Common symptoms account for substantial patient disability and health services utilization. To determine the prevalence of
15 symptoms and the adequacy of therapy, 500 medical outpatients were surveyed. The 410 respondents indicated which
symptoms were "major problems" and what therapy, if any, had
been helpful. Each symptom was present in at least 10% of
patients, with the most prevalent symptoms being fatigue (33%)
and back pain (32%). Patients were clustered into three groups:
(1) 140 were asymptomatic or monosymptomatic, (2) 135 reported 2 or 3 symptoms, and (3) 135 had 4 or more symptoms. The
majority (77%) of these symptoms had been previously reported
to a physician. Whereas 80% of patients with pain syndromes and
gastrointestinal complaints had obtained some therapeutic benefit, only 39% of the individuals with fatigue, dyspnea, dizziness,
insomnia, sexual dysfunction, depression, and anxiety reported
any relief. Better therapy is needed for these common outpatient
(Arch Intern Med. 1990;150:1685-1689)
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