Chest pains and palpitations: talking about illness (2)

by Liz Walter
doctor_patient2My previous post (My leg hurts: Talking about illness (1)) presented some general vocabulary to use at the doctor’s. This one looks at some more specific areas of illness and explains some useful words and phrases that you may need to use or understand on a visit to the doctor’s.

There are several phrases connected with breathing. We talk about people having breathing difficulties or being short of breath. Sometimes they feel tight across the chest. If you have to breathe fast after making only a small physical effort, you can say that you get out of breath very easily. Someone who breathes in a noisy, uncomfortable way is wheezing, and if they are taking quick, frightened breaths, we say they are gasping for breath.

If we feel that our heartbeat (the rhythm of our heart) is irregular, we say we are having palpitations. The speed at which our heart beats is called our pulse. If our pulse is very fast, we often say our heart is racing. Chest pains can be another sign of heart problems, and may even mean that someone is having a heart attack.

Cancer is one of the illnesses we dread the most. Most people see a doctor if they find a lump somewhere on their body. Other symptoms may include sudden weight loss or night sweats. A typical way for a patient to express these symptoms would be:

I’ve lost a lot of weight recently.

I wake up in the night drenched in sweat. (very wet from sweating)

A very common symptom, which can have many causes, is tiredness. A more formal word is fatigue. Common ways of talking about this are:

I feel tired all the time.

I have no energy.

I feel very lethargic. (with no energy)

Problems with digestion (the way food goes through our body) are also common. An uncomfortable feeling in your stomach after eating is called indigestion, and a more severe pain caused by acid rising upwards is called heartburn. Bloating is when your stomach becomes swollen after eating, while short, severe pains in the stomach are known as cramps. If you are constipated, it is difficult to pass solid waste from your body when you go to the toilet. The opposite problem, when the waste is like liquid, is called diarrhoea (UK)/diarrhea (US).

Of course it isn’t possible to cover all symptoms in a couple of blogs, but I hope that these deal with the majority of situations. Please feel free to offer other useful words and phrases in the comments!

5 thoughts on “Chest pains and palpitations: talking about illness (2)

  1. Pingback: Notatki z lekcji: Z wizytą u lekarza (przydatne zwroty i słownictwo) | KRAMIK Z ANGIELSKIM

  2. Pingback: Chest pains and palpitations: talking about illness (2) – englishmoreformal

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