One of the main challenges faced by nursing students is writing a great pathophysiology paper. Besides understanding the theoretical principles of pathophysiology, a nurse must be able to apply the knowledge learned in the classroom into real-life practice when determining a patient’s pathophysiology. Every day, patients walk into health facilities seeking care and treatment for different illnesses and conditions. And if this problem is not addressed, it can hinder a nurse from providing quality care to the patients.
Establishing a patient’s pathophysiology is a complex process that involves three main steps.
Etiology is the study of the causes of the disease or condition in question. Before any action or intervention can be taken, the causative agents or factors which together provoke the disease must first be identified and confirmed. Most conditions have multiple etiological factors which act in concert to contribute to the illness. For example, coronary heart disease results from the interplay between several factors, including genetic predisposition, exposure to toxic cigarette smoke, diet, and hypertension.
Understanding the etiology of an illness plays a central role in providing the most appropriate medical and nursing care to the patient. For instance, if the causative agent is established to be a highly transmissible virus, the physician can opt to use an antiviral medication rather than antibiotics. Similarly, knowing the causative agents helps impose isolation measures for communicable infections to prevent spreading.
Pathogenesis of an illness refers to how it evolved or developed from the initial stimulus resulting in the observable manifestations. Different disease and conditions have a unique sequence of physiologic events of how it responds to the etiological agent. The resulting changes start from the cellular level, advancing to tissues, organs, and ultimately to the system. These changes can be detected by clinical, laboratory, and other increasingly advanced tests. In other words, the pathogenesis of an illness describes how etiological factors affect the physiological function, which ultimately manifests as a given condition.
Clinical manifestations refer to the signs and symptoms observed in an illness. Different illnesses have different clinical manifestations. Some signs are specific to certain illnesses, while others are nonspecific and do not indicate the exact cause. For instance, fever and headache are nonspecific symptoms and can point a physician in numerous directions. In such cases, further testing must be conducted to narrow down the cause and ensure an accurate diagnosis.
These manifestations can be identified through clinical examinations, diagnostic imaging, biochemical analysis, among other specialized laboratory tests. However, over the years, manifestations of some diseases have and continue to evolve, leading to entirely varying clinical presentations. This calls for specialized knowledge and testing regarding each stage of the disease to ensure a correct diagnosis.
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