Fever, weight loss, body pain, headache, and sweating are often referred to as constitutional symptoms. They affect the whole body, hence diagnosis merely on the basis of these symptoms is not possible.
Did You Know?
Over the counter medication are effective at treating the symptoms but fail to address the underlying cause.
Constitutional symptoms are non-specific and usually affect the entire body. As the symptoms are not localized, they are not of much help in diagnosing any particular disease. It is difficult to narrow down or pinpoint the illness by just knowing these symptoms as they do not affect a specific organ.
Although constitutional symptoms mean that the body is not functioning properly, they are very vague to determine what’s wrong with the body. The symptoms are systemic that involve the whole body, but unlike a systemic reaction, they are not life-threatening and often it is not a case of medical emergency.
Fever is the best example of a constitutional symptom as it is a systemic effect and can occur due to a wide range of medical issues. A raise in body temperature does not give any clue about the underlying illness whatsoever. Headache is another example of constitutional symptoms as the causes may vary from as simple as a lack of sleep to some really serious ones such as a brain tumor. In short, it can occur due to various medical conditions. So diagnostic tests such as MRI or CT scan may be necessary to correctly diagnose the underlying cause.
A medical condition like thyroid disorder is also known to cause constitutional symptoms as they do not aid in diagnosis. The doctor has to perform certain blood tests in order to diagnose the condition correctly. Similarly, infections, be it viral or bacterial, often cause symptoms that are observed in the whole body. Even leukemia symptoms, initially, are not specific. They are vague and similar to other common illnesses. In fact, various types of cancer, in the early stages, exhibit symptoms that are constitutional in nature.
Constitutional Symptoms List
Constitutional symptoms can be one of these (given below), meaning they can occur in isolation or in groups. It all depends on the underlying cause, but in general, the symptoms are more than one.
- Unexplained fatigue
- Weight loss or gain
- Arthralgia (joint pain)
- Myalgia (muscle pain)
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Change in bowel function
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Breathing trouble
Constitutional symptoms are probably the ones that help differentiate influenza from common cold. Influenza is often accompanied by fever and body aches, which usually is not the case with common cold.
Although constitutional symptoms fail to predict the condition, the severity of these symptoms indicate how serious the underlying cause is. For instance, a fever exceeding 105ºF is a cause of great concern and will require urgent medical attention. Also, diseases that have reached an advanced stage can also cause some severe constitutional symptoms and should be immediately brought to the notice of the concerned doctor.
In general, constitutional symptoms affect overall well-being, but are of little help diagnostically. So, if these symptoms are recurring frequently, you need to contact your health care provider and undergo the necessary tests to establish the diagnosis.