Letter to the Editor
“Idiopathic” Instead of “Essential” or “Primary” Hypertension?
To the Editor:
Until very recently,1,2 there has been a debate among specialists whether the term “essential” or “primary” hypertension should be used. It might add to this controversy to mention the use of the term “idiopathic hypertension” among Greek physicians, with the understanding that it practically means “hypertension of unknown etiology.”
In fact, “idiopathic” is a Greek word composed of “íδιον” (own, specific) and “πάθοσ” (disease), meaning a disease entity of its own, distinguished from all others. Idiopathic does not imply any degree of severity of the disease.
The fact that the term “idiopathic” is not used in the modern medical terminology probably reflects the absence of the word “idiopathic” in the classical English dictionaries of the first half of the 20th century. However, in French dictionaries, the term “idiopathique” is explained correctly as “having an existence of its own, and not being a consequence of other diseases.”
We suggest that the term “idiopathic hypertension” could be used instead of “essential” to designate the specific multigenic entity caused by ≥1 pathophysiological mechanisms except those involving monogenic diseases resulting from specific organ dysfunction. If this is not feasible, the term primary hypertension might be the next best alternative.