Medical Terms Study Guide

Updated on Jul 15, 2011

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Medical Terms Practice Exercises

If there's one place you want to make sure you understand every single word clearly, it's in the doctor's office. When it comes to comprehending, this has to be one of the most important places. After all, there's a huge difference between benign and malignant, painless or painful, trivial or life-threatening! In this lesson you'll find generic medical words that you might hear when going for a checkup or a report from a medical test. Knowing the meanings of the words can help you better decide what treatment to pursue, if any, as well as whether your reaction should be "Whew, what a relief!" or "Uh-oh. That doesn't sound too good."


  • abdominal   having to do with the abdomen—the section of the body containing the stomach, intestines, and other organs
  • aerobic   requiring the presence of oxygen or air, as in a type of exercise that requires extra air to accomplish

[In other words, panting.]

  • allergen   any substance such as pollen, grass, or dust that causes an allergy

[If it makes you sneeze, it probably qualifies.]

  • astigmatism   a defect in the lens of the eye such that rays of light from an external source don't converge on a single focal point on the retina; often a cause of blurred vision that requires glasses or contact lenses
  • cartilage   strong elastic tissue in the body
  • contraindicated   against the advisability of a certain remedy or treatment; something that is inadvisable

[Too little sleep and too much socializing is contraindicated during finals week.]

  • contusion   an injury in which the subsurface tissue is injured but the skin is not broken; a bruise
  • dyslexia   an impaired ability to understand written language, usually marked by spelling, reading, and writing problems
  • edema   excess fluid built up within the tissue cells

[Got swollen ankles? That's edema.]

  • epidermis   the outer layer of the skin
  • frenulum   the small membrane that connects the bottom of your tongue to the bottom of your mouth

[You knew it had to have a name, right?]

  • ganglion   a cluster of nerve cells or masses of gray matter in the brain, or a swelling on a joint or tendon

[No, not a big, rowdy group of mean-looking lions.]

  • hematoma   a mass of blood in the tissues, caused by a break in a blood vessel
  • keratin   a fibrous protein that is the main component of hair and nails

[If you were an animal in the wild, it would make your feathers, hooves, claws, and bills, too.]

  • malocclusion   an undesirable positioning of teeth; irregular contact of opposing teeth in the upper and lower jaws

[It can also be defined as thousands of dollars spent on wires in the mouth, i.e., braces.]

  • medial   situated in the middle of the body
  • prosthesis   an artificial body part that replaces a missing or defective part
  • scoliosis   the sideways curvature of the spine
  • synapses   the gaps between nerve endings used to transmit signals from one to another
  • uvula   the V-shaped extension that hangs above the tongue at the entrance to the throat

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Medical Terms Practice Exercises

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