In medicine, the term syndrome is the association of several clinically recognizable features, signs, symptoms, phenomena or characteristics which often occur together, so that the presence of one feature alerts the physician to the presence of the others. In recent decades the term has been used outside of medicine to refer to a combination of phenomena seen in association.
The term syndrome derives from the Greek and means literally "run together," as the features do. The term syndrome is most often used when the reason that the features occur together (pathophysiology) has not yet been discovered. A familiar syndrome name often continues to be used even after an underlying cause has been found. Many syndromes are named after the physicians credited with first reporting the association; these are "eponymous" syndromes.
Examples of eponymous syndromes
Otherwise, disease features or presumed causes, as well as references to geography, history or poetry, can lend their names to syndromes:
AIDS, a case study
A recent case study is Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), so named as most syndromal immune deficiencies are either inborn or secondary to hematological disease. AIDS was originally termed "Gay Related Immune Disease" (or GRID), a name which was revised as the disease turned out to equally affect heterosexuals. Only several years after the recognition of AIDS, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) was described, explaining the hitherto unexplained "syndrome".
SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) is an even more recent example of a syndrome that was later explained with the identification of a causative coronavirus.
Syndrome is now commonly used in the public discourse to reflect any familiar course of events in politics or sociology.
In coding theory, a syndrome of an error-correcting code is the value formed by the comparison of the re-computed check bits against the stored check bits of the code that identifies the bit positions(s) containing the errors.
Syndrome is also the name of an animated supervillain.
Last updated: 10-17-2005 17:04:57