Medical Terminology For Dummies
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Get ready. The sensory systems use a lot of medical terminology, including root words, prefixes, and suffixes, and with good reason. Consider that this set of systems includes some delicate and sophisticated body parts: eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and skin. It’s no wonder that you need a lot of combining forms and roots to fully describe the wonders of the senses.

Let’s start small with taste, smell, and touch. Then you can move on to the eyes and ears, which are slightly more complicated.

Word or Word Part What It Means
A- or an- Without, or lack of
Dys- Difficult or uncomfortable
Geusia Taste
Hyper- Excess — more than normal
Hypo- Less than normal
-itis Inflammation
Osmia Smell

See, that wasn’t so hard! Now that you have your feet wet (or nose, as it may be), you can move on to the eye, which has about a gazillion (okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration) root words and combining forms.

Root Word What It Means
Aque/o Water
Blephar/o Eyelid
Conjunctiv/o Conjunctiva (membrane lining eyelids)
Core/o, cor/o Pupil
Corne/o Cornea
Dacry/o Tear, tear duct
Dipl/o Double
Emmetr/o In due measure
Glauc/o Gray
Ir/o, irid/o Iris (colored portion of the eye)
Is/o Equal
Kerat/o Cornea
Lacrim/o Tear, tear duct
Mi/o Smaller, les
Mydri/o Wide
Ocul/o Eye
Ophthalm/o Eye (ophthalmologist, specialist in eye disorders)
Opt/o Eye, vision
Phac/o, phak/o Crystalline lens
Phot/o Light
Presby/o Old age
Pupill/o Pupil
Retin/o Retina
Scler/o Sclera (white of the eye)
Uve/o Iris, ciliary body, and choroids
Vitre/o Glassy
Xer/o Dry

Here are a prefix and a few suffixes associated with sight.

Prefix or Suffix What It Means
Bi- or bin- Two
-chalasis Relaxation
-ician One who
-metrist Specialist in the measurement of
-opia Vision (condition)
-ory Pertaining to
-oscopy Visual examination of internal cavity using a scope
-plasty Surgical repair or reconstruction
-tropia To turn

The labyrinth of your ear is a complicated place with twists, turns, and many working parts. As such, medical professionals have a lot of words to use when describing what goes on in there. Thankfully, though, the list of root words and suffixes (no prefixes here) is fairly compact.

Root Word What It Means
Acous/o, Acou/o Hearing
Audi/o Hearing
Aur/o, Aur/i Ear
Bar/o Pressure, weight
Cerumin/o Cerumen (earwax)
Mastoid/o Mastoid process (process of temporal bone behind the ear)
Myring/o Eardrum, tympanic membrane
Ot/o Ear
Staped/o Stapes (third ossicle of middle ear)
Tympan/o Eardrum, middle ear

Strangely, there really aren’t any ear-related prefixes to discuss. There are, however, several suffixes to keep you busy.

Suffix What It Means
-cusis Hearing
-gram Record
-itis Inflammation
-metry Process of measuring
-otomy Process of cutting into
-phonia Sound
-rrhea Discharge or flow
-scope Instrument used to visually examine

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