Apoplexy is an ancient medical word that originated in Greece — by definition, a term for internal organ bleeding. Beginning in the late 14th century, physicians often used the word to describe a loss of consciousness, followed by sudden death. Although it still appeared in the International List of Causes of Death in 1929, its use as an official diagnosis was becoming increasingly rare. Today, health professionals combine the term with the location of the bleeding, resulting in conditions such as pituitary apoplexy, ovarian apoplexy, and cerebral apoplexy.
In Ancient Greece, physicians diagnosed patients “struck down with violence,” who stopped breathing and had no pulse, as having apoplexy. They believed the gods had literally struck the individual down. Hippocrates was the first to record the term, which he documented in several areas throughout his work. He describes the condition as head pain, a loss of speech, and incapacitation followed by death in what was an otherwise healthy person.
Today, doctors connect these symptoms with a cerebrovascular accident or a stroke; “plex” is the Greek term for a stroke. Over time, as the field of medicine evolved, so did the terms used to describe specific conditions. Medical science divided the term apoplexy into categories based on the cause.
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