A syndrome is a collection of signs, symptoms, and other indications which, taken together, characterize a particular disease or abnormal medical condition. Medical workers place a heavy reliance on the collection of such indicators in the diagnosis of health problems and disorders.
The usual approach is to question patients about the nature of their complaints and then to conduct examinations and tests suggested by these reports. The collection of data resulting from the verbal report and clinical examination may then fall into a pattern—a syndrome—that makes it possible for the physician to predict the disorder responsible for the patient's problems. That diagnosis, in turn, may lead to a course of therapy designed to deal with the problem.
As an example, a patient may complain to a physician of headaches, visual problems, and difficulty in breathing when lying down. Clinical examination may then indicate a dilation of veins in the upper part of the chest and neck with collection of fluid in the region around the eyes. An experienced physician may recognize this collection of symptoms as an indication of superior vena cava (SVC) syndrome, an obstruction of venous drainage.
Hundreds of syndromes are now recognized by medical authorities. Indeed, a specific dictionary (Dictionary of Medical Syndromes, by Sergio I. Magalini, J. B. Lippincott Company) has been published to summarize and describe the named syndromes.