Medical Terminology for Sensory Conditions, Diseases and Pathology

By Beverley Henderson, Jennifer Lee Dorsey

Though it may seem obvious, it deserves being said. Most of the conditions and medical terminology you need to know associated with smell and taste involve the body’s inability to perform those sensory tasks.

Common sensory conditions

Having trouble smelling your spring flowers? Can’t taste your famous five-alarm chili? Chances are that it’s dues to one of these conditions:

  • Ageusia: Lack of or impairment of taste

  • Anosmia: Absence of sense of smell

  • Dysgeusia: Abnormal or perverted sense of taste

  • Dysosmia: Impaired sense of smell

  • Hypergeusia: Excessive or acute sense of taste

  • Osmesis: The process of smelling

As usual, the eye is infinitely more complicated than, say, your tongue. So it stands to reason that there are many more possible conditions associated with your sense of sight. Though common, all these conditions are serious and should not be taken lightly. They are

  • Chalazion: Small, hard mass on the eyelid due to oil gland enlargement

  • Esotropia: A type of strabismus (one eye turns inward, cross-eyed)

  • Exotropia: A type of strabismus (one eye turns outward)

  • Glaucoma: Increased intraocular pressure

  • Hemianopia (hemianopsia): Loss of one half of the visual field (the space of vision of eye)

  • Hordeolum (sty or stye): An infection of the oil gland of the eyelid

  • Nystagmus: Involuntary, rapid movements of the eyeball

  • Retinal detachment: The retina, or part of it, becomes separated from the choroid layer

  • Strabismus: Abnormal deviation of the eye; also called a squint

Moving on to the other complicated sense organ, the ear, you can see that quite a few of these conditions result in some form of hearing loss. Some are unavoidable, but thankfully, some of these can be avoided by exercising good hygiene and staying away from rock concerts (or at least wearing ear plugs).

  • Macrotia: Abnormal enlargement of the pinna (excessively large ears)

  • Microtia: Abnormally small pinna (excessively small ears)

  • Myringitis: Inflammation of tympanic membrane

  • Otalgia: Pain in the ear (earache)

  • Otitis externa: Inflammation of the outer ear; also known as swimmer’s ear

  • Otitis media: Infection of the middle ear

  • Tympanitis: Inflammation of the middle ear (otitis media)

  • Serous otitis media: Inflammation of the inner ear without infection

  • Suppurative otitis media: Bacterial infection of middle ear

  • Tinnitus: Ringing sound in ears; cause unknown, may be associated with chronic otitis, myringitis, or labyrinthitis

  • Vertigo: Sensation of irregular or whirling motion, of body or external objects, due to severe disturbance of equilibrium organs in the labyrinth

Sensory diseases and pathology

Once again, the eyes and ears rule. These two areas are just as susceptible to pathological diseases as any other site on the body. Some of the greatest hits include

  • Acoustic neuroma: Benign tumor in acoustic nerve in the brain causing tinnitus, vertigo, and decreased hearing

  • Cataract: Clouding of the lens, causing decreased vision

  • Cholesteatoma: Collection of skin cells and cholesterol in a sac in the middle ear

  • Diabetic retinopathy: Retinal effects of diabetic mellitus

  • Macular degeneration: Deterioration of the macula lutea of the retina

  • Meniere’s disease or syndrome: Vertigo, hearing loss, nausea and tinnitus, leading to progressive deafness caused by rapid violent firing of the fibers of the auditory nerves

  • Otosclerosis: Hardening of the bony tissue of the labyrinth causing hearing loss and progressive deafness

  • Presbycusis: Hearing loss occurring with old age

  • Retinitis pigmentosa: Progressive retinal sclerosis and atrophy; an inherited disease associated with decreased vision and night blindness (nyctalopia)