Common presenting symptoms

Common presenting symptoms in Australian practices are presented in Table 1.1 , 5 where they are compared with the United States of America. 6 The similarity is noticed but the different classification system does not permit an accurate comparison. In the third national survey of morbidity in general practice in Australia 5 the most common symptoms described by patients were cough (7.5 per 100 encounters), throat complaints (4.7 per 100), back complaints (3.8 per 100) and skin symptoms (3.6 per 100). In addition very common presentations included a check-up (13.6 per 100) and a request for prescription (8.8 per 100). McWhinney lists the ten most common presenting symptoms from representative Canadian and British practices but they are divided between males and females. 7 For males in the Canadian study these symptoms are (in order, starting from the most common) cough, sore throat, colds, abdominal/pelvic pain, rash, fever/chills, earache, back problems, skin inflammation and chest pain.

For females the five other symptoms that are included are menstrual disorders, depression, vaginal discharge, anxiety and headache.

In the British study the most common symptoms are virtually identical between males and females and include cough, rash, sore throat, abdominal pain, bowel symptoms, chest pain, back pain, spots, sores and ulcers, and headache.

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