What is the Difference Between Disease and Disorder?

When a healthcare provider suspects you have an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you may hear them speak about your symptoms and diagnosis in various terms such as disease, disorder, syndrome, and condition. While these terms may seem interchangeable, they all refer to specific states of health.

Symptom, syndrome, disorder, disease are all terms used as a hierarchy to classify how our health is affected.

Difference between Disease and disorder.

First, to know about what is disease and disorder to know before difference between Disease and disorder.

What Is a Disease? 

A disease is a pathological process that healthcare providers are able to see, touch, and measure. Diseases have particular signs and symptoms. When diagnosing autoimmune diseases, healthcare providers will look for specific symptoms and clinical findings.

For example, rheumatoid arthritis mostly affects the joints, causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function. The disease can also cause fatigue, fevers, and loss of appetite.

To determine if your symptoms are caused by rheumatoid arthritis your healthcare provider will take a full history, complete an exam, and may order other tests such as X-rays and blood tests.

What Is a Disorder?

A disorder is characterized by functional impairment and a disruption to the body’s normal function and structure. Rheumatoid arthritis is categorized as an autoimmune disorder.

Autoimmune disorders are a group of diseases noted by the fact that they cause the immune system to attack the body itself instead of foreign objects entering the body such as viruses or bacteria. In the case of RA, the immune system attacks the joints.

Disease vs. Disorder

While these two terms are often used interchangeably by healthcare providers, there are subtle differences. A disease is distinct and measurable.

A disorder might indicate that a specific disease is possible but there is not enough clinical evidence for diagnosis. It may be clear you have an autoimmune disorder of some sort, but it may take time to receive a specific diagnosis like RA.

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