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List of eponymously named diseases

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An eponymous disease is a disease named after a person: usually the physician who first identified the disease or, less commonly, a patient who suffered from the disease.

Naming systems

Eponyms are a longstanding tradition in Western science and medicine. Being awarded an eponym is regarded as an honor: "Eponymity, not anonymity, is the standard."[1] The scientific and medical communities regard it as bad form to attempt to eponymise oneself.[2]

To discuss something, it must have a name. At a time when medicine lacked tools to investigate underlying causes of many syndromes, the eponym was a convenient way to label a disease.

Some diseases are named after the person who first described the condition—typically by publishing an article in a respected medical journal. Rarely, an eponymous disease is named after a patient, examples being Lou Gehrig's disease, Hartnup disease, and Mortimer's disease. In at least one instance, Machado–Joseph disease, the eponym is derived from the surnames of the patriarchs of two families in which the condition was initially described. Instances also exist of eponyms named for fictional persons who displayed characteristics attributed to the syndrome. These include Miss Havisham syndrome, named for a Dickens character, and Plyushkin syndrome, named for a Gogol's character; these also happen to be alternative names for the same symptom complex. At least two eponymous disorders follow none of the foregoing conventions: Fregoli delusion, and Munchausen syndrome.

Related disease naming structures reference place names (Bornholm disease, Lyme disease, Ebola virus disease), and societies, as in the case of Legionnaires' disease. These, however, are not eponyms.


In 1975, the Canadian National Institutes of Health held a conference that discussed the naming of diseases and conditions. This was reported in The Lancet where the conclusion was summarized as: "The possessive use of an eponym should be discontinued, since the author neither had nor owned the disorder."[3] Medical journals, dictionaries and style guides remain divided on this issue. European journals tend towards continued use of the possessive, while US journals are largely discontinuing its use.[4] The trend in possessive usage varies between countries, journals, and diseases. [5]


Associating an individual's name with a disease merely based on describing it confers only an eponymic; the individual must have been either affected by the disease or have died from it for the name to be termed autoeponymic. Thus, an 'autoeponym' is a medical condition named in honor of an individual who was affected by or died as a result of the disease which he had described or identified or, in the case of a non-physician patient, from which the patient suffered.[6] Autoeponyms may use either the possessive or non-possessive form, with the preference to use the non-possessive form for a disease named for a physician who first described it and the possessive form in cases of a disease named for a patient (commonly, but not always, the first patient) who had the particular disease.[7] Autoeponyms listed in this entry conform to those conventions with regard to the possessive and non-possessive forms.

Examples of autoeponyms include:

  • Rickettsiosis: in 1906, Howard Taylor Ricketts discovered that the bacteria that causes Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is carried by a tick. He injected himself with the pathogen. Ricketts died in 1909 while investigating typhus (Rickettsia prowazakii) in Mexico City.[8]
  • Thomsen's disease: an autosomal dominant myotonia of voluntary muscles described by Julius Thomsen about himself and his family members.[9]
  • Carrion disease: Peruvian medical student Daniel Alcides Carrión inoculated himself with Bartonella bacilliformis in 1885 to prove the link to this disease, characterized by "Oroya fever." He is now regarded as a national hero.[10]
  • Lou Gehrig's disease: although Lou Gehrig, a New York Yankees player of the early twentieth century, was not the first patient described as having amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the association of such a prominent individual with the then little-known disease resulted in his name becoming eponymous with it.

Eponyms and trends

The current trend is away from the use of eponymous disease names, towards a medical name that describes either the cause or primary signsScript error: No such module "Category handler".Script error: No such module "Category handler".[citation needed]. Reasons for this include:

  • The name confers history;
  • A national or ethnic bias attaches to the eponym chosen;
  • Credit should have gone to a different person;
  • An eponym may be applied to different diseases, which creates confusion;
  • Several eponyms refer to one disease (e.g., amyloid degeneration is variously called Abercrombie disease, Abercrombie syndrome, and Virchow syndrome);
  • An eponym proves invalid (e.g., Laurence–Moon–Bardet–Biedl syndrome, in which findings in the patients of Laurence and Moon were later found to differ from those of Bardet and Biedl).
  • An eponym honors an individual who has been otherwise discredited (e.g., Wegener's Granulomatosis is named for Friedrich Wegener, a Nazi physician). It was renamed to granulomatosis with polyangiitis when Dr. Wegener's Nazi ties were discovered.
  • Its referent varies by country (e.g., sideropenic dysphagia is Plummer–Vinson syndrome in the US and Australia, Patterson–Kelly syndrome in the UK, and Waldenstrom–Kjellberg syndrome in Scandinavia).

Arguments for maintaining eponyms include:Script error: No such module "Category handler".Script error: No such module "Category handler".[citation needed]

  • The eponym may be shorter and more memorable than the medical name (the latter requiring abbreviation to its acronym);
  • 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 respect a person who may otherwise be forgotten.

The usage of the genitive apostrophe in disease eponyms has followed different trends. While it remains common for some diseases, it has dwindled for others.[11]

Alphabetical list

Explanation of listing sequence

As described above, multiple eponyms can exist for the same disease. In these instances, each is listed individually (except as described below), followed by an in-line parenthetical entry beginning 'aka' ('also known as') that lists all alternative eponyms. This facilitates use of the list for a reader who knows a particular disease only by one of its eponyms, without the necessity of cross-linking entries.

It sometimes happens that an alternative eponym, if listed separately, would immediately alphabetically precede or succeed another entry for the same disease. There are three conventions that have been applied to these instances:

1. No separate entry appears for the alternative eponym. It is listed only in the parenthetical 'aka' entry (e.g., Aarskog syndrome appears only as a parenthetical entry to Aarskog–Scott syndrome).
2. If eponymous names subsequent to the first are sequenced differently or the eponym is differentiated by another term (e.g., disease versus syndrome), alphabetical sequence dictates which is the linked version versus which is listed as the alternative (e.g., Abderhalden–Kaufmann–Lignac is the linked entry and Abderhalden–Lignac–Kaufmann is the parenthetical alternative entry).
3. If the number of names included in two or more eponyms varies, the linked entry is the one which includes the most individual surnames (e.g., Alpers–Huttenlocher syndrome is the linked entry for the disease also known as Alpers disease or Alpers syndrome).



























See also


  1. Merton R K, 1973
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  6. Script error: No such module "Citation/CS1".
  7. synd/3112 at Who Named It?
  8. Script error: No such module "Citation/CS1".

Portions of content adapted from Wikipedias article on List of eponymously named diseases licensed under GNU FDL.

External links

  • Whonamedit?, a site dedicated to medical eponyms and their namesakes.
  • MedEponyms, a dictionary of pathology eponyms.

Template:Medical terms to describe disease conditions

es:Anexo:Enfermedades epónimas pl:Eponimy medyczne

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