10 Diseases Named After People


Munchausen Syndrome

Sir Richard Asher
Sir Richard Asher was the person who coined the term Munchausen syndrome. He was also the father of Jane Asher, Paul McCartney's girlfriend, during the Beatles' heyday. Wikimedia Commons

Unlike the previous conditions, Munchausen syndrome isn't named after the physician who first described it, or a famous person who suffered from it. Instead, the name comes from one Baron Karl Friederich von Munchausen, an 18th-century German military man who was famous (or infamous) for his rather tall tales. The condition was first referred to as "Munchausen syndrome" in a 1951 article in the British medical Journal "The Lancet," written by English physician Richard Asher, though the syndrome was first discovered by French physician Henry Miege in 1893. Miege was a student of our old friend Jean-Martin Charcot and wrote his thesis on patients with the condition. However it was Asher's article that brought Munchausen's to national attention and prompted other doctors to respond that they too had seen patients with this illness [sources: Ford-Martin, MedicineNet].

Munchausen syndrome and its variation, Munchausen by proxy (MSBP), are both rare, but chilling, psychiatric disorders. People with Munchausen syndrome intentionally injure themselves or fake symptoms of an illness so that they will receive medical care or be hospitalized. MSBP is worse because the individual — usually a mother — purposely injures her own child or someone in her care, or exaggerates an illness, so that the person will receive medical attention or be hospitalized. People with MSBP have poisoned or suffocated their own children, or placed bacteria in their open wounds [source: Ford-Martin].

People with Munchausen syndrome appear to have a need for attention, suffering and dependency. Perhaps not surprisingly, Munchausen patients are often well-versed in medicine and medical conditions. Some are even in the profession. There isn't a treatment, though psychotherapy has helped some people [source: Ford-Martin].

Author's Note: 10 Diseases Named After People:

I'm one of the 28 million Americans with Raynaud's Syndrome. I fit all the criteria: I'm a woman. I live in a cold climate. My mother and one sister also have it. The disease is worst in my fingers, although it also strikes my toes. I've learned to stash chemical hand warmers in the pockets of every coat, in my purse, in our cars, etc.

When I'm having an attack, blowing on my fingers or sitting on them doesn't help. Neither does rubbing them together. One of the only ways I know to warm them back up is to place them in hot water. This past winter, I discovered that if I turn the heat up in the car to the highest setting (80-some degrees), then set the fan on high and stick my fingers into the vents as far as I can, that helps the blood flow return, too. Probably the worst place to go is the grocery store. In the summer, if I'm wearing sandals, the air conditioning causes an attack in my toes. In the winter, even though I keep my gloves on as I shop, I always get an attack from touching the metal handle of the shopping cart, which is cold from being outside. While this disease is annoying and can be quite painful at times, I'd rather have Raynaud's than any other disease on this list!

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