List of eponymously named diseases

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.

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."[2] 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.[3]


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.[4] Autoeponyms use the possessive or non-possessive form, with the preference to use the non-possessive form for diseases, structures, or procedures named for the physician who first described it (e.g., Alzheimer disease), and the possessive form in cases named for the first patient described (e.g., Lou Gehrig's disease).[5] Therefore, both patients and doctors have been the subject of autoeponyms.

Some examples of autoeponyms include:

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 signs. Reasons for this include:

Arguments for maintaining eponyms include:

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
  2. "Classification and nomenclature of morphological defects". Lancet. 1 (7905): 513. March 1975. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(75)92847-0. PMID 46972.
  3. Jana N, Barik S, Arora N (2009-03-09). "Current use of medical eponyms—a need for global uniformity in scientific publications". BMC Med Res Methodol. 9: 18. doi:10.1186/1471-2288-9-18. PMC 2667526Freely accessible. PMID 19272131.
  4. Segen, J. C. (1992). The dictionary of modern medicine. Taylor & Francis.
  5. "For eponyms, AAMT advocates dropping the possessive form". MTStars. Retrieved 23 July 2011.
  6. Weiss, Emilio, Strauss, Bernard S. (1991). "The Life and Career of Howard Taylor Ricketts". Reviews of Infectious Diseases. 13. The University of Chicago. pp. 1241–2.
  7. Thomsen, Julius (1875). "Tonische Krämpfe in willkürlich beweglichen Muskeln in Folge von ererbter physischer Disposition (Ataxia muscularis?)". Archiv für Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten. Berlin. 6: 702–718. doi:10.1007/bf02164912.
  8. synd/3112 at Who Named It?

External links

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