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Differences between syndrome and disease

This image shows Thomas Burris, Ph.D., chair of pharmacology and physiology and Colin Flaveny, Ph.D. assistant professor of pharmacology and physiology at Saint Louis University

What are the differences between syndrome and disease?

The terms syndrome and disease can be confusing to the layman, however, mean very different things. Syndrome (Greek: syndromé = meeting) in medicine describes a morbid state characterized by a certain set of clinical signs and symptoms that may have several causes but in general not known and therefore is not a disease.

Signal is any visible or measurable manifestation of an organic change (a spot, edema , fever or a high cholesterol , for example) that can be perceived by another person without the patient’s report or communication. The symptom is a change in the perception of a sensation, which may or may not be the beginning of an illness (eg thirst, hunger, pain, loss of appetite, weakness, dizziness , dizziness , delirium , forgetfulness, hallucination ) that only the patient can perceive.

Illness (Latin: dolentia = ailment), in turn, means a disturbance of the functions of a given organ, of the psyche or of the organism as a whole, which is related to  specific causes and symptoms . Diseases differ from syndromes in which they have (1) known etiology ; (2) a specific pathophysiology ; (3) a characteristic set of signs and symptoms ; (4) consistent anatomical and / or functional changes and (5) specific treatment.

In general, the rationale for a syndrome is not known. On the other hand, the syndrome defines similar clinical manifestations of one or more diseases, regardless of their causes. Also called syndrome are certain situations in which the disease is still not well understood with all its symptoms and signs . Example: a febrile syndrome , in which there is an increase in body temperature, an increase in heart rate, tachypnea (rapid rhythm of breathing), sweating , dry mouth , etc. of undetermined cause.

In contrast, the cause behind a disease can be elucidated easily. Often, certain diseases can trigger a syndrome , which further complicates the subject, although a syndrome does not necessarily indicate the presence of a known disease. A syndrome is usually called by the name of the scientist who first described it (such as Down syndrome , for example). Sometimes given the name in reference to geography or history: syndrome of Stockholm, for example, in reference to a robbery that took place in Stockholm in August 1973. Or they are kept with their original names for historical reasons, as with the syndrome of ImmunodeficiencyAcquired (AIDS) that is still so called because the set of signs and symptoms was described before the complete nature of the disease was known. Another example is fibromyalgia that was formerly called syndrome of polymyalgia idiopathic diffuse, since the set of signs and symptoms described before knowing the etiology (cause) and the pathophysiology of the condition.

In psychology or psychiatry we prefer to talk more about disorders than about illness. Disorder means the act or effect of upsetting. A disorder is a problem that causes discomfort in someone. The term mental disorder is used in psychology and psychiatry to describe any abnormality, suffering or impairment of a psychological and / or mental order such as mood disorder, anxiety disorder, eating disorder, etc. Few mental clinical pictures present all the characteristics of a disease in the traditional sense of the term, that is, the exact knowledge of the mechanisms involved and their explicit causes.

What are the causal factors of syndromes or diseases?

The etiology of syndromes or diseases may be due to external factors, such as infections and trauma, for example, or internal, such as dysfunctions or malformations , such as autoimmune diseases .

What are the differences between the therapeutic approaches of a syndrome or a disease?

In the syndromes, there is a temporary use of drugs that aid in the control of symptoms . In the case of a disease, a standardized procedure is not established for all conditions and each of them must be treated by specific means that most of the time act on their causes. The medications most commonly used in the syndromes are analgesics , antipyretics , anti-inflammatories, etc., while in diseases, surgery, antibiotics, hormone replacement, among others are used.

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