Sicca syndrome

Sicca syndrome results in xerophthalmia and xerostomia. (Image from

Throughout this summer, let’s continue to explore medical words since they are a rich source of roots. Sicca syndrome is a condition in which the body exhibits signs and symptoms of extreme dryness because of abnormalities which occur with various glands.

The most common cause of Sicca syndrome is the autoimmune disease called *Sjogren’s (shōgrən) syndrome. Certain drugs, prior radiation therapy to the head, and hepatitis have also caused this syndrome.

Sicca (sikə) comes from the Latin word siccus, meaning dry. However, many symptoms are described by Greek roots. For example, patients can have xerostomia (zirəˈstōmēə) and xerophthalmia (ziˌräfˈthalmēə). The Greek root xero– means dry. The Greek roots stoma and ophthalmo mean mouth and eye respectively. Xerophthalmia  means “dry eyes” and xerostomia means “dry mouth.”

*after H.S.C. Sjögren, Swedish ophthalmologist

myasthenia (mīəsˈthēnēə)

This picture shows many symptoms characteristic of myasthenia. Note ptosis of the eyes and facial drooping due to muscle weakness. Image from


I apologize for the lengthy delay between posts. I have been very busy studying for the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee (more on that later)! To continue our medical theme, let’s explore the word myasthenia, which is a disease that causes muscle weakness in multiple organs.

Myasthenia, commonly known as myasthenia gravis, occurs when the body makes antibodies to nerve receptors, preventing them from telling muscles to contract correctly. Symptoms get worse with repetitive activity and improve with rest.

This disease affects many parts of the body. For example, in the eye, it causes ptosis (drooping of the eyelid) and diplopia (double vision). It can cause weakness in the jaw muscles, resulting in dysphagia (trouble swallowing). The voice can be affected with dysarthria (difficulty speaking). Rarely, myasthenia can affect the diaphragm muscle and result in breathing paralysis.

Myasthenia comes from the Greek roots myo-, meaning muscle, and -asthenia, meaning weakness. Myasthenia literally means “muscle weakness,” which aptly describes this affliction.


osteopoikilosis (ästēōpȯikə̇lōsə̇s)

My dad is a radiologist and he suggested that we start our medical theme with the word osteopoikilosis. Some diseases are best shown with medical imaging, which is what my dad is an expert in. This disease is a great example.

Osteopoikilosis is also known as “spotted bone disease.” Bone is made of two major parts: the cortical bone, which is on the outside, and the medullary bone, which is on the inside. When cortical bone forms islands inside the medullary bone in multiple locations in the body, osteopoikilosis occurs.

The disease is associated with symptoms such as joint pains, rashes, syndactyly (when digits fuse together), and dwarfism. It has a characteristic look on x-ray with bone islands concentrated around joints.

Osteopoikilosis comes from the Greek roots osteo- meaning bone, and poikilo- meaning spotted or variegated. The suffix -osis meaning condition of. Osteopoikilosis literally means “condition of spotted bone.”