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List of eponymously named diseases

An eponymous disease is a disease named after a person; usually either a patient suffering from, or the physician first identifying 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.[citation needed]

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. There are at least two eponymous disorders which follow neither of these 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 the possessive, while US journals are largely discontinuing its use.[3]


An autoeponym is a medical condition named in the honor of the individual who described it or died from the disease [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:

  • Huntington's disease: Dr George Huntington diagnosed himself and his father and grandfather with this autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disease.[6]
  • Jones fracture: Dr Robert Jones described this break in his foot behind the fifth toe in 1902, broken while dancing.[7]
  • The Prausnitz–Küstner test: In 1921, Prausnitz injected Dr. Küstner's blood into himself to show that the allergic reaction to fish Küstner suffered from had been transferred.[8]
  • Rickettsia: In 1906, Howard 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.[9]
  • Thomsen's disease: An autosomal dominant myotonia of voluntary muscles described by Julius Thomsen about himself and his family members.[10]
  • Carrion's 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.[11]
  • Trousseau's sign of malignancy: Dr Armand Trousseau described in the 1860s this clinical sign of hypercoaguable states showing as migratory thrombophlebitis. Late in life, Trousseau diagnosed himself before he died of gastric cancer.[12]
  • Pirogov embalming technique: Dr. Nikolay Pirogov himself was preserved by methods he developed and his body is still on display in a room temperature glass-lid coffin in the Ukraine.[13]

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[citation needed]. Reasons for this include:

  • The name confers no information other than historical.
  • There can be a Western bias to the choices.
  • History sometimes shows credit should have gone to a different person.
  • Different countries may have different eponyms for the same disease.
  • Several eponyms may refer to the same disease (for example, amyloid degeneration is also called Abercrombie's disease, Abercrombie's syndrome, and Virchow's syndrome).
  • The same eponym may apply to different diseases, which creates confusion.
  • A number of authors turned out to be Nazis (for example, Wegener's Granulomatosis).

Arguments for maintaining eponyms include:[citation needed]

  • The name may be shorter and more memorable 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 respect a person who may otherwise be forgotten.

Alphabetical list

Explanation of listing sequence

As described above, multiple eponyms can exist for the same disease. Cross-referencing all such alternatives within a single disease entry limits the usefulness of the list for anyone who knows a particular disease only by one of its eponyms. So, each eponym has been listed and linked separately, except those that, if listed separately, would immediately alphabetically precede or succeed another entry for the same disease. Such alternative eponyms, rather than being listed and linked separately, are denoted in an in-line parenthetical entry beginning 'aka' ('also known as').

To assure listing all individuals for whom an eponymous disease is named, the list uses the version that includes the most individual surnames as the linked entry. For an example below, see Aarskog-Scott syndrome, where the alternative (aka) version is the shorter 'Aarskog syndrome'.

Instances where an alternative eponym sequences the same eponymous names differently(e.g., 'Abderhalden–Kaufmann–Lignac', aka Abderhalden–Lignac–Kaufmann) or include other terms (e.g., disease versus syndrome), alphabetical sequence dictates which version is linked versus which is listed as the alternative—unless one version is more common.



























See also


  1. ^ Merton R K, 1973
  2. ^ "Classification and nomenclature of morphological defects". Lancet 1 (7905): 513. March 1975. PMID 46972. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(75)92847-0. 
  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. PMC 2667526. PMID 19272131. doi:10.1186/1471-2288-9-18. 
  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. ^ Huntington, George (1872). "On Chorea". Medical and Surgical Reporter of Philadelphia (The Hague: Nijhoff) 26 (15): 317–321. ISBN 90-6186-011-3. 
  7. ^ Jones, Robert (1902). "I. Fracture of the Base of the Fifth Metatarsal Bone by Indirect Violence". Annals of Surgery 35 (6): 697–700. PMC 1425723. PMID 17861128. 
  8. ^ Prausnitz C, Küstner H (1921). "Studien über die Ueberempfindlichkeit". Zentralbl Bakteriol 86: 160–169. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ synd/3112 at Who Named It?
  12. ^ Jean Greenwell (1991). "Doctor Georges Phillipe Trousseau, Royal Physician". Hawaiian Journal of History 25 (Hawaii Historical Society). pp. 121–145. hdl:10524/329. 
  13. ^ Voloshin I, Bernini PM (1998). "Nickolay Ivanovich Pirogoff: Innovative Scientist and Clinician". Spine 23 (19): 2143–6. ISSN 0362-2436. PMID 9794062. doi:10.1097/00007632-199810010-00022. 

External links

  • Whonamedit?, a site dedicated to medical eponyms and their namesakes.
  • MedEponyms, a dictionary of pathology eponyms.
es:Anexo:Enfermedades epónimas

pl:Eponimy medyczne