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August 1990

'Minor' Illness Symptoms

Arch Intern Med. 1990;150(8):1586-1587. doi:10.1001/archinte.1990.00040031586003

Lethal diseases command our attention. So do the major disabling chronic illnesses. Heart disease, cancer, stroke, the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, arthritis, diabetes, schizophrenia—these and other "major" diseases are the object of our fears. A large fraction of our annual expenditures for patient care and research are used to deal with these illnesses.

Any clinician knows, however, that many of the problems that patients bring to the doctor's office are "minor" illnesses. Data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, Bethesda, Md, make the following point: in one year, there were 62 million office visits for acute respiratory tract infection symptoms, back pain, and headache, in contrast with 17 million visits for chronic ischemic heart disease and diabetes.1

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