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English for Medical Professionals, Part 2

In my last post on English for medical professionals, we looked at common English words and their use in medicine. Today, we’ll look at words that are still widely used in English, but more specific to medical settings.


Symptoms are noticeable signs that a medical patient is sick. For instance, a patient that is coughing a lot and blowing their nose has symptoms of a cold, or some other illness related to the throat and nose.

In common English use, symptoms refers to evidence of health problems that anyone can notice. Medical professionals may also sometimes talk about “invisible” symptoms– problems that can only be detected by a laboratory test, an x-ray, or some other specialized medical procedure.

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The term fever refers to many different diseases and problems. Basically, anytime someone has a higher-than-normal body temperature, they have a fever. This can be caused by sickness or injury. Fevers can also happen when someone simply works too hard or is exposed to too much heat.


In its simplest terms, dehydration means the removal of water from something. Certain foods are dehydrated– beef jerky or raisins, to give two examples. In medical English, dehydration refers to the unhealthy removal of water from the human body. Medical patients who are dehydrated are not getting enough to drink, or are having trouble absorbing fluids when they drink.

food poisoning

This term has very different uses in commonly spoken English and medical English. Many people say they’ve had “food poisoning” if they eat something and don’t feel great afterwards. But in the medical world, food poisoning is a lot worse than just getting a stomach ache or feeling a little bad after you eat. Medically speaking, food poisoning is a serious, possibly life-threatening reaction to eating food that is spoiled and has very poisonous things in it.


The simplest definition of disorder is the state of not being properly organized. In this basic use, I sometimes joke that my son’s bedroom is in a constant state of disorder. Medical professionals use disorder in a more specific way. In healthcare, disorder refers to the human body when it isn’t properly organized and is not doing the things it should do. Common medical disorders include muscular dystrophy, where human muscles get unnaturally weaker over time. Schizophrenia can be seen as a disorder of the mind, where the human brain causes a person to think and perceive things in an incorrect way.

The takeaway

In these last two posts, I’ve looked at vocabulary words that are used pretty often in every day English. In my next post, I’ll give you the definitions of some medical terms that are more specialized, and are pretty much always used in health and medical contexts.

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