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Bladder Health
October 24, 2023 2 min read

Breaking down doctor language: How to decode what your doctor is saying?

Table of contents

Medical terms are built from Latin and Greek word parts. Doctors tend to use a collection of prefixes, suffixes, and root words that when put together, have very different meanings.  

Here are some common terms used in the world of urinary tract health!

Common prefixes:

  • Poly- means “many”. For example, polymicrobial infection means an infection with multiple organisms.
  • Micro- means “small” or “microscopic”
  • Hemo- means “blood”
  • Cysto AND vesico- means “bladder” 
  • Gross- means “visible”
  • Dys- means “abnormal” or “difficulty”

These prefixes are very commonly used with the root word, “lateral”, meaning side. 

  • Bi- means “two”. If someone has bilateral kidney stones, they have stones in both kidneys on both sides of the body. 
  • Uni- means “one”. If a patient has unilateral pain, it means the pain is on one side.

Common suffixes:

  • -itis- indicates “inflammation.”
  • -emia- means “in the blood” 
  • -uria- means “in the urine”
  • -scopy- means “to look”
  • -algia- means “pain”

Now let’s put some of these together!


Cystoscopy means to look in the bladder. It’s a procedure where we use a camera to look inside the bladder for abnormalities. 

Cystitis means inflammation of the bladder. Bladder inflammation can be caused by infection, a reaction to certain foods and drinks, and cancer. 

Microscopic hematuria is invisible blood in the urine. Gross hematuria means visible blood in the urine. These conditions should always be evaluated by a urologist. 

Bacteremia means the presence of bacteria in the blood. 


An important note on the suffix “-itis”!

The suffix “-itis” does NOT mean infection. It means inflammation. Inflammation is when tissue is angry. Inflamed tissue is red, swollen, and often painful. Tissue can be inflamed from an infection, an allergic reaction, trauma (from a fall, for example), autoimmune disease, and many other causes.

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