Do you know your strains from your sprains? Your rhinovirus from your rhinitis? Your hyperlipidaemia from your hyperhidrosis?
If not, read on! We’re doing a full-body scan, from head to toe, to examine some common health conditions, their official medical terms, and their causes, symptoms and treatments.
While this sounds serious, it’s actually just referring to a headache. This is a common condition that causes pain and discomfort in the head or neck, and most people have at least one a year. If you are experiencing recurring headaches, speak to your doctor.
Rhinovirus (common cold)
You’ve almost certainly had a rhinovirus infection at some point in your life, but you’ve probably called it something else… and that’s a cold! Rhinovirus is the most common cause of the common cold, and it will usually give you a stuffy or runny nose, a sore throat and headache. Most cases are mild, so you should be able to treat yours with plenty of rest, proper hydration and over-the-counter nasal decongestants.
Otitis externa (swimmer's ear)
Otitis externa is far more commonly known as swimmer’s ear. This ear infection causes painful inflammation in the ear canal, which can sometimes temporarily affect your hearing and balance. Regular exposure to water and sticking stuff in your ear can increase your risk of developing the condition. If your ears hurt, itch or discharges pus, take a trip to your GP for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Conjunctivitis (sore/pink eye)
You might have heard of this one. It is also known as sore or pink eye. Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin membrane that covers the front of the eye and inside your eyelids, and it’s usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection. It’s highly contagious, so if your eyes are red, swollen, itchy or oozing, make sure you visit your doctor straight away.
Pharyngitis (sore throat)
Does it hurt you to swallow? Pain in the throat is known as pharyngitis, and it’s commonly caused by an inflammation of the pharynx (the membrane-lined cavity behind the nose and mouth). The flu virus or the Streptococci bacteria is usually to blame. Gargling salt water or sucking on a lozenge may help to alleviate symptoms, but speak to your doctor if the pain persists.
OK, you’ll rarely hear it called this, but tussis is the medical term for a cough. It can be caused by an infection – like the flu, which is caused by that pesky rhinovirus – or by something else, like acid reflux, asthma or smoking. If a cough persists for more than 3 weeks, it’s worth taking a visit to your doctor to rule out anything serious.
Got a temperature? Feeling feverish? The proper medical term for this is pyrexia. A fever is usually a symptom of something else, like a lung or ear infection, and will usually go away after a few days of rest. More rarely, a fever can be related to something more serious, like an autoimmune condition or hormone disorder.
Gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
You’ll probably know gastroenteritis as the stomach flu. The classic symptoms to look out for are diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain and pyrexia (you know what that means now!). The stomach flu can be nasty, but it usually only lasts a couple of days. The most important thing is to stay hydrated, as it’s easy to dehydrate when you’re not keeping food or drink down. Seek medical attention when there are signs of dehydration, such as dry skin and dry mouth.
You’ve probably had several contusions in your life. This medical condition occurs when blood vessels are damaged or broken under the skin which leads to leakage of blood into the surrounding area, causing discolouration and inflammation. It sounds serious, but actually, it’s just a bruise! Most bruises aren’t painful and won’t need medical attention. However, if you have unexplained bruises accompanied by other symptoms like weight loss, tenderness and pain, speak to your doctor.
Dysmenorrhoea (menstrual cramps)
This condition only affects certain women, usually once a month. Can you guess what it is? Yep, it’s menstrual cramps! ‘Primary’ dysmenorrhea is the most common type, with pain usually occurring 1 or 2 days before menstrual bleeding starts, and then lasting between 12 – 72 hours. ‘Secondary’ dysmenorrhea refers to pain caused by a disease, such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease or benign uterine tumours (fibroids). If you have severe or unusual pain around your period, speak to your doctor to find out more.
Cystitis (urinary tract infection)
Cystitis is a urinary tract infection that can affect both men and women, although it is more common in the latter. This is why men would require more testing if diagnosed with cystitis. Symptoms include pain when you urinate, a burning or stinging sensation, a frequent urge to urinate and pain in the tummy. Luckily, cystitis will usually clear up by itself over the course of a few days, but if your symptoms don’t go away, your doctor may be able to prescribe antibiotics to help.
Ankylosis (stiff joint)
Ankylosis basically refers to the stiffening of a joint in your body, commonly caused by a history of previous injury. It is a symptom that becomes more common with age, particularly if you have arthritis, and is generally associated with inflammation and pain. If you have ankylosis, your doctor should be able to provide medication to alleviate some of the pain. In certain cases, surgery may help to loosen the joint.
Hyperlipidaemia (high cholesterol)
You probably know ‘hypertension’ as a fancy word for high blood pressure, but did you know that ‘hyperlipidaemia’ is the proper medical term for high cholesterol? It is also known as hypercholesterolaemia. Cholesterol is a type of fat that your body makes, which can also be found in highly processed foods. Age, lack of exercise, a poor diet and your genes can all affect your cholesterol level. Most people with high cholesterol don’t even know they have it, but it can cause hypertension as it builds up in the blood vessels. If left untreated, it can lead to blood clot formation, potentially leading to serious complications such as a heart attack or stroke. To reduce your risks, you should go for regular cholesterol screening every couple of years.
Allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
Do you always seem to have a runny nose, itchy eyes and the sneezes? You could have allergic rhinitis, otherwise known as hay fever! Hay fever is basically your body ‘overreacting’ to allergens in the air, like pollen, dust, mould or pet hair. Treatment for the condition usually involves a combo of antihistamine medication, eye drops and nasal sprays.
Gastro-oesophageal reflux (GERD)
GERD is a condition that affects the muscle between the food pipe or gullet and the stomach, and occurs when acidic stomach contents flow backwards into the food pipe. This causes a burning sensation in the chest, which you probably know as heartburn. In most cases, subtle changes to your diet and lifestyle will help to minimise the symptoms of GERD, which may also include difficulty swallowing and the feeling of something stuck in your throat.
Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
More commonly known as an ‘underactive thyroid’, hypothyroidism refers to a decreased hormone production in the thyroid gland (in your neck). If the gland becomes inflamed, the body may start to attack it, which interferes with its production of essential thyroid hormones. This can make you feel overly tired, depressed and constipated, slow down your heart rate, make it more difficult to lose weight, and mess up your menstrual cycle. If you are concerned, make sure you go to your doctor for a blood test.
Chronic bronchitis (lung infection)
This is a common condition that affects the lungs, usually caused by an infection by a virus or bacteria. The lungs will produce lots of excess mucus, which means you’ll be coughing a lot. You may also have a sore throat, runny nose, headaches and chest pain. This condition can be hard to shift, especially if you smoke. Getting lots of rest, drinking plenty of fluids, quitting cigarettes and taking over-the-counter medication can all help, but it’s best to speak to your doctor for more tailored advice.
Sprain (ligament injury)
You’ve probably experienced this type of injury at least once before, but what actually is it? A sprain refers to a damaged or torn ligament (the tissues connecting the bones in your joints). This is different from a strain, which refers to a stretched or torn muscle or tendon (the tissue that connects muscles to bones). Both strains and sprains can occur after falling over, twisting a joint or being hit. Luckily, they can usually be treated at home by following the RICE method: rest, ice, compression and elevation. More rarely, surgery will be required to repair the torn area.
Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)
Do you feel hot and sweaty all the time? It might not just be the climate. Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, is a common disorder that can occur in otherwise healthy individuals for seemingly no reason at all. If you have it, your doctor may be able to prescribe strong antiperspirants as well as oral medications to help keep the condition under control.
Onychocryptosis (ingrown toenail)
What a mouthful this one is! This fairly frequent problem is found on your foot, and occurs when a small part of your nail grows at an awkward angle. That’s right – it’s an ingrown toenail! This is a common condition, especially amongst athletes, but luckily, it will usually sort itself out with proper hygiene and care. If your toe does become infected, you may need a surgical procedure to remove part of the nail.
If you think you may need treatment for any of these health conditions, make an appointment with a doctor.
Article reviewed by Dr Othello Dave, deputy medical director at Parkway Hospitals
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