Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Signs and portents

Medicine is all about two things, symptoms (things the punters tell you about) and signs (things you can identify by inspection and examination). A subtle blending of the two is likely to lead to a diagnosis, or at least a differential diagnosis (like those lists of improbable ailments Dr House loves scrawling up on his ever present whiteboard). This gives you a choice of tests to do to sift out the wheat from the chaff and get on with the business of making people better.

Some of the cooler signs have eponyms, either of the first describer, of the first poor soul to be afflicted and described in the literature. In med-school we all learn great long lists of them, and then later, in professional life, we occasionally get to trot them out to our colleagues to show that we did manage to attend the odd lecture and absorb a little medical lore in between the bouts of carousing for which generations of doc’s-to-be are justly famous, or should that be notorious?

I’ve talked before about having my own stab at medical immortality dashed when a condition new and mysterious to Dr Nieghbour and I turned out to have a catchy though not eponymous descriptor after all. This time I reckon I’m onto a winner though, but I fear it won’t bear my name.

The thing is, it appears I was visited this week by a Dark Lord of the Sith. At least that’s what his mum contends and who am I to argue. The revelation came in the midst of  the said D L o t S’s asthma review. We ask routinely about symptoms and how they are managed, and in so doing D L’s mum let on that she could tell when his asthma was flaring and she needed to up his treatment when he started turning into Darth Vader. So there you have it, I’m the first (to my knowledge at any rate) to describe the Vader Sign, and I therefore claim it as my rightful place in the annals of the history of medicine.

Oh and whilst we’re at it I have another, though I think that might be more widely recognized—“Ice Cream Cough”. It’s surprising how many asthmatic kids cough after eating ice cream. I imagine it’s all down to inhaling colder air as they scoff their Ninety Nines.

Anyhow, returning to the Vader Sign, it puts me in mind of a picture I saw a while back in a commercial art gallery in Brum. Which gives me a chance to link to them and it for your edification. And who knows, if my new Sign catches on perhaps I’ll be able to track down a copy with the attendant royalties.