Terms to watch out for:
autopsy, necropsy, postmortem
communicable, contagious, infectious, infective, noncommunicable, transmissible
condition, disease, disorder, illness, syndrome
immunise, immunity, inoculate, vaccinate
See all terms
Formal names of human diseases often use Latin or Greek binomial terms. Basic binomial disease names consist of the name of the type of disease (eg ‘paralysis’, ‘diabetes’ [passing water]) and at least 1 other descriptor (eg ‘agitans’, ‘mellitus’). Do not italicise or capitalise any of these terms:
paralysis agitans [Parkinson disease] diabetes mellitus
Generally, the name of choice for any disease in any language should be the common term. For international communication, the most commonly used English term is preferred. Publications should include any synonyms in the list of keywords or glossary.
Use British spellings and lower case for common names of diseases, even if the disease name is usually abbreviated to an acronym:
chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) type 2 diabetes
Exceptions are proper nouns and some (but not all) letters denoting type or subtype:
Japanese encephalitis Parkinson disease hepatitis B Haemophilus influenzae type b disease
Reminder. Just because the abbreviation of a term is made up of capitals, it does not mean that the term has initial capitals when it is spelt out.
Use an initial capital but not a possessive s for diseases named after a person (eponymic terms):
Alzheimer disease not Alzheimer’s disease
Crohn disease not Crohn’s disease
Down syndrome not Down’s syndrome
For noun and derivative forms of eponymic disease names, do not use a capital letter:
Parkinson disease but parkinsonism
See Terms derived from proper nouns for further information on eponymic terms.
Caution! In ICD-10, disease names are written in sentence case (ie initial capital for the first word). When these names are set within a sentence, use all lower case, apart from proper nouns.
When writing about people with diseases or conditions, avoid defining the person by their disease:
person with diabetes not diabetic
person with epilepsy not epileptic
See also Using inclusive and respectful language.