Medical Terms Study Guide

Updated on Sep 20, 2011

Medical Terms

The science of medicine is the scientific area most of us come in contact with. We go to the doctor for check-ups, immunizations, and in unfortunate times, when we're ill. And most of us may see more than one doctor, depending on what hurts or what treatment we need. But just a hundred years ago, most people in the United States had only one doctor, the family doctor.

As with other scientific fields, the practice of medicine has become increasingly specialized. Most doctors now become experts in treating specific parts of the body, and in some cases, treat only one type of disease. Think of the last two doctor visits you made; were they to the same doctor? Probably not. You probably went to one doctor for a general check-up, another to have your teeth cleaned, and still another if you wear eyeglasses.

There are some general words that are used more or less interchangeably to describe doctors. For example, most doctors are known as physicians and are addressed as Doctor. Physicians who perform surgery are called surgeons.

Here's a list of doctors you may or may not need in your lifetime, but whose specializations add word power to your vocabulary.

Words That Describe Different Medical Specialist

1. audiologist. A specialist in the study and treatment of hearing, especially hearing defects. Jim accompanied his grandmother to the audiologist's office so that she would have company when she got her new hearing aid.
2. dermatologist. A specialist in the branch of medicine dealing with skin and its diseases. Jenny rushed to the dermatologist for help in treating her poison ivy rash.
3. internist. A specialist in the diagnosis and nonsurgical treatment of diseases, especially of adults. Mr. Dodson invited his internist to visit the class and explain her career path to students interested in the practice of general medicine.
4. nurse practitioner. A registered nurse with a college nursing degree and advanced training that qualifies him or her to perform some duties of a physician. Many medical offices and clinics employ nurse practitioners who handle simple problems and free doctors to work with complicated cases. Jason became a nurse practitioner in order to fulfill his lifelong dream to help people.
5. obstetrician. A specialist who cares for women during pregnancy and childbirth. My mother was so grateful to Abigail, her obstetrician, for helping her through her pregnancy that she named me after her.
6. oncologist. A specialist in the study of cancer, including diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. People who forget to apply sufficient sunscreen may develop skin problems and need to visit an oncologist.
7. ophthalmologist. A specialist who cares for the eye and its diseases, frequently performing eye surgery. (Note the complicated spelling of ophthalmologist.) I visited an ophthalmologist to treat an eye infection I developed on a recent trip to a rainforest.
8. optometrist. A specialist who examines and treats problems with sight, including the prescribing of corrective lenses. Janet's optometrist encouraged her to choose eyeglass frames she liked; it was essential that she wear her glasses at all times, no matter what color the frames turned out to be.
9. orthodontist. A dental specialist who corrects irregularly aligned teeth; treatment usually involves braces and sometimes oral surgery. Since getting his braces, Tim saw his orthodontist more often than he saw his grandmother!
10. osteopath. A specialist who focuses on the muscles and bones to promote and preserve health. The Sandersons chose to go to an osteopath because of the extra training the doctor had received in muscle and bone manipulation.
11. pediatrician. A specialist concerned with the development, care, and diseases of babies and children. Children are often reluctant to leave their beloved pediatricians and begin seeing an internist once they reach adulthood.
12. podiatrist. A specialist in the care, diagnosis, and treatment of foot problems. My mother had to spend a lot of time with her podiatrist as a result of too many days wearing very high heels.

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Medical Terms Practice Exercises

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