Many Of Us Never Get Involved In Medical Matters Until We Are Affected By Them, But Then It Is Impressive How Much Can Be Understood In A Short Space Of Time

Having never been any good at human biology, I have to say that the only medical phrases I’m really familiar with are those that I’ve come across through personal experience. I’m lucky that I don’t have very many health issues myself, but I definitely have family who have a number of complaints.

Recently I was embarrassed at how non-existent my medical awareness was when I took a call from my job agency offering me some temporary work at a podiatrist’s office. ‘Something to do with feet’ was the only description that the girl at the agency could provide, so after I had hung up on the call I thought that I had better do some research. My very first thought was that it was usually a chiropodist who looked after feet, and certainly I am not the only person under that impression. But apparently now the proper name for those who advisepeople about their feet and lower legs is a podiatrist. I’ve no idea why this renaming of the title of the profession was decided upon, but the NHS website tells me that there is no difference between the two titles.

So then I got to wondering about other medical professions. For example, what is the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist? I’ve only ever seen a dentist to have half a dozen fillings and a couple of crowns. On this occasion there is a distinction between the two, as I discovered when a friend got a new job as a dental receptionist. A dentist completes work on the teeth and gums, generally things like fixing damaged teeth, treating tooth decay and providing help with hygiene issues which can make the gums unhealthy.

An orthodontist initially trains as a dentist, but then moves on further studies to learn about jaw and tooth alignment, so they do work such as fixing braces to sort out the problem of crooked teeth. This may explain why I didn’t previously know what the difference was. When I was young, very few of my contemporaries ever had braces for their teeth, whereas nowadays it seems that almost all children wear them at some point. I have to assume that the concept has become more widespread as each generation becomes more worried about physical looks and putting right defects as soon as possible.

Another area where I had no knowledge until recently is the treatment of eye problems. Optician and ophthalmologist, the same thing – yes? No, absolutely not, as I’ve learned since an elderly relative was referred for Laser eye surgery. Initially, she went to see an optician for a basic eye test and this is when her sight problems were identified. The optician outlined the alternative options for treatment, including the Laser eye treatment, but explained that as an optician he was not able to carry out the treatment himself. So he passed on a referral to her GP, who then had to pass on the referral to the Ophthalmology Department at the nearest hospital so that she could have the operation.

By now, I’d done some research and found out what was actually quite obvious – that the ophthalmologist is the specialist who can perform the conventional and Laser eye surgery operations, whereas the optician is simply able to test the eyes and find any conditions. Basic problems like requiring a prescription for glasses can be handled by the optician. More complicated problems which require Laser eye treatment, conventional surgery or other medical intervention do need to be seen by an ophthalmologist.

So I’ve managed to extend my medical knowledge a bit recently due to things happening to me or to people I know. It’s proof that it’s much easier to learn and remember things if they have affected you, as opposed to simply reading a book or looking for information online. Although for now, I’m quite happy to stay ignorant about a number of the more nasty areas of medicine if it means that nobody that I know has to deal with serious health problems!

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