler explanations.


Medical terminology is notorious for being complex and difficult to understand. With its roots in Latin and Greek, as well as the use of eponyms derived from names, medical terms can often seem like a foreign language to those outside the field. However, it is crucial for healthcare professionals to effectively communicate with patients and colleagues, which is why simplifying medical terms is of utmost importance.

Why are medical terms hard to understand?

The complexity of medical terms can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, the use of Latin and Greek roots makes it challenging for individuals who are not familiar with these languages. Additionally, medical terms often consist of multiple syllables and technical jargon, making them difficult to pronounce and remember. Furthermore, the use of eponyms, which are terms derived from the names of individuals, can add another layer of confusion.

The importance of simplifying medical terms

Simplifying medical terms is crucial for effective communication in the healthcare industry. Patients, who may already be overwhelmed by their medical conditions, can feel further confused and anxious when faced with complex terminology. By using simpler explanations, healthcare professionals can ensure that patients understand their conditions, treatments, and instructions. Moreover, simplifying medical terms can also benefit colleagues and other healthcare professionals who may not be familiar with certain specialized terms.

Examples of hard medical terms and their simpler explanations

1. Aphthous stomatitis – Canker sores: Aphthous stomatitis refers to painful ulcers that develop inside the mouth. By using the term “canker sores,” healthcare professionals can provide a simpler and more relatable explanation to patients.

2. Hypercholesterolemia – High cholesterol: Hypercholesterolemia is a condition characterized by high levels of cholesterol in the blood. By using the term “high cholesterol,” healthcare professionals can convey the same meaning in a more easily understandable way.

3. Osteochondritis dissecans – Joint cartilage damage: Osteochondritis dissecans is a condition where a piece of cartilage and the underlying bone detach from the joint. By using the term “joint cartilage damage,” healthcare professionals can simplify the explanation for patients.

4. Myocardial infarction – Heart attack: Myocardial infarction refers to the death of heart muscle tissue due to a lack of blood supply. By using the term “heart attack,” healthcare professionals can provide a clearer and more familiar description to patients.

Strategies for simplifying medical terms

1. Use plain language: Avoid using technical jargon and complex terminology when communicating with patients. Instead, opt for simple and straightforward explanations.

2. Provide analogies and examples: Relate medical terms to everyday experiences or objects to help patients better understand their conditions. For example, comparing a blocked artery to a clogged pipe can make the concept more relatable.

3. Visual aids: Utilize visual aids such as diagrams, charts, and illustrations to supplement verbal explanations. Visual representations can often enhance understanding and retention of information.

4. Encourage questions: Create an open and supportive environment where patients feel comfortable asking questions. This allows healthcare professionals to address any confusion and provide further clarification.


While medical terminology may be necessary in the healthcare industry, it is essential to simplify these terms for effective communication. By using plain language, providing simpler explanations, and utilizing strategies such as analogies and visual aids, healthcare professionals can ensure that patients and colleagues understand complex medical concepts. Simplifying medical terms not only improves communication but also empowers individuals to take an active role in their healthcare journey.

Written by Martin Cole

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