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A Healer's Glossary


DISCLAIMER - This is really only for personal use as a reference during role-play. It is NOT intended to be used to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any real medical condition. Any risk or liability is your own.

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Abdominal - Descriptive of the area overlying the abdominal cavity.

Abdominal cavity - The space within the abdominal walls between the diaphragm and the pelvic area containing the liver, stomach, intestines, spleen, kidneys, and associated tissues and vessels.

Abrasion - A scraping or rubbing off, as of skin; a scrape. These wounds are seldom deep, but a portion of the skin has been damaged, leaving a raw surface with minor bleeding. The bleeding in most abrasions is from the capillaries. Abrasions are easily infected due to the top layer of skin being removed leaving the underlying skin exposed.

Ache - A continuous or steady dull pain.

Achilles tendon - The tendon that attaches the bone of the heel to the muscle of the calf of the leg.

Acute - Having a sudden onset, sharp rise, and short course. Compare chronic.

Adjuvant - A substance added to a medication or serum to intensify or aid its action. Descriptive of something that does this.

Ague - A bout of chills and fever alternating at somewhat regular intervals.

Aileron - In dragons, a movable edge of the wing membrane that provides minute lateral flight control, i.e., rolls. The ailerons are located at the trailing edge of the wing. Movement of the ailerons is controled by the last joint of each wing bone.

Amentia - Mental retardation; a congenital mental deficiency. Compare dementia.

Amputation - An open wound involving the extremities. When an amputation occurs, the fingers, toes, hands, feet, or limbs are completely cut through or torn off which causes jagged skin and exposed bone. Bleeding may be excessive or the force that amputates a limb may close off torn vessels and limit the bleeding. A clean cut amputation seals off vessels and minimizes bleeding. A torn amputation usually bleeds heavily.

Analgesic - Tending to induce a fully conscious state in which a person does not feel pain. Any agent that is analgesic.

Anatomy - The study, classification and description of structures and organs of the body.

Anodyne - Relieving or lessening of pain; soothing. Anything that relieves pain or soothes.

Anterior - Toward the front of the body. The front of the body. Compare ventral.

Antidote - Counteracts or destroys the effects of poison or other medicines.

Antiemetic - Of or pertaining to a substance or procedure that prevents or alleviates nausea and vomiting.

Antispasmodic - Prevents or allays spasms or cramps. An antispasmodic drug.

Aprhodisiac - Stimulates the sex organs.

Aromatic - Agents which emit a fragrant smell and produce a pungent taste. Used chiefly to make other medicines more palatable.

Arthritis - Any inflamation of the joints. Arthritis causes swelling, pain, and stiffness in the joints. Damp weather, emotional stress, excess weight, and abuse of the joints at work or play can make symptoms more pronounced.

Astringent - Tending to draw together or contract tissue; contracting; styptic. (Alum is an astringent)

Avulsion - An injury that tears an entire piece of skin and tissue loose or leaves it hanging as a flap. This type of wound usually results when tissue is forcibly separated or torn from the victim's body. There is great danger of infection and bleeding. Body parts that have been wholly or partially torn off may sometimes be successfully reattached by a surgeon.

Backbone - See spinal column.

Bacteria (singular bacterium) - Microorganisms which are typically one-celled, have no chlorophyll, multiply by simple division, and can be seen only with a microscope: they occur in three main forms, spherical (cocci), rod-shaped (bacilli), and spiral (spirilla): some bacteria cause diseases such as pneumonia, and others are neccesary for fermentation, nitrogen fixation, etc.

Balm - A soothing ointment.

Batten rib - In dragons, flexible, cartilaginous strips extending from the arm and the finger joint to the leading or trailing edge of the wing. The batten ribs provide additional support to the bulky wing membranes.

Bedsores - Ulcerated sores on the body of a person who is bedridden for an extended period; also called pressure sores.
When the small blood vessels that nourish the skin and underlying tissue are compressed for an extended period, they cease to function and the tissue dies. Continued pressure can cause a spread of the condition to a large area and the formation of an ulcer that may become infected.
Treatment of bedsores, like prevention, requires relief of the pressure; the patient must be allowed to recuperate on an air bed or a net hammock.

Brachial - Upper arm.

Broken bone - See fracture.

Breastbone - See sternum.

Bronchitis, acute - Inflammation of the upper air passages of the lungs. In addition to the characteristic cough, one who contracts acute bronchitis may experience flu-like symptoms: slight fever, a feeling of general malaise, aching muscles, etc.

Bruise - See contusion.

Buccal - Referring to the cheek (side of mouth).

Bunion - An inflammation at the first joint of the big toe.

Burn - An injury caused by fire or heat. Burns can be classified by severity (first, second, or third degree) or by cause (chemical, thermal, electrical, radiation). The seriousness of a burn is influenced by the extent of the body surface involved, as well as by the depth to which the tissue has been penetrated. Compare scald.

Calf - Posterior lower leg.

Calmative - Produces a mild sedative effect.

Cancer - Any type of malignant growth.

Cardiac - Of or pertaining to the heart. A medicine that produces an effect on the heart.

Carminative - Expels gas from the stomach, intestines, or bowels.

Cervical - Of or pertaining to the neck.

Chillblains - Swelling of the skin due to exposure to cold. Chillblains appear as itchy patches of red, swollen skin on the extremities that usually recede within a few days. A chronic condition can develop, however, with a discoloration of the skin accompanied by blisters that are painful and leave scars when they heal.

Chronic - Characterized by a slow progressive course of indefinate duration--used especially of degenerative invasive diseases, some infections, psychoses, inflammations, and the carrier state. Compare acute.

Clot - See blood clot.

Coagulation - The transformation of a liquid into a soft, congealed mass, as in clotting.

Coccyx - A small bone that forms the lower extremity of the spinal column.

Cold sore - A viral infection that causes small blisters to appear about the area of the mouth, usually following an illness accompanied by fever.

Common cold - An acute contagious disease of the upper respiratory tract caused by a virus and characterized by inflammation of the mucus membranes of the nose, throat, eyes, and eustacian tubes with watery then purulent discharge.

Compress - A local application to a small area of the skin. Compresses may be used either hot or cold depending on the condition being treated. They are prepared by soaking a clean linen cloth in an herbal decoction or infusion. The excess is then wrung out and the compress applied to the affected part.
When a hot compress begins to cool, it is replaced with a fresh one. A cold compress is replaced once it has become warm and somewhat dry from body heat.

Concussion - An injury to the brain caused by sudden shock, as a sharp blow to the head.
A simply concussion, brought about by the brain striking the inside of the skull, may result in bruising brain tissue, bleeding inside the skull, and possible loss of consciousness.
Unconsciousness may last a few minutes or a few hours; a longer period usually indicates more serious damage. Other sypmtoms of a concussion are nausea, dizziness, and headache that may last for several days. There may also be a loss of memory for a period just prior to the injury until several hours after.
Normally, rest is all that is required for recuperation. The victim should relax, avoid medication stronger than aspirin (willow tea) and, if vomiting occurs, avoid solid food. Sleep ought to be postponed for several hours to be certain that no unusual symptoms arise and, once allowed to sleep, the victim should be awakened every two hours to give his or her name and location so as to confirm that there are no complications.

Congestion - An abnormal accumulation of body fluid, especially one that tends to clog.

Connective tissue - Fibrous tissue that serves to connect the cells and support the organs of the body.

Constipation - Abnormally delayed or infrequent passage of dry hardened feces associated with varying degrees of stasis of the lower bowel. Often painful.

Contagion - The spread of a disease, directly or indirectly, from one person to another.

Contaminated - Descriptive of that which is unclean, often in reference to food or water infected by bacteria.

Contusion - A bruise; injury in which the skin is not broken.

Convulsion - Sudden, involuntary contractions or spasms of the muscles.

Costal - Of or pertaining to a rib.

Cough - Sudden, noisy expulsion of air from the lungs.
Coughing is a defensive reflex that clears the lungs of excess mucus or irritating matter. The cough will persist as long as the condition that causes it, but it may be suppressed by soothing liquids or drugs that act on the cough reflex.

Croup - An inflammation of the larynx.
A condition mostly confined to children, the croup causes swelling of the larynx, or voice box, so that breathing becomes difficult. A characteristic barking cough is the result of air forced through the swollen larynx. Breathing may be further impaired if mucus blocks the windpipe and bronchi that connect to the lungs. Immediate medical attention is critical, because the swelling may close off the passage completely.
In the meantime, calm the child--an attack of croup is frightening and fear can only make the symptoms worse. Breathing over a container of steaming hot water with a tent fashioned from a towel over the head while resting in a parent's arms can be soothing and effective--the warm, moist air should ease the symptoms.

Cubital - Of or pertaining to the lower arm.

Cut - See laceration.

Cutaneous - Of or pertaining to the skin.

Cyst - An abnormal sac containing liquid or semiliquid waste material.
Cysts often do not cause symptoms and are therefore not treated; one that causes pressure or other problems may be surgically removed.

Cystitis - Inflammation of the urinary bladder and ureters.
Cystitis is a common complaint of female dragonriders, characterized by pain, by urgency and frequency of urination, and by blood in the urine. It may be caused by a bacterial infection, a stone formed by an accumulation of mineral salts, or by a tumor. Depending on the diagnosis, treatment may include antibiotics, increased fluid intake, bedrest, medications to control bladder wall spasms, and, when necessary, surgery.

Decoction - An extract, usually of a root, seed, or bark of a plant, produced by boiling the substance in water for a certain period of time. Hard plant materials are usually prepared in this way as they require longer subjection to heat in order to extract their active properties.

Defibrillation - A technique to correct fibrillation, an abnormal heartbeat.
Fibrillation is commonly caused by a heart attack, when part of the heart quivers or acts independantly of the normal heartbeat. The heart is not then able to pump blood through the body and death will result if the condition is not corrected.
Protracted exposure to the cold or a severe electrical shock can also cause fibrillation.

Dehydration - Loss of water from the body; the condition produced by loss of water or deprivation of water from body tissue.
Dehydration may be caused by the inability to take in water due to illness or disease, or by loss of water from vomiting, diarrhea, uncontrolled secretion of urine, or excessive sweating.
A serious side affect of dehydration is the critical loss of salt from the body. Unchecked dehydration may result in death in a matter of days.

Delirium - A temporary mental disorder characterized by excitement, confusion, and hallucinations.
Delirium may be brought on by any of a number of traumatic conditions, as by infection, drugs, withdrawal of certain drugs or alcohol, high fever, etc. Condition of the subject may undergo abrupt radical change with varying frequency, as from a state of agitated restlessness to one of serenity and comprehension.

Delusion - A belief maintained in spite of irrefutable evidence to the contrary.
Delusion may be part of a psychotic episode in which perception is altered to cause irrational interpretation of an ordinary event. In such cases, there may not be even a remote connection between the event and the interpretation.
On another level, delusion may be formed from halucination or an elaborate scheme of rationalization that, although connected, has no basis in reality.
Delusion may also be related to depression, as in feelings of hypochondria or guilt, where the subject has negative feelings relating to personal condition, fortunes, or worthiness that are not supported in fact.

Dementia - Mental impairment or deficiency caused by injury or disease.
Dementia may be associated with senility, Alzheimer's disease, a blood clot or tumor of the brain, etc.
A loss of memory, especially for recent events, is the most common symptom of dementia. The condition can progress to a stage where the subject suffers severe degradation or total destruction of intellectual powers, deprivation of emotional control, and a complete personality transformation.
Compare amentia.

Demulcent - A soothing, usually mucilaginous or oily substance, used especially to relieve internal inflammation. Provides a protective coating and allays irritation of the membranes.

Dermatitis - Any inflammation of the skin.

Diagnosis - The process of identifying a disease by careful examination.

Diaphoretic - Induces perspiration. Any agent that causes one to perspire (sweat).

Diaphragm - The muscular partition in the body that separates the chest cavity and the abdominal cavity.

Diarrhea - The frequent and excessive discharging of watery feces.
Diarrhea can be caused by a number of conditions such as food poisoning, an allergic reaction to food or drugs, an infection of the gastrointestinal tract, or disease. Most bouts of diarrhea last only a short time as the body rids itself of contaminate matter. If the diarrhea persists more than a few hours, an herbal preparation may help.
A major complication associated with an incidence of diarrhea is the possibility of dehydration, especially in small children.
If the condition persists or is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, abdominal pain, or vomiting, a healer should be consulted.

Digestion - The process of breaking down food into those substances that can be used by the body and those that are to be discharged as waste.

Dislocation - Twisting out of normal position, as a bone.
When one or more of the bones forming a joint slip out of normal position, the ligaments holding the bones are stretched and sometimes torn loose. Fractures are often associated with dislocations. Dislocations may result from force applied at or near the joint, a sudden muscular contraction, twisting strains on joint ligaments, or a fall where the force of landing is trasferred to a joint.
Some general symptoms of dislocations are a rigidity and loss of function, deformity, pain, swelling, tenderness, and discoloration. Resetting a dislocation is not a trivial matter--the victim should be placed in a healer's care as quickly as possible.

Diuretic - Increases the flow of urine. Used to treat water retention. (Because of their soothing qualities, demulcents are often combined with diuretics when irritation is present.)

Dizziness - A sensation of unsteadiness accompanied by a feeling of movement within the head.

Dorsal - Along (or toward) the vertebral surface of the body. Compare posterior.

Duodenal ulcer - An ulcer, or open sore affecting the duodenum, the first section of the small intestine.

Emmenagogue - Encourages the menstrual flow.

Enteritis - Inflammation of the intestinal tract.
Enteritis is most commonly found as a bacterial or viral infection in the small intestine as the result of the consumption of contaminated food or water.

Epidemic - The rapid spread of a disease among many people in a community.

Esophagus - The food pipe, that extends from the throat, through the chest, ending at the stomach.

Expectorant - Induces expulsion of mucus or phlegm from the throat and bronchial passages.

Extract - Extracts are made in a variety of ways depending on the best method by which the plant's properties may be obtained, such as high pressure and evaporation by heat.

Extremities - Descriptive of the arms and legs including their joining to the trunk of the body.
The upper extremity consists of the hands, arms, and shoulders. The lower extremity consists of the feet, legs, and hips.

Febrifuge - Fever-reducing. Any agent that reduces fever.

Febrile - Descriptive of body temperature that is above normal; feverish.

Femur - Upper leg bone.

Femoral - Of or pertaining to the upper leg (thigh).

Fever - An abnormally increased body temperature.
Most of the time, the body temperature rises in an attempt to burn off a toxin or a viral or bacterial infection. A fever can be considered a friend, helping to burn off foreign invaders. However, a fever that persists more than five days or gets above 105 degress Farenheit, special intervention will be required. Any fever above 105 degrees can lead to brain damage.

Fever, fire-head - A sever illness indigenous to the southern continent of Pern.
The initial symptoms of fire-head fever are similar to those of a cold and include sneezing, an achey, stuffy feeling in the head, clogged nasal passages, and a general feeling of malaise. Sypmtoms progress to a raw, tight feeling in the chest and throat; the eyes feel hot and dry, and the head feels large and disconnected. A fever develops within a day of the first signs, accompanied by ague, sensitive skin, delirium and nightmares.
Treatment for fire-head includes bedrest, darkness, and lots of fluid. Treat the symptoms. The victim should be immobilized, and cool compresses placed over the eyes to moisten them and protect them from light. Movement or light can aggravate the condition such that chronic headaches, blindness, and death follow, if the victim doesn't go mad from the pain first.
Fire-head runs its course in approximately three weeks, allowing an additional month to six weeks for full recovery. After the fever breaks, the victim may still suffer headaches and spots before the eyes for a few days. Until these desist, continue immobilization, compresses, and darkness. Gentle exercize and physical therapy will restore lost muscle tone, but proceed with caution. The return of headaches and spots before the eyes signals a relapse.

Fiber - A form of indigestible plant matter. The digestive system cannot break down dietary fiber and although it passes through the body without being absorbed, it plays an important role in digestion. Certain types of fiber combine with water to ease the passage of material through the colon.
Among the best sources of fiber are friuts, vegetables, legumes, and unprocessed grain in bread and cereal.

Fibula - The smaller of the two lower leg bones.

Flu - See influenza.

Fomentation - These are prepared in the same way as a compress but are used on larger areas of the skin. Fomentations are applied as hot as possible without burning and then covered with a dry towel. A hot water bottle may be placed over the towel to retain the heat.

Food poisoning - Acute distress caused by food containing toxins or bacteria.
Food poisoning is the result of ingesting a substance that in its natural state contains poison, as certain wild mushrooms and plants, or one that has been contaminated, as food that has been improperly stored.
Cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting are most commonly associated with food poisoning, but symptoms in some cases may be more severe, causing difficulty in breathing, blurred vision, or paralysis. Any symptoms that are excessive or that persevere should be treated by a healer.

Fracture - Any break or crack in a bone.
Fractures can be divided into two classifications: an open, or compound fracture in which the bone is broken and an open wound is present often with the end of the broken bone protruding from the wound; a closed, or simple fracture in which no open wound is present, but there is a broken or cracked bone.
Broken bones, especially the long bones of the upper and lower extremities, often have sharp, sawtooth edges so that even slight movement may cause the sharp edges to cut into blood vessels, nerves, or muscles. Careless or improper movement can convert a closed fracture into an open fracture, causing damage to surrounding blood vessels or nerves.
If the broken ends of the bone extend through an open wound, there is little doubt that the victim has suffered a fracture; however, the bone does not always extend through the skin, so it is well to be able to recognize other signs that a fracture exists, such as pain or tenderness in the area, deformity or irregularity of the affected area, loss of function, discoloration, and swelling.
Any fracture or suspected fracture should be referred to a healer, as improper healing can have serious consequences.

Frostbite - Tissue damage caused by extreme cold.
Frostbite is most likely to occur when the wind is blowing, rapidly drawing heat from the body. The nose, cheeks, ears, toes, and fingers are the body parts most frequently frostbitten. As a result of exposure to the cold, the blood vessels constrict, causing the blood supply to the chilled parts to decrease and depriving the tissues of the warmth they need.
The signs and symptoms of frostbite are not always apparent to the sufferer, because frostbite has a numbing effect.
Frostbite goes through the following stages: the affected area will feel numb; the skin turns red; then dead white or blue-white; eventually the skin and underlying tissue is firm to the touch.
Treatment for the early stage of frostbite involves placing the affected part close to the body for warmth without rubbing. In the later stages, there is severe, perhaps permanent, damage to the tissue so that it must not be rubbed. It should be lightly covered for protection, and heat should not be applied. The subject should seek medical attention immediately; if skin is frozen, it should remain so until the subject is hospitalized as thawing is extremely painful. Avoid anything that may constrict blood vessels, such as smoking, coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.

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Sources for this glossary were:

Anderson, Kenneth; Anderson, Lois E.; Glanze, Walter D. Mosby's Medical, Nursing, & Allied Health Dictionary, fourth edition. USA: Rand McNally, 1994.

Bremness, Lesley. Herbs. Great Britain: Dorling Kindersley Ltd., 1994.

Lucas, Richard Melvin Miracle Medicine Herbs. West Nyack, New York: Parker Publishing Company, Inc., 1991: xiii-xvi.

McCaffrey, Anne. The White Dragon. New York: Ballantine Books, 1978: 232, 240-268, 292.

Nye, Jodie Lyn (with Anne McCaffrey). The Dragonlover's Guide to Pern, second edition. New York: Ballantine Books, 1997.

Radcliffe, J. The New International Webster's Pocket Medical & First Aid Dictionary of the English Language. USA: Trident Press International, 1997.

Webster dictionaries, various.

Wolfe, Frankie Avalon. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Herbal Remedies. USA: Alpha Books, 1999-2001.