Definitions

cestan-chenais syndrome

List of eponymous diseases

An eponymous disease is one that has been named after the person who first described the condition. This usually involves publishing an article in a respected medical journal. Rarely an eponymous disease may be named after a patient (examples include Christmas disease, Lou Gehrig's disease, Hartnup disease and Mortimer's disease).

Related disease namings include place names (Bornholm disease, Lyme disease, Ebola hemorrhagic fever) and even societies (Legionnaires' disease). These, however, are not eponyms.

Eponyms are a longstanding tradition in Western science and medicine. Being awarded an eponym is regarded as an honour: "eponymity, not anonymity, is the standard" (Merton R K, 1973). It is regarded as bad form to attempt to eponymise oneself. At a time when medicine lacked the tools to investigate the underlying causes of many syndromes, the eponym was a convenient mechanism for attaching a label to a disease. In order to freely discuss something, it must have a name.

Punctuation

In 1975, the Canadian National Institutes of Health held a conference where the naming of diseases and conditions was discussed. This was reported in The Lancet (1975;1(7905):513, PMID 46972) where the conclusion was that "The possessive use of an eponym should be discontinued, since the author neither had nor owned the disorder." Medical journals, dictionaries and style guides remain divided on this issue.

Eponyms and alternatives

There is a trend away from the use of eponymous disease names towards a medical name that describes either the cause or the primary signs. Reasons for this include:

  • The name confers no information other than the historical.
  • There can be a Western bias to the choices.
  • History sometimes shows the credit should have gone to a different person.
  • Different countries may have different eponyms for the same disease.
  • Several eponyms may turn out to be the same disease (example: amyloid degeneration is also called Abercrombie's disease, Abercrombie's syndrome, and Virchow's syndrome).

Arguments for maintaining eponyms include:

  • The name may be more memorable and shorter than the medical one (the latter requiring abbreviation to its acronym)
  • Sometimes the medical name proves to be incorrect.
  • The syndrome may have more than one cause, yet it remains useful to consider it as a whole.
  • It continues to give respect to a person who may otherwise have been forgotten.

Alphabetical list

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

J

K

L

M

N

O

P

R

S

T

U

V

W

X Y Z

See also

External links

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