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Virginia J Allum

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Medical terms with the prefix dys-
by Virginia J Allum   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Thursday, June 14, 2012
Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2012

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The prefix 'dys-' can mean difficult or abnormal and is used to form several medical terms around the body.


1.  Terms used in Brain injury and Stroke
The brain performs many important functions for the body. It is the organ of reasoning and language, processor of sensory information and mastermind of many functions of the body such as walking, speaking and feeling emotion.
Injury to the brain from an internal cause such as stroke and injury to the brain from an external cause such as a head injury can cause normal body functions to go awray.
The medical terms of some of the abnormal conditions which occur because of a brain injury are described using the prefix 'dys'. This prefix is not exclusively used to describe brain injury symptoms and can be found in many terms relating to abnormal conditions of the body or mind. 
The prefix 'dys-' can have four slightly different meanings e.g
1. Abnormal
2. Impaired
3. Difficult or difficulty
4. Bad
However, the general meaning can be summarised as 'abnormal in some way'
(dys= abnormal + aesthesia= feeling or sensation)
Abnormal feelings such as numbness, tingling or burning pain below the area of a spinal cord injury. It also describes the burning 'nerve' pain of shingles.
Dysarthria -
(dys = difficulty + arthria (Greek) = to articulate
Difficulty in forming words or speaking them because of weakness of the muscles used in speaking. Common called a 'speech
(dys = abnormal + graphia = writing)
Dysgraphia in adults generally occurs after a brain trauma. It can include poor handwriting, wrong or odd spelling forms and writing words which are not correct.
(dys- abnormal + -kinesia = movement)
Inability to control voluntary movements, tendency to walk using jerky movements. The expression 'tardive dyskinesia' is an adverse effect of prolonged use of certain major tranquilisers in elderly patients or persons with brain injuries. Patients with tardive (delayed) dyskinesia tend to poke out their tongue, smack their lips and chew constantly without meaning to.
(dys=difficult + metria = to measure)
Poor co-ordination and inability to judge distance. Patients are not able to stop walking where they want to stop and may overshoot or undershoot the mark. They may also not be aware of the distance an object is placed from another object. The everyday term is 'past-pointing'. This puts patients at risk of falling as they may not be aware of objects and trip over them. Generally, an Occupational Therapist visits the home of a patient before discharge to check on dangers around the home and make suggestions of modifications which can be made.
(dys= difficulty + phagia = swallowing)
Difficulty getting food positioned correctly in the mouth to be able to swallow it. Also, difficulty swallowing food which is placed in the mouth. Note: 'dysphagia' and 'dysphasia' are near homophones (sound the same) so you need to pay attention to the context of the sentence to work out which one is meant. Stroke patients in the early stages of recovery have to be very careful before eating. They generally start with thickened fluids and pureed food after assessment from a Speech and Language Therapist., They learn to sit upright before starting to eat, only place a small amount of food in their mouths at a time and never drink liquid at the same time as eating. Sometimes modified utensils are helpful for correct positioning of food in the mouth.modifeis
dys= abnormal + phasia = speech and verbal comprehension
Dysphasia can occur in several forms, depending on where the damage to the brain is and which hemisphere is affected.. Dysphasia can affect comprehension, giving a name to people or objects, repetition of words or phrase and speech itself.
The three most common syndromes are:
1. expressive dysphasia - Patients understand all they hear but have difficulty expressing themselves
2. receptive dysphasia - Patients have no difficulty speaking but have impaired ability to comprehend what they hear and tend to say meaningless or non-sense words or use words in the wrong context.
3. global dysphasia - A combination of the first two syndromes where comprehension and speech are abnormal.
Sometimes patients become very frustrated at not being able to find the word they want to communicate. A communication board can be used to point to the word which is meant. It is an extremely useful piece of equipment as commonly used words can be added to avoid the need to draw a picture each time!
(dys = abnormal + tonia = muscle tone)
Abnormal muscle contractions which cause the sufferer to twist and turn or remain in abnormal postures. One of the treatments of dystonia is the use of botulinum toxin (Botox) injections into affected muscles.The injections give up to 6 months relief but the effects are not permanent. Paradoxically, the use of Botox was found to have a secondary effect of reducing the sort of inflammation found in the skin disorder psoriasis when patients with dystonia as well as psoriasis were treated with Botox injections.
2. Terms used in Mental Health
(dys - impaired + -phoria, from pherein to bear)
The experience of an unpleasant or uncomfortable mood, such as sadness, anxiety, irritability, or restlessness. It is called a 'mood disorder' and is often one of the symptoms of depression. Dysphoria may also be a normal response to a sadness in life such as grieving. The term is used in 'Gender Identity Disorder' where the sufferer does not feel comfortable living in their own gender.
(dys- abnormal + thumos mind)
A chronic mood disorder which is also known as neurotic depression. Patients may display compulsive behaviour and suffer from depression and anxiety.
<a target="_blank" href=""> Body Dysmorphic Disorder </a>
dys = abnormal + morph = shape
An over concern with perceived defects in the appearance to the extent of affecting normal life and social interaction.
(dys- difficulty + somnia = sleep)
A range of sleeping disorders which prevent the sufferer from either getting to sleep or staying asleep.
3. Working from the head to the toes
dys- abnormal + -acusis = hearing
A hearing impairment caused by a defect of the auditory nerve which causes ordinary sounds to cause discomfort.
dys - bad + crasia = mixture
The term came from Ancient Greek times when health was measured as a balance or imbalance of the mixture of humours or body fluids.
These days the term is used as 'blood dyscrasias' and means any disorder of the blood.
dys = abnormal + rhythmia rhythm of the heart
An abnormality of the heart's normal rhythm.
dys + pepsia = digestion
Any condition which impairs digestion. Commonly called heart burn or 'upset stomach'.
dys- + enteron = intestine
Severe diarrhoea which often contains blood and mucus which is why it was called the 'bloody flux' in old times. It was a common cause of death during battles with often more soldiers dying of dysentery than war wounds. A famous seafarer who succumbed to dysentery on the 27th January 1596 was Sir Francis Drake after an unsuccessful attack on San Juan. Drake was buried somewhere at sea wearing his armour.
dys- difficult + uria =urination
Painful urination is a symptom of urinary tract infections or UTIs.
dys- difficult + pareunia = sexual intercourse
Dyspareunia refers to pain during or after sexual intercourse. Although this problem can affect men, it is more common in women. The causes of the condition may be physical,allergy-related or a side effect of medication.
erectile dysfunction - the inability of a man to sustain an erection
(dys = abnormal + -plasia = a moulding]
The term can mean either the abnormal development of an organ or part of the body, including congenital absence or the abnormal growth of a body part e.g. during cancer
4. Finally, an education term
dys- difficult + lexia = writing
A developmental disorder which can cause difficulties in one or more areas of reading, writing, and numeracy. It was called 'word blindness' in the past but this is not an accurate description.
Famous people with dyslexia
Alexander Graham Bell
Ludwig Beethoven
Albert Einstein
Isaac Newton
Pierre Curie
Leonardo da Vinci
Pablo Picasso
Jørn Utzon
Richard Branson
Agatha Christie
Walt Disney

Web Site: 'Dys-' terms in brain injury

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