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pathophysiology of the immune disorders

What Does Pathophysiology Entail?

Pathophysiology involves a series of steps that help lead healthcare professionals to test, diagnose and treat an illness. “Pathophysiology for Nurses at a Glance” on the Wiley Online Library presents the primary elements of this important nursing discipline in a way that clarifies the pathophysiological process:

  • Disease and aetiology: The term aetiology refers to the study of the cause of disease, and includes genetic, congenital and acquired diseases. Genetic disease is caused by either a genetic mutation passed from one generation to the next or a single mutation in a DNA sequence (e.g., Huntington’s disease). In congenital disease, the genetic information is unmutated, but intrauterine issues during gestation cause abnormalities to form (e.g., cystic fibrosis). Acquired disease is contracted after birth by contact with another person or environmental factors (e.g., tuberculosis).
  • Signs and symptoms: While generally used synonymously, signs refer to objective evidence of disease, while symptoms are more subjective in nature. Blood in the stool is a sign of a serious problem, while a stomach ache is better defined as a symptom. Both signs and symptoms, however, warrant further examination to determine a cause.
  • Investigations and diagnosis: When a patient presents with signs and symptoms, healthcare professionals should investigate the causes to determine a diagnosis. Investigation can include everything from blood tests and X-rays to more invasive measures such as endoscopies. In most cases, investigation will reveal the root cause of the signs and symptoms and the disease can be officially diagnosed.
  • Treatment: Once a disease has been diagnosed, doctors and nurses can begin treatment. Some diseases can be cured outright with simple measures, such as antibiotic regimens. In other cases, doctors and nurses may only be able to treat the uncomfortable symptoms of a disease for which no known cure exists.
  • Prognosis: Finally, after a diagnosis is made and the patient’s disease has been (or continues to be) treated, healthcare professionals can issue a prognosis. Prognoses are educated predictions of a patient’s chance of recovery or survival. Some patients can expect a full recovery. Other diseases may eventually be fatal.

Pathophysiology encompasses all of these steps together, and nurses are expected to understand and study the process from the onset of symptoms, through medical testing, diagnosis and eventually prognosis. Pathophysiology also works hand in hand with evidence-based practice, where healthcare workers review and analyze current practices that may be improved by the inclusion of new research.