Word of the Week: Idiopathic

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


How to say itIdiopathic (id-ee-oh-path-ick)

What it means: When the cause of a disease or condition is not known.

Where it comes from: From Greek, idiopatheia, "one's own disease or feeling."

A male person in white scrubs holding a clip board and talking to a patient. Both are wearing face masks.

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Where you might see or hear it: Sometimes, providers do not know what causes a disease or condition. When this happens, they use the term idiopathic to talk about it because the word means that the reason for the disease or condition is unknown.

When you might want to use it: If you go to your provider because you have symptoms or pain that are unexplained, they may run many tests looking for a cause. If they cannot find the reason for your symptoms, it's referred to as being idiopathic.

For example, you might explain to your loved ones that you were diagnosed with "idiopathic constipation" or "idiopathic intracranial hypertension" because while you have symptoms, your provider could not identify the cause.

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