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Diseases and Conditions to Know for the PTCB Exam.

Feb 12th, 2024
diseases ptcb exam

What diseases and conditions do technicians need to know?

The diseases to know for the PTCB exam only extend to major diseases and conditions of each body system. Of course, technicians are not expected to study these diseases and conditions in great detail. Instead, only a basic definitional understanding is required.

Below we have put together many of the major diseases and conditions that often get tested on the pharmacy technician exam. Note that the explanation is small; you are only expected to have a basic awareness of the most common illnesses.

Diseases that affect the following body systems may be tested:

  • cardiovascular system
  • nervous system
  • reproductive system
  • endocrine system and metabolism
  • immune system
  • gastrointestinal system
  • genitourinary system
  • integumentary system (the skin)
  • musculoskeletal system
  • lymphatic system

Dispensing medicines requires technicians to have this basic knowledge of pathology.

ACE inhibitors, for example, are among the most widely dispensed medicines; drugs used in the treatment of hypertension. It’s therefore important that pharmacy technicians are aware of what hypertension is i.e. elevated blood pressure. This same principle applies to all other major diseases and conditions. The PTCB exam expects pharmacy technicians to have a basic understanding of these illnesses.

Importance of identifying medical prefixes and suffixes

When studying diseases, you will come across the common suffixes and prefixes. For example: conditions ending with the suffix –itis always refers to inflammation (gastritis = inflammation of the stomach; hepatitis = inflammation of the liver). Similarly, there are common prefixes too, such as hyper-, which refers to elevated (hypertension = elevated blood pressure; hyperthyroidism = elevated thyroid levels).

Take another condition – myocarditis. Take a moment to work out what you think this condition is.

Let’s break it down:

  • Myo = muscle
  • card = heart
  • itis = inflammation

Myocarditis therefore refers to inflammation of heart muscle.

Over time as pharmacy technicians, you will develop this vocabulary and will reach a point where you can work out what a disease or condition means even if you didn’t come across the word before. The common Latin and Greek prefix and suffix references will do that work for you. Most importantly, you can use these skills to work through and answer test questions on the pharmacy technician exam.

Diseases and conditions tested on the PTCB exam

We have put together a short test covering the information detailed in the table below. After you have finished reviewing this table, take a few minutes to practice our diseases and conditions test.

DiseaseExplainer
HypertensionHigh blood pressure 

Blood pressure is considered high if it’s over 130 / 90 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury).
Hypotension    Low blood pressure

Blood pressure is considered low if it’s lower than 90 / 60 mm Hg.
Myocardial infarctionHeart attack

Left untreated, heart attacks can cause cardiac arrest in which the heart stops beating suddenly (to “arrest” is to “stop”).
ArrhythmiaAbnormal heart rhythm  
Tachycardia  Fast heart rate

Tachycardia is defined as a heart rate over 100 bpm (beats per minute).
BradycardiaSlow heart rate

Bradycardia is defined as a heart rate lower than 60 bpm.

Note: atropine is used in the acute treatment of bradycardia.
Atherosclerosis  Atherosclerosis is thickening or hardening of the arteries.

It is caused by a buildup of plaque in the inner lining of an artery.

Plaque is made up of deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium, and fibrin.
AnginaChest pain caused by reduced blood flow to heart muscle.  
Heart failureWhen the heart is unable to effectively pump blood around the body due to the heart being too stiff or too weak.  
HypercholesterolemiaHigh blood cholesterol  

Statins are used in the treatment of hypercholesterolemia.
HypertriglyceridemiaHigh blood triglycerides  

Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood. High levels are associated with an increased risk of heart attacks. 
CVA  Cerebrovascular Accident – more commonly known as a stroke.

A stroke is a condition in which there is poor blood flow within the brain, causing cell death.

Most common causes are blood clots or a hemorrhage (due to bleeding).
Anxiety  Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be either mild or severe.

Anxiety disorders include social anxiety disorder (SAD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder (PD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Benzodiazepines and SSRI drugs are used in the treatment of anxiety disorders.
Major depressive disorderMood disorder characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.
DysthymiaMajor depressive disorder with longer lasting symptoms – also known as persistent depressive disorder (PDD).
Bipolar disorder  Previously known as “manic depression”, bipolar disorder is characterized by periods of depression and periods of abnormally elevated mood – in other words, extreme highs and lows.
Parkinson’s disease  Neurodegenerative disorder of the central nervous system (CNS; brain and spinal cord) that causes progressive loss of motor / muscle function.

Dementia is common in later stages of the illness.
Alzheimer’s diseaseThe cause of 60-70% of dementia cases.

Alzheimer’s disease is a disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills.
Epilepsy    Abnormal electrical discharges in the brain that lead to seizures.

Many different types including tonic-clonic, tonic, clonic, myoclonic, absence, and atonic seizures.

Drugs used in the treatment of epilepsy include valproate, phenytoin, carbamazepine, and lamotrigine.
Multiple sclerosis (MS)  MS is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the protective layer of nerve cells (myelin), causing a wide range of symptoms – from vision loss to losing the ability to walk.
Bell’s palsy  Temporary facial paralysis that affects only one side of the face with a characteristic “drooping” appearance.
Migraine  A migraine is typically a moderate or severe headache felt as throbbing pain on one side of the head.

Migraine tends to come with or without aura and may last days. Patients typically feel nauseous with increased sensitivity to light or sound.
InsomniaHaving trouble falling or staying asleep.

Drugs used in the short-term treatment of insomnia (maximum of 4-weeks) include benzodiazepines, zopiclone, eszopiclone, and zolpidem.
Narcolepsy  Chronic disorder that affects the brain’s ability to control the wake-sleep cycle.

People with narcolepsy may feel rested after waking, but then feel very sleepy throughout much of the day.
ADHDAttention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Symptoms of ADHD include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
SchizophreniaA type of psychosis characterized by abnormal thinking such as delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thoughts.
OsteoporosisA bone disease that leads to a decrease in bone strength that increases the risk of fractures (broken bones).
Rheumatoid arthritisAn autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system attacks joints and ligaments, causing inflammation and pain.
BursitisInflammation of the fluid-filled sacs that protect the joints.  
OsteoarthritisOsteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition.

It causes pain, swelling and stiffness, affecting a person’s ability to move freely.

Osteoarthritis affects the entire joint, including the tissues around it. It is most common in the knees, hips, spine, and hands.
GoutA form of arthritis characterized by the presence of uric acid crystals in joints, often affecting the toes. Sudden attacks cause severe pain and swelling.

Drugs used to treat gout include allopurinol, probenecid, colchicine, and rasburicase.
GERDGastroesophageal reflux disease

GERD occurs when stomach acid repeatedly flows back into the tube connecting the mouth and stomach (esophagus).

Proton-pump inhibitors, like omeprazole, are widely used to treat symptoms of GERD.
DyspepsiaAlso known as indigestion, dyspepsia refers to stomach ache, fullness and bloating that occurs during or after eating.
HeartburnAlso known as acid reflux, heartburn refers to a burning sensation that occurs when contents / acid from the stomach returns up the esophagus. 
Ulcerative colitisUlcerative colitis is a condition where the lining of the intestine and rectum become inflamed.

Together with Crohn’s disease, both are types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Crohn’s disease  Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes chronic inflammation of the GI tract.

Unlike ulcerative colitis, which is limited to affecting the colon, Crohn’s disease can affect the entire GI tract, from the mouth to the anus.
Gastritis  Inflammation of the lining of the stomach.
Peptic ulcerationOpen sores that develop on the inside lining of the stomach and the upper portion of the small intestine.
Hepatitis  Inflammation of the liver.

Patients may develop yellowing of the skin and eyes, known as jaundice.
Diabetes  A chronic disease affecting blood sugar levels that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin (type 1) or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces (type 2).

Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood glucose levels.
Hypothyroidism  A condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone.
Hyperthyroidism  A condition in which the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone.
Grave’s disease  An autoimmune condition where the immune system produces antibodies that cause the thyroid to produce too much thyroid hormone.
Cushing syndrome  A disorder that occurs when the body makes too much of the hormone cortisol over a long period of time.

Cortisol is sometimes called the “stress hormone” because it helps the body respond to stress.
Gigantism  Gigantism is a rare condition that causes children to grow abnormally fast and tall.  

It is caused by the over secretion of growth hormone (GH) from the pituitary gland in the brain.
Hypocalcemia  Low blood calcium
HypercalcemiaHigh blood calcium
Hyponatremia  Low blood sodium
Hypernatremia  High blood sodium
Hypokalemia  Low blood potassium
HyperkalemiaHigh blood potassium
Asthma  Asthma is a chronic lung disease caused by inflammation and muscle tightening around lung airways, making it harder to breathe.

Beta-2 agonists – such as albuterol and salmeterol – are used in the treatment of asthma.
COPD      Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

COPD is a common lung disease causing restricted airflow and breathing problems. It is sometimes called emphysema or chronic bronchitis.
Allergic rhinitis  Allergic rhinitis, also called hay fever, is an allergic reaction caused by histamine release that causes sneezing, nasal congestion, itchy nose, and watery eyes.

Pollen, pet dander, mold, and insects can lead to hay fever symptoms.
Pneumonia    Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs.

The air sacs may fill with fluid or pus causing cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing.
Pulmonary edemaBuild up of fluid (edema) in the lungs (pulmonary), causing breathing difficulties.
Acne  Acne is a common skin condition that happens when hair follicles under the skin become clogged.

Sebum — oil that helps keep skin from drying out—and dead skin cells plug the pores, leading to outbreaks of lesions, commonly called pimples or zits
Boils  A boil – also known as a furuncle – is a painful, pus-filled bump that forms under your skin when bacteria infect and inflame one or more hair follicles.

A carbuncle is a cluster of boils that form a connected area of infection under the skin.

Pimples are clogged hair follicles whereas boils are infected hair follicles.
Rosacea  Rosacea is a long-term inflammatory skin condition that causes reddened skin and a rash, usually on the nose and cheeks.
Dermatitis    Dermatitis is a common condition that causes swelling and irritation of the skin.

It has many causes and forms and often involves itchy, dry skin or a rash. Or it might cause the skin to blister, ooze, crust, or flake.
EczemaAlso known as atopic dermatitis, eczema is a condition that causes dry, itchy, and inflamed skin.

It’s common in young children but can occur at any age.   Atopic dermatitis is long lasting (chronic) and tends to flare sometimes. It can be irritating but it’s not contagious.
ImpetigoImpetigo is a common and highly contagious skin infection that causes sores and blisters – and most commonly affects young children.

The primary causes of impetigo are the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes.
MelanomaMelanoma is a type of skin cancer that starts in the melanocytes. 

Melanocytes are cells that make the pigment that gives skin its color.
ThrushThrush is a common yeast infection that can occur on different parts of the body – caused by the organism, Candida albicans.  
WartsWarts are small skin growths caused by viral infections, caused by strains of HPV (human papillomavirus).

Without medical treatment, approximately 70% of wart infections resolve by themselves.
BPHBenign prostatic hyperplasia

BPH is a condition in men in which the prostate gland is enlarged, making it difficult for urine to flow normally.
EndometriosisEndometriosis is a condition in which cells similar to the lining of the uterus, or endometrium, grow outside the uterus.
MenopauseMenopause is the time that marks the end of all menstrual cycles.

The average age of menopause onset in the United States is 51.
PIDPelvic Inflammatory Disease

PID is an infection of a woman’s reproductive organs. It is a complication often caused by some STDs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea.
Erectile dysfunction  Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get or maintain an erection long enough to have sexual intercourse.
CystitisCystitis is a urinary tract infection (UTI) that affects the bladder.  
Urinary incontinenceUrinary incontinence is a condition characterized by the unintentional passing of urine.    
Hodgkin’s lymphoma Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system, which is part of the body’s infection-fighting immune system. 

In Hodgkin’s lymphoma, white blood cells called lymphocytes grow out of control, causing swollen lymph nodes and growths throughout the body. 
Varicella zoster infectionMore commonly known as chickenpox, varicella zoster infection is a highly contagious viral infection that brings on an itchy rash with small, fluid-filled blisters.
MeningitisInfection and inflammation of the fluid and membranes (meninges) that cover the brain and spinal cord.
HIV / AIDSHIV = Human Immunodeficiency Virus
AIDS = Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome

HIV is a sexually transmitted virus which, over time, gradually destroys the immune system – eventually leading to the development of the condition, AIDS.

Build upon your knowledge of diseases.

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PTCB Test Prep Author

Author:

Elaine Walker

Elaine joined PTCB Test Prep in 2017, currently serving as the lead product development manager overseeing both course development and quality improvement. Mrs. Walker is a graduate of California State University and has worked as a pharmacy technician for over twenty years – with particular interests in pediatric pharmacy, extemporaneous compounding, and hospital pharmacy. Over the past 8-years, she has helped prepare thousands of students for the PTCB examination.