Medical Language

Commonly misspelled names

Alzheimer’s disease

Not Alzheimer disease. Use Alzheimer’s disease on the first reference; just Alzheimer’s (without the word “disease”) is acceptable for subsequent references on the same webpage or document. The abbreviation AD is acceptable on second reference if it is used along with the first reference: Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) was once commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the famous ballplayer in the 1940s who retired because of the disease. NIH doesn’t refer to Lou Gehrig’s disease in our web content. You may write “also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease” when writing resources intended for the public, e.g., MedlinePlus. (Some people’s only point of reference to the disease may be through the name Lou Gehrig's).

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

Not Creutzfeldt-Jakob’s disease.

Crohn’s disease

Not Crohns disease, Crohn disease, nor Crohns’ disease.

Down syndrome

Not Down’s syndrome nor Down’s.

Down syndrome is a condition or a syndrome, not a disease. People have Down syndrome; they do not suffer from it and are not afflicted by it. Use person-first language: a child with Down syndrome.

Graves’ disease

Not Grave’s disease.

Hashimoto’s disease

Not Hashimotos disease or Hashimoto disease.

Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Not Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Monkeypox

Not monkey pox or monkey-pox. Monkeypox is not capitalized unless it begins a sentence.

Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome

Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, commonly known by its abbreviation ME/CFS, is often misspelled, and sometimes referred to as “chronic fatigue,” which is a symptom but not the name of the disease. Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome is not capitalized unless it begins a sentence.

Parkinson’s disease

Not Parkinson disease. Use Parkinson’s disease on the first reference and then the acronym PD for subsequent references. Parkinson’s without the word “disease” is rarely used in NIH writing but is acceptable.

COVID-19

COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus

AP Stylebook: coronaviruses
COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Use COVID-19 when referring to the disease and SARS-CoV-2, or SARS-CoV-2 virus, when referring to the virus itself. Do not use coronavirus to refer to the disease or as a synonym for COVID-19. Always capitalize all the letters in COVID-19 (not Covid-19 or covid-19).

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses in humans. However, three coronaviruses have caused more serious and fatal disease in people: SARS-associated coronavirus, MERS-CoV virus, and SARS-CoV-2.

Vaccine hesitancy vs. anti-vax

AP Stylebook: anti-vaxxer
Use vaccine hesitant, vaccine hesitancy, or someone opposed to vaccines instead of anti-vaxxers, anti-vax, or anti-vaccine. If necessary in a direct quote, explain it.

Diabetes

Blood glucose vs. blood sugar

Use blood glucose instead of blood sugar. On first mention of blood glucose, you may include “also called blood sugar,” offset by commas.

Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia, also called low blood glucose, occurs when the level of glucose in your blood drops below what is healthy for you. Low blood glucose should follow hypoglycemia, set off with commas. Use hypoglycemia on first reference.

Avoid describing blood glucose as too low or normal. Preferred terms are low for you or below what is healthy for you.

Example: Your number might be different, so check with your doctor or health care team to find out what blood glucose level is low for you.

Insulin

Use take insulin instead of use insulin when writing about a person administering or injecting insulin into the body.

Prediabetes

Always list diabetes first when listing diabetes and prediabetes.

Type 1, type 2 diabetes

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes should be lowercase unless beginning a sentence, per the American Diabetes Association.

This page last reviewed on September 14, 2022