I’m sure you’re familiar with the concepts of diseases, disorders, syndromes and conditions and have experience using these terms in your writing.
However, for some of us, describing what a disease is and how it differs from a disorder, syndrome or condition can be quite difficult.
So, what IS the difference?
One of the original definitions of ‘what is a disease?’ was published in the BMJ in 1900 and defines disease as:
“resulting from a pathophysiological response to external or internal factors.”
Today, doctors treat and diagnose a disease based on abnormality in systemic function (eg cardiovascular disease) that causes both physical and emotional signs and symptoms to prevent pain, dysfunction, distress, social problems or death.
While doctors diagnose and treat a disease, a disorder describes:
“the disruption of the disease to the normal or regular functions in the body or a part of the body.”
For example, a disorder resulting from cardiovascular disease is an arrhythmia or heart failure.
Disorders can be classified into:
A syndrome refers to a disease or a disorder that has more than one identifying feature or symptom. In other words, a syndrome is:
“a collection or set of signs and symptoms that characterise a particular condition.”
Down syndrome is a well-known genetic disorder, and is characterised by having an extra copy of chromosome 21 in combination with a number of distinctive physical features at birth.
Sometimes a syndrome can be caused by a number of diseases or can be a medical condition, which is defined as:
“an abnormal state of health that interferes with the usual activities or feeling of wellbeing.”
For example chronic fatigue syndrome is a neurological condition, diagnosed from a collection of symptoms in addition to the main symptom of post-exertional malaise.
The AMA Style Insider provided a comprehensive overview of the origins of disease, condition and disorder which you can read here.
- A disease is a pathophysiological response to internal or external factors.
- A disorder is a disruption to regular bodily structure and function.
- A syndrome is a collection of signs and symptoms associated with a specific health-related cause.
- A condition is an abnormal state of health that interferes with normal or regular feelings of wellbeing.
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Over to you
Do you have trouble articulating the differences between diseases, disorders, syndromes and conditions? Share your comments below.