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Difference Between Syndrome and Disease

nursingSyndrome vs Disease

The terms disease and syndrome can puzzle you every time you go to a doctor. Are the two terms different? If so, what are the differences between the two words?

The basic difference between the two terms relates to the symptoms that they produce. A disease can be defined as a health condition that has a clearly defined reason behind it. A syndrome (from the Greek word meaning ‘run together’) however, may produce a number of symptoms without an identifiable cause. They may suggest the possibility of an underlying disease or even the chances of developing a disease.
Let us take up an example. A metabolic syndrome is not a disease. It may indicate an underlying disease like that of type 2 diabetes or a heart disease.
Even polycystic syndrome is not a disease. Rather, it is an indication of a number of other factors that may be malfunctioning in the body-e.g., a hormone disorder or obesity.
A syndrome refers to a group of symptoms, while a disease refers to an established condition.

A disease a condition that is marked by 3 basic factors.
1.An established biological cause behind the condition
2.A defined group of symptoms
3.Consistent change in anatomy due to the condition
A syndrome does not have any of these features. Even the symptoms that are present are usually not consistent, and definitely not traceable to a single cause.

The reason behind most syndromes has still not been identified. For this reason, they are a type of medical mystery. In contrast, the reason or cause behind a disease can be identified very easily.

The tricky part is, some diseases may cause a particular syndrome, so you should be very careful about your doctor’s diagnosis. Though all syndromes are not indicative of a disease, some diseases like mental ones may manifest themselves in the form of some syndromes.

Since the reason behind most syndromes cannot be found, they are tackled in a definite manner. The doctor may prescribe you temporary medications that help control your symptoms. For instance, the reasons behind a chronic fatigue syndrome have never been established. The doctor may tackle the symptoms by ‘assuming’ that they are being caused by certain factors. You may be treated likewise. This would never happen in the case of a disease. In a disease, there is a definite diagnostic procedure and treatment that accompanies every condition.

1. The symptom caused by a syndrome does not have an established reason behind it. In case of a disease, the cause is identified.
2. For the reason above, treatment of a syndrome is mainly symptomatic. In case of a disease, the underlying cause is treated.
3. A disease causes changes in the anatomy; a syndrome may not produce any such changes.

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  1. I would like to use some information as a reference, I will site the references.

  2. This is why I question that AIDS is caused by HIV. AIDS is a syndrome. They say that there are 17 different diseases; in a syndrome there is no single underlying cause.Tom

  3. Can’t help but think that’s wrong.
    Downs syndrome, they know what causes that. Isn’t polycystic caused by many cysts in the ovaries that has a knock on effect on hormones weight ect.
    Seem to me that a syndrome hasn’t been classified as a disease as the pharmaceutical companies haven’t got a pill for it yet.

  4. I have AOS, Aneurysms Osteoarthritis Syndrome, which some recognize as Type 3 Loeys Dietz Syndrome. It is a connective tissue disorder, similar to Marfan Syndrome or Vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. These syndromes are caused by genetic defects, or a defective gene. My defective SMAD3 gene is why I have a diagnosis of AOS, or LDS3. However, they don’t know why people have this defective gene, and there is more than one defective gene, such as my SMAD3 gene, that gives you a diagnosis of a variety of types of LDS, Marfan’s, and EDS. Also, there are variants of gene defects, too. So, although many people may have EDS, what type do they have? If it is Vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, there are differences in symptoms, characteristics and how severe the syndrome is at different times in one’s life. My syndrome became more severe after 35, then again after I had ankle surgery at 45. Plus, many of our syndromes are listed in the on line rare disease archives, too. So, the answer is not just black and white. This is a very interesting and complex topic!

  5. Is cyclic vomiting syndrome a disease? I have IBS and gastritis and ulcers and so much more 🙁

  6. In the case of Down’s Syndrome, the old terminology for the condition included such descriptors as: ‘Mongolian Idiocy,’ ‘Mongolism,’ and ‘Mongoloid.’

    In the mid-19th Century, Dr. John Down was a leading authority on the condition. One hundred years later, it was decided to change the inappropriate terminology to something better. Even though the cause of the condition was known [trisomy, or 3 copies instead of 2, of the 21st chromosome], it was decided that Dr. Down should be recognized for his work, so it was renamed ‘Down’s Syndrome.’ There is currently a push to rename the condition ‘Trisomy 21 Anomaly.’


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