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What Is a Geriatric Syndrome Anyway

Jonathan M. Flacker, MD, Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, USA.

The term "Geriatric Syndrome" is commonly used but ill defined. In publications, authors claim that all sorts of conditions are a "Geriatric Syndrome", including, but not limited to, delirium,1 dementia,1 depression,2 dizziness,3 emesis,4 falls,1 gait disorders,1 hearing loss,1 insomnia,1 urinary incontinence,1 language disorders,1 functional dependence,5 lower extremity problems,6 oral and dental problems,6 malnutrition,1 osteoporosis,1 pain,1 pressure ulcers,1 silent angina pectoris,7 sexual dysfunction,6 syncope6 and vision loss.1 Can this be possible? Can any condition commonly encountered in older adults be a "Geriatric Syndrome"?

The Origins of "Syndrome"
The word syndrome seems to have appeared in an English translation of Galen in about 1541.8 Derived from the Greek roots "syn" (meaning "together") and "dromos" (meaning "a running"), this term generally refers to "a concurrence or running together of constant patterns of abnormal signs or symptoms".