What is the prodromal stage

Early signs, diagnosis and therapeutics of the prodromal phase of schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders

Papers of special note have been highlighted as:

• of interest

•• of considerable interest

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Prodromal period - Definition and Examples

Prodromal period
n., [pɹəʊˈdɹəʊməl ˈpɪərɪəd]
Definition: Stage of a disease wherein the early signs and symptoms appear but not yet clinically specific nor severe

Table of Contents

There are five stages (or phases) of a disease. (Hattis, 2020). These stages are (1) Incubation period, (2) Prodromal period, (3) Illness period, (4) Decline period, and (5) Convalescence period.

Figure 1: Figure 1. Five periods of the disease. The prodromal period is highlighted. Image Credit: OpenStax Microbiology.

Prodromal Period Definition

The prodromal period is also known as the prodromal stage. In this stage of the disease, there is an increase in the number of infections causing the immune system of the body to start to react against infectious agents. We can also define the prodromal period as a phase where the number of pathogens continues to increase. Before the specific symptoms of the disease appear, some early symptoms start appearing in this phase.

Biology definition:
The prodromal period is the period characterized by the presence of early signs and nonspecific symptoms of a disease. It is the period between the incubation period and the illness period. During this period, the symptoms are not highly specific and the affected individual may feel discomfort but, generally, may still be able to perform usual functions.

Synonym: prodromal stage. See also: incubation period, illness period, convalescent period

What is prodrome?

In the field of medicine, the term “prodrome” is characterized as a stage in which some early signs and symptoms start to appear before the appearance of any specific diagnostic-related symptoms. These early signs and symptoms indicate the beginning of any disease.

“Prodrome” comes from the Greek word “prodromos”, which means “running before”. Sometimes, in the prodrome phase, the symptoms are non-specific, but sometimes they may relate to a particular disease.

For Example: In many infectious diseases, some symptoms that are non-specific and appear in the prodromal phase are loss of appetite, headache, malaise, and fever. (Kenneth W. Lindsay, 2011)

What happens in the prodromal phase?

After the incubation period, the prodromal period follows. In this period, the host had some symptoms like inflammation, pain, swelling, soreness, and fever. These general symptoms are due to the activation of the immune system. It is difficult to make a diagnosis based on these general signs and symptoms. The symptoms appear to be more exact and specific in the illness phase, which comes after the prodromal phase (Bhandari, 2020).

What is the prodromal period of an infectious disease?

In the prodromal period, the pathogens replicate continuously. The immune system of the body gets activated and some general symptoms start appearing. Symptoms are fatigue and low-grade fever. In the prodromal stage, there are higher chances that the host might transfer the infection to others.

It depends on the type of infection and how long the prodromal period lasts. For instance, the incubation period of flu is about 2 days. In this case, the prodromal period might overlap the incubation period and the beginning of the illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that there are higher chances that the pathogen virus transfers to another one day earlier to the appearance of symptoms and up to the week after the illness period (Eske, 2021).

Watch this video below to understand the different stages of the disease.


Prodromal Phase of Common Diseases and Conditions

Some of the well-known prodromal symptoms of common diseases are described below.

  • Prodromal phase of pneumonia
  • Prodromal phase of malaria
  • Prodromal phase of influenza
  • Prodromal phase of meningitis
  • Prodromal phase of schizophrenia

Prodromal phase of pneumonia

The prodromal signs of pneumonia in the patient include coughing (with bloody, green, or yellow mucus). The patient also had a lack of appetite, stabbing pain in the chest, shallow breathing, shortness of breath, low energy, chills, and fever.

  • In bacterial pneumonia, the patient may have a high-grade fever. Due to insufficient oxygen in the blood, the patients may have blue nail beds.
  • Viral pneumonia takes some days to develop but shows symptoms similar to influenza. The symptoms are dry cough, weakness, fever, muscular pain, and headache. A patient should get proper medical treatment if the symptoms (blue lips, fever) get worse in a few days.



Prodromal phase of malaria

In the prodromal phase of malaria, the symptoms are fever (remains for up to two days), lack of appetite, pain in the body, headache, and fatigue. If the patient has weak immunity, malaria starts with a sudden and extreme feeling of sickness. The fever may be at 39°C and higher. The fever does not follow a regular pattern. Some other symptoms include respiratory distress, confusion, vomiting, nausea, icterus, and dry cough.



Prodromal phase of influenza

The most common source of morbidity and mortality is influenza. Influenza is a worldwide occurring viral infection. This viral disease mainly spreads in two ways.

  • Direct contact with the nasal secretion of patient
  • Inhaling the coughed and sneezed droplets of the patients

The symptoms of the prodromal phase of infection include a runny and stuffy nose, sore throat, rigors, myalgia, malaise, and fever.



Prodromal phase of meningitis

The infection of protective membranes (meninges) that surrounds the brain and spinal cord is known as meningitis. It affects any person but most commonly it affects babies, teenagers, young children, and young adults. It proves a very serious condition if not treated timely. Some non-specific symptoms appear in the prodromal stage that may last throughout the illness. The symptoms are loss of appetite, respiratory disorder, headache, joint and muscular pain, irritability, lethargy, vomiting, nausea, and fever.

Some specific symptoms in the case of bacterial meningitis are seizures, stiffness in the neck, photophobia, headache, confusion, drowsiness, and focal neuro deficit.



Prodromal Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is defined as a chronic illness of the nervous system. It affects the way a person behaves, thinks, or feels. The thought of investigating the prodromal of schizophrenia is almost 100 years back but now it is recently accepted. There is an unusual behavioral alteration in this disease. The prodromal period of schizophrenia usually remains for several years. It causes many social consequences on the person. In the prodromal period, there are several cognitive and behavioral modifications in a person. Such modification continues to progress with time and leads to psychosis. Some symptoms of the prodromal period of schizophrenia are the problem in sleeping, anxiety, irritability, changes in daily routine, difficulty in concentration, neglecting personal hygiene, lack of motivation, erratic behavior, and social isolation (Subotnik, 1988).

Prodromal phase of schizophrenia

The prodromal phase of schizophrenia usually starts in the 20s or in the teenage years. Due to this, it is difficult that either the alteration in the behavior is due to schizophrenia or because of young adult behavior. Research for the treatment of schizophrenia includes those patients which are in their phase. Some researchers suggest that using some strategies and modifying them according to the need of the patient, may prove helpful for the patient in coping and give better results.


Try to answer the quiz below to check what you have learned so far about prodromal period.


Choose the best answer. 

1. Early signs and symptoms but not yet clinically specific

Incubation period

Prodromal period

Illness period

2. Specific symptoms appear

Incubation period

Prodromal period

Illness period

3. An agent of disease




4. A general symptom characterized by high body temperature




5. Which of the following is a symptom during a prodromal phase of meningitis?


Focal neuro deficit


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The clinical picture of epileptic disease is polymorphic. It consists of prodromal disorders, various convulsive and non-convulsive paroxysms, personality changes and psychoses (acute and chronic). nine0005

In epileptic disease, the prodromal period of the disease and the prodrome of the paroxysmal state are distinguished.

The prodromal period of the disease includes various disorders that precede the first paroxysmal state, i.e., the manifestation of the disease in the most typical manifestation.

Usually, several years before the first paroxysmal attack, episodic attacks of dizziness, headaches, nausea, dysphoric conditions, sleep disturbances, and asthenic disorders are observed. In some patients, there are rare absences, as well as a pronounced readiness for convulsive reactions to the effects of various exogenous hazards [Vorobiev S. P., 1965]. In some cases, symptoms more specific to epilepsy are also detected - the predominance of polymorphic variable non-convulsive paroxysmal conditions that have a number of features [Boldyrev A.I., 1971]. Most often, these are short-term myoclonic twitches of individual muscles or muscle groups, hardly noticeable to others, often without changes in consciousness and timed to a certain time of day. These conditions are often combined with short-term sensations of heaviness in the head, headaches of a certain localization, paresthesias, as well as vegetative and ideational non-convulsive paroxysms. Vegetative paroxysms are manifested by sudden breathing difficulties, a change in the rhythm of breathing, heart attacks, etc. Ideatory paroxysms most often have the character of violent thoughts, acceleration or deceleration of thinking. As the disease progresses, the manifestations described in the prodromal period become more pronounced and frequent. nine0005

Prodromes of paroxysms immediately precede the development of an epileptic seizure. According to most researchers, they occur in 10% of cases (in the remaining patients, seizures develop without obvious precursors). The clinical picture of the seizure prodrome is nonspecific, with a wide range of symptoms. In some patients, the duration of the prodrome is several minutes or several hours, in others it is equal to a day or more. Typically, the prodrome includes asthenic disorders with symptoms of irritable weakness and persistent headache, different in nature, intensity and localization. nine0005

Paroxysm may be preceded by paroxysmal affective disorders: periods of mild or more pronounced depression with a hint of displeasure, irritability; hypomanic states or pronounced mania. Often in the prodrome, patients experience melancholy, a feeling of impending and inevitable disaster, do not find a place for themselves. Sometimes these states are less pronounced and are limited to a feeling of discomfort: patients complain of slight anxiety, heaviness in the heart, a feeling that something unpleasant should happen to them. The prodrome of paroxysms may include senestopathic or hypochondriacal disorders. Senestopathic phenomena are expressed in vague and varied sensations in the head, various parts of the body and internal organs. Hypochondriacal disorders are characterized by excessive suspiciousness of patients, increased attention to unpleasant sensations in the body, their well-being and body functions. Patients prone to self-observation, according to prodromal phenomena, determine the approach of paroxysm. Many of them take precautions: stay in bed, at home, try to be in the circle of their loved ones so that the attack passes in more or less favorable conditions. nine0005


The word consists of 13 letters: first p, second p, the third o fourth d, fifth p, the sixth o seventh m, eighth a, ninth l, tenth b, eleventh n, twelfth s, last th, nine0005

The word prodromal in English letters (transliteration) - prodromalnyi

  • The letter p occurs 1 time. Words with 1 letter p
  • The letter p occurs 2 times. Words with 2 letters p
  • The letter o occurs 2 times. Words with 2 letters o
  • The letter d occurs 1 time. Words with 1 letter d
  • The letter m occurs 1 time. Words with 1 letter m
  • The letter a occurs 1 time. Words with 1 letter a
  • The letter l occurs 1 time. Words with 1 letter l
  • The letter ь occurs 1 time. Words with 1 letter ь
  • The letter н occurs 1 time. Words with 1 letter н
  • The letter ы occurs 1 time. Words with 1 letter ы
  • The letter and occurs 1 time. Words with 1 letter y


Prodromal period (Greek πρόδρομος - running ahead, harbinger) - the period of the disease that occurs between the incubation period and the disease itself. nine0005 en.wikipedia. org

Prodromal period (from the Greek. prodromes - running ahead, harbinger), the period of disease precursors. In P. p. of infections, nonspecific ones are noted (weakness, headache, slight fever) ...

TSB. — 1969—1978

PRODROMAL PERIOD (from the Greek. prodromos - a harbinger) - the stage of the precursors of the disease - the appearance of its nonspecific signs (eg, malaise, fever, loss of appetite, gastralgia, etc. in the preicteric period of Botkin's disease). nine0005 Big Encyclopedic Dictionary

Prodromal period The prodromal period is the period of the disease following the incubation period and passing into the peak period. P.p. duration ranges from a few hours to many weeks.

Dictionary of Microbiology

Prodromal period - (Greek prodromos - running ahead) - the earliest stage of the disease, in which the disease is latent, asymptomatic or with occasional and short-term individual symptoms. nine0005 Zhmurov V.A. Large explanatory dictionary of terms in psychiatry

Prodromal I (Prodromal)

PRODROMAL I (prodromal) - relating to the period preceding the onset of the first symptoms of any infectious disease (for example, a rash or fever).


Prodromal I (Prodromal) - relating to the period preceding the onset of the first symptoms of any infectious disease (for example, rash or fever). nine0005 Medical terms from A to Z

Prodromal I (Prodromal) referring to the period preceding the onset of the first symptoms of any infectious disease (eg, rash or fever).

Medical terms. - 2000

Prodromal II (Subclinical)

PRODROMAL II (subclinical) - this term is used to describe the period preceding the detection of obvious symptoms of the disease. nine0005 vocabulary.ru

Prodromal II (Subclinical) - this term is used to describe the period preceding the detection of obvious symptoms of the disease.

Medical terms from A to Z

Prodromal II (Subclinical) This term is used to describe the period prior to the discovery of overt symptoms of the disease. Source: Medical Dictionary

Medical terms. - 2000

Schizophrenia prodromal period

Schizophrenia prodromal period - a period of time preceding the onset of an acute psychotic state for a number of weeks, months, but more often years, during which mild cognitive impairment is detected in patients ...




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