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In medicine, a prodrome is an early symptom (or set of symptoms) that might indicate the start of a disease before specific symptoms occur. It is derived from the Greek word prodromos or precursor. Prodromes may be non-specific symptoms or, in a few instances, may clearly indicate a particular disease, such as the prodromal migraine aura.
For example fever, malaise, headache and lack of appetite frequently occur in the prodrome of many infective disorders. A prodrome can be the precursor to the onset of a chronic neurological disorder such as migraine or epilepsy, where prodrome symptoms include euphoria, scotoma, disorientation, aphasia, or photosensitivity.
It also refers to the initial in vivo round of viral replication.
Prodromal labour, mistakenly called "false labour," refers to the early signs before labour starts.
A prodrome for schizophrenia is the period of decreased functioning that is postulated to correlate with the onset of psychotic symptoms. The concept has been reconsidered as the pathways to emerging psychosis have been investigated since the mid-1990s. One example of the international paradigms aimed at researching the prodrome is the North American Prodrome Longitudinal Study (NAPLS). This study is concerned with brain development, hormones, and neuropsychological functions that may play a role in risk for and prevention of mental illness in young adulthood. The term at risk mental state is sometimes preferred, as a prodromal period cannot be confirmed unless the emergence of the condition has occurred. (Also see early psychosis.)
Prodrome, or psychosis risk syndrome as it is also known, is a proposed syndrome to be used in the DSM-V (2013) of psychiatry. It is also defined as "the aura that precedes a psychotic break by up to two or three years." Patients with this condition "still have 'insight' - a pivotal word in psychiatric literature, indicating that a patient can still recognize an altered worldview as a sign of illness, not revelation." Prodrome is also sometimes called "attenuated psychotic symptoms syndrome." Chairman of the DSM-IV Task Force, Allen Frances, has criticised the concept of Psychosis Risk Syndrome on the grounds of a high rate of inaccuracy, the potential to stigmatize young people given this label, the lack of any effective treatment, and the risk of children and adolescents being given dangerous antipsychotic medication.
About one third of patients with prodrome are diagnosed with schizophrenia or other psychosis in a few years. In the North American Prodrome Longitudinal Study, researchers found that 35 percent of "patients had a psychotic break within two and a half years of enrolling at a clinic." 65 percent "found that their symptoms passed or plateaued." A psychotic break is made statistically more likely (43% vs. 35%) if the patient abuses certain drugs.