New Disease Discovery Could Be the Answer to “Mystery Illness”

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Avoiding Illness in the WorkplaceSometimes you go to the doctor feeling lousy, hopeful that you’ll get some help. But when that help doesn’t materialize and you find yourself still dealing with nagging symptoms weeks or even months later, you may be suffering from a new type of health condition. Doctors call it “bodily distress syndrome,” and giving it a name seems to be helping people to recover.

Researchers at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark had noted that doctors were finding that patients were showing up at clinics with a set of physical complaints that couldn’t be pinned on any verifiable, conventionally defined disease. The Danish doctors knew, however, that the symptoms were nonetheless real. It was at this point that they created a new diagnosis that they introduced as bodily distress syndrome.

The research team at Aarhus set out to test if patients diagnosed with one of six different syndromes characterized by specific physical symptoms were captured by the new diagnosis. For the study, 978 patients were recruited, and they came from the neurological, medical, and primary care departments of the Aarhus hospital.

It turns out that bodily distress syndrome included all patients with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and hyperventilation syndrome. Also included under the new diagnosis of bodily distress syndrome were 98% of patients with irritable bowel syndrome and at least 90% of patients with non-cardiac chest pain.

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The researchers were able to determine that bodily distress syndrome seems to cover most of the “functional” syndromes presenting with physical symptoms that could not be explained by well-recognized medical illnesses. This, they say, offers a new common ground for the understanding of symptoms, and it should help to facilitate the delivery of evidence-based care.

In other words, just because your symptoms don’t fit under any recognized medical disease, doesn’t mean those symptoms are psychosomatic or something that your body has “made up.” They are real, they are triggered by something, and they should be cared for and treated just like any other condition.

Sources for Today’s Articles:
New Disease Discovery Could Be the Answer to “Mystery Illness”
Fink, P., et al., “One single diagnosis, bodily distress syndrome, succeeded to capture 10 diagnostic categories of functional somatic syndromes and somatoform disorders,” J. Psychosom. Res. May 2010; 68(5): 415–26.