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Invisible diseases and the doctor-patient relationship


Headaches can be considered as a paradigm for the so-called “invisible” diseases; difficulties that headache patients encounter and complain from often relate more to the lack of understanding and communication than to lack of a cure by their doctors. Even when treatment is available, although symptoms are relieved, this might not cure the suffering and the burden caused by headache. This paper will present the difference between disease and illness, will highlight difficulties encountered by patients with “invisible” diseases and will underline how these difficulties might be reduced by a better doctor–patient relationship. The physician who acknowledges and considers the subjective aspects of the illness, has important elements both for a personalised diagnosis and for a therapy that the patient will be able and willing to follow. The physician has to improve and to train his/her human capabilities in order to have a good relationship with the ill person, and not only to use his/her technical skills for individualising and curing the disease in the patient’s body.

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Correspondence to Stefania Radaelli.

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Radaelli, S., Leonardi*, M. & Pessina, A. Invisible diseases and the doctor-patient relationship. J Headache Pain 5, 209–211 (2004).

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