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Terminology Tuesday: Idiopathic

We’ll start this new series on terminology off with an easy term to define – idiopathic.

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis used to be known (and is still often referred to) as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. However, this led to many people simply asserting that JA was a childhood version of RA, with basically the same symptoms, complications, and issues.

This isn’t true.

Renaming JRA as JIA both removes the stigma associated with ‘rheumatoid’ and helps to label the disease as one with an unknown origin.

Simply put, idiopathic means that no one knows what causes it.

I never thought to look up the meaning of idiopathic until one day while watching House, MD, when I heard this lovely conversation:

Dr. Allison Cameron: [giving differential diagnosis] Idiopathic T-cell deficiency?
Dr. Gregory House: “Idiopathic”, from the Latin, meaning we’re idiots ’cause we can’t figure out what’s causing it.

The next time someone asks you what ‘idiopathic’ means, just whip out that House quote. It’s the perfect definition.

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1 Comment

  1. I HATE HATE HATE the word idiopathic. When I was going from doctor to doctor about my AVN they were always like oh it's just idiopathic, it just happens, can't prevent it… And I'm like, ummmm no. It's not idiopathic. Bone doesn't just DIE!! There HAS to be a reason. I respect the doctors who when they say idiopathic they say they don't know the cause YET, but I laugh when doctors tell me its idiopathic and there isn't a reason it happens. Cause and effect – something hassssss to cause it. And you know what, I have such faith that before we leave this earth that we will know what causes RA and stills and psa. With advocates like us out there pushing to get answers… We'll make it happen!!

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