- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Acosta's syndrome

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Collective term for physical and mental symptoms that may occur in altitudes higher than 3 000 m. It is an acute form of mountain sickness which occurs shortly (4-6 hours) after reaching high altitudes. Variability in intensity of symptoms, according to altitude. Symptoms include anoxia from diminished oxygen intake, difficulty in breathing coordination, pulsatile headache, nausea, vomiting, anorexia, insomnia, irritability. muscle tonus defect, hyperventilation, colour vision and light adaptation disorders, and impaired mental capacity and judgment. In some cases, symptoms may progress to confusion, coma, and death. Signs of pulmonary oedema may also develop. Minor symptoms disappear after 4 to 8 days of acclimatization. The return to lower altitude immediately improves the clinical manifestations.

"the air is so subtle and so refined that it is unsuited to human respiration, which needs air that is thicker and more temperate . . .'

Chronic mountain sickness is known as Monge's disease, named for Carlos Monge Mendrano, Peruvian physician and pathologist, 1884-1970.


  • J. de Acosta:
    Efecto estraño que hace en ciertas terras de Indios el aire, coviento que corre.
    In his: Historia natural y moral de las indias. Sevilla, Juan de Léon, 1590. Volume 3, chapter 9.
    English translation in 1604: Natural and Moral History of the Indies.
  • Saul Jarcho:
    Mountain sickness as described by Fray Joseph de Acosta, 1589.
    The American Journal of Cardiology, New York, 1958, 2 (2): 246-247.

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