What Does ‘Syndrome’ Mean?

Each week, very well explains a term from health, medicine, science, or technology.


How to say it: syndromes (sin-dro-mm)

What it means: The signs and symptoms that characterize a condition.

Where it comes from: From Greek, syndrome, “combination”

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Where you might see or hear it: There are some diseases or conditions that have “syndrome” in the name (such as Down syndrome), but the word itself refers to the signs and symptoms that a person with a specific condition usually has.

For example, a child with Down syndrome typically has certain physical features and developmental delays that are common in most people who have the condition.

When you might want to use it: You might use the word syndrome when you are talking about the formal name of a condition that you have—for example, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The word syndrome is also used to talk about a group of signs and symptoms that, when they happen together, are typical of a specific condition or disease.

For example, if you have high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and are overweight, your provider might tell you that you have metabolic syndrome. Having these conditions at the same time increases your risk of developing heart disease.

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