What indolent means in a medical diagnosis

During an exam, your healthcare professional may use the word “indolent” to describe your diagnosis. What does it mean? Essentially, this indicates that the disease is progressing slowly and is not an immediate threat.

Yet just because a medical condition is indolent doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be treated. There are times when treating it at this point is a better approach. To better understand your diagnosis, let’s take a closer look at indolent diseases.

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What is indolence?

Word indolent has two related meanings:

  1. In a sense, indolent means lazy, lethargic or idle, loath to activity or movement.
  2. When applied to a medical situation, indolent can mean a problem that causes no pain or that progresses slowly and is not immediately problematic.

“Indolent” comes from the Latin word indolens, which means unresponsive to pain. The root doleful means to mourn or cause distress.

Synonyms: disease processes, low-grade diseases, silent killer diseases,

Your health care provider can tell you that a tumor is indolent. This means that he will grow slowly and that you will have time to make decisions about how you will treat him. Likewise, an ulcer can be considered indolent, meaning it is present, but not causing pain. This does not mean that these conditions will not cause pain or develop in an advanced stage of the disease. They can ultimately lead to full-blown illness or even death. But often with indolent tumors, you will die with it rather than from it.

Silent dangers

The vague symptoms that an indolent state can present can easily be ignored. It may even become something you just get used to living with that you don’t remember to report to your health care provider. However, when an illness is indolent, it has the potential to be a silent fatal illness.

If it has no symptoms for a long time, you cannot see a doctor or have regular check-ups and tests. People who avoid medical care because of cost, inconvenience, or lack of time may not have diagnosed illnesses while they are still in an indolent stage.

The real problem is that the disease can be treatable and curable during the indolent phase. By the time he exhibits symptoms or pain, he may have a low treatment success rate and may even lead to death.

Examples and process

Indolent tumors, malignant tumors, and slow-growing cancers, like those often seen in prostate cancer, can only be detected by screening tests rather than symptoms. If it is diagnosed as an indolent tumor, the health care provider may recommend a course of monitoring and waiting and not provide treatment unless it shows signs of growth or spread.

Indolent ulcers are slow healing wounds. On the skin, they have raised hard edges but the base is not granulated.

Indolent corneal ulcers are seen in dogs, often after a scratched eye. Usually such a scratch heals within a few days, but if an indolent ulcer develops, it can last for months. Contrary to the usual definition of indolent, they are troublesome. These are sometimes referred to as Boxer ulcers as they occur frequently in this breed of dog.

Indolent lymphoma is also called low grade lymphoma. Some types of lymphoma are less aggressive and do not grow or spread quickly. Chronic lymphocytic lymphoma, follicular cleaved small cell lymphoma, and the lower three grades of non-Hodgkin lymphoma can be classified as indolent lymphoma.

Leprosy is an indolent infectious disease. It grows very slowly and only produces effects over many years.

Indolent carditis is a form of infectious endocarditis. It produces few symptoms and does not spread to other parts of the body. It can be associated with rheumatic fever.

Frequently Asked Questions


  • What does Indolent mean?

    Indolent is defined as lazy, lethargic or idle, and loath to activity and movement. In a medical sense, indolent is used to describe problems that progress or develop slowly, do not cause pain, or pose an immediate threat.


  • In medical terms, is indolence a good or a bad sign?

    It depends on the situation. An indolent tumor grows slowly, which is usually a good sign. For example, an indolent prostate tumor is usually treated with a wait-and-see approach.

    An indolent injury, on the other hand, is a slow-healing injury. In the case of an indolent wound, more aggressive treatment may be necessary.


  • What is an indolent stomach ulcer?

    An indolent ulcer is a stomach ulcer that is not currently causing pain or other symptoms.


  • What is indolent lymphoma?

    Indolent lymphoma is a term used to describe the less aggressive forms of lymphoma. Also known as low-grade lymphoma, the indolent forms of the disease include chronic lymphocytic lymphoma, follicular cleaved small cell lymphoma, and the lower three grades of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.


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