Learn the Lingo – Part 2 by Catharine L. Shaner, M.D., FAAP Summer’s here and school’s out! It’s a perfect time for "medical-ease" summer school. Here are some medical words and their explanations. Learning about the terms associated with fibromyalgia will make you better prepared to talk with your doctor, read medical reports, and astound your friends and neighbors. So sit down, pour yourself some herbal ice tea, and let’s learn the lingo! Proximal vs. Distal – In Latin proximus means nearest or next. Proximal refers to the parts of your body nearest your trunk. The opposite term, distal, derives from the Latin distalis meaning away from the center of the body. You can remember this because "distal" sounds like "distant." Let’s use the arm for an example. The proximal part of your arm would be the shoulder and the distal part would be your fingers. Anterior (Ventral) vs. Posterior (Dorsal) -- Ante in Latin means "before" and can refer to time or space. Doctors use anterior (also called ventral) to denote something situated nearer to the front part of the body. Posterior (also called dorsal) comes from the Latin posterus meaning "following" and also refers to time or space. Something situated nearer the back of the body would be called posterior. For example, your face is on the anterior side of your head and your buttocks are on the posterior side of your body. You can remember these terms by thinking of AM (ante meridiem or before midday) and PM (post meridiem or after midday). Tissue vs. Organ vs. Organ System – These terms refer to body parts that are ranked from less complicated to more complicated. A tissue is a collection of similar cells that carry out a common function. The word comes from the French tissu meaning woven. Your body has: epithelial tissue (sheets of closely packed cells that form surface coverings, such as skin and mucous membranes) connective tissue (cells that bind together, support and link other tissues – this category also includes blood, bone & cartilage) muscle tissue (cells that pull against one another by contracting) nervous tissue (cells that transmit messages) The word organ comes from the Greek organon, meaning tool or instrument. An organ consists of different types of tissues that together perform a specific function. The stomach is an example of an organ. Four kinds of tissues are found in the stomach -- all for the purpose of digestion. You might be surprised to learn that plants have organs too. The roots, stems, leaves, and flowers are all made of tissues and they perform specific functions essential to the life of the plant. An organ system is a group of organs that work together to perform related tasks. For example, the digestive system consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestines, and other organs, which together perform tasks related to digestion, absorption, and elimination. To summarize: organ systems are made up of organs, which are composed of tissues, which are made up of cells, which … well you get the idea. Organic vs. Functional vs. Idiopathic– Organic means relating to an organ and it refers to a disease that is accompanied by structural changes in a body part, such as your intestines or heart. A functional disorder is a problem that affects the functioning of your body, but does not result from a disease in or a change in the structure of an organ. For comparison, a functional (sometimes called innocent) heart murmur is an abnormal sound from the heart, but if we examined that heart, even under a microscope, we would find a perfectly normal organ. On the other hand, a heart murmur from a hole in your heart would be an organic disorder. Idiopathic is a word comes to us from the Greek idios meaning "one’s own" and pathos meaning "suffering." Most commonly, the term idiopathic means that the cause of a disease is unknown. There is an old medical school joke that says if the cause of your illness is "idio-pathic," then you have an "idiotic-pathetic" doctor. Of course, you now know that idiopathic really means that medical science has not yet determined a cause for your disorder. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) vs. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)– Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) represents a group of disorders where the intestines become inflamed, causing the patient to have abdominal pain, diarrhea and rectal bleeding. Another name for IBD is "colitis." The suffix "itis" implies inflammation. (For example, appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix; tendonitis is inflammation of a tendon). Therefore, colitis is inflammation of the colon. Some causes of colitis include bacteria, viruses, and antibiotics. These causes of colitis are usually acute (lasting a short time) and curable. Two of the best-known types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These two types of colitis are chronic (lasting a long time and flaring up over and over again). Inflammation causes ulcers to form along the lining of the bowel. The ulcers can be found anywhere in the bowel, but ulcerative colitis usually involves the colon and rectum, while Crohn’s disease generally affects the large and small intestine, sparing the rectum. The exact cause of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis is unknown (idiopathic). These diseases do run in families and may represent an immune problem. Treatment for these inflammatory bowel diseases includes managing diet, stress management, immune-suppressive and anti-inflammatory medications. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – As you recall from Learn the Lingo – Part 1 (you did read Part 1 didn’t you?) the word syndrome derives from Greek and means "running together." Together, the symptoms you experience (such as abdominal pain) and the physical signs your body exhibits (like constipation or diarrhea) add up to a picture of what is called irritable bowel. The bowel is not inflamed so IBS should not be called "colitis." Although some researchers feel that IBS will eventually be shown to have an organic basis, IBS is generally considered a functional disorder. As you recall, this means the functioning of the bowel is affected but there is no disease in the organ itself (the bowel). There are no tests to diagnose IBS. The diagnosis is based on exhibiting certain symptoms (the ROME II criteria) and not exhibiting worrisome symptoms of organic disorders (such as weight loss, rectal bleeding, etc.). Treatment for IBS involves managing diet, exercise, stress reduction, and anti-spasmodic medications. Vertigo vs. Dizziness vs. Disequilibrium – Vertigo is from the Latin verto meaning to turn. Vertigo involves a definite sensation of rotation or whirling. Simply put, you experience one of the following: you feel as if your body is turning (subjective vertigo), objects around you are turning (objective vertigo), or both. Dizziness is from the Anglo-Saxon dyzig meaning foolish. Faintness, giddiness, lightheadedness, or a feeling like you are about to pass out are all symptoms of dizziness. Disequilibrium is the absence of balance. It is a word from the Latin dis (separation or taking apart), plus aequus (equal), plus Latin libra (balance). People who have a disequilibrium problem have difficulty with balance or walking. Don’t be dyzig (foolish) – if you have any of these symptoms, please see a doctor for evaluation.