Am Fam Physician. 2003 Oct 1;68(7):1264-1266.
to the editor: The article, “Diagnosing Night Sweats,”1 was based on a MEDLINE literature review from 1966 to July 2001. As a result, the authors' literature search missed our study2 of the epidemiology of night sweats in primary care that was published in 2002. There also has been at least one other relevant epidemiologic study3 that was not mentioned in their article.1
Based on our published and unpublished results, it appears that the classic definition of night sweats “does not describe the majority of patients who may complain of the symptom.”2 Night sweats are commonly experienced by primary care patients who, for unclear reasons, rarely mention them to their primary care physician even when they become severe and bothersome. The most common causes of night sweats have yet to be elucidated and, therefore, the appropriate evaluation of patients with this symptom is unclear. Given the level of our collective ignorance, many of the recommendations made by the authors1 seem reasonable, however.
1. Viera AJ, Bond MM, Yates SW. Diagnosing night sweats. Am Fam Physician. 2003;67:1019–24.
2. Mold JW, Mathew MK, Belgore S, DeHaven M. Prevalence of night sweats in primary care patients: an OKPRN and TAFP-Net collaborative study. J Fam Pract. 2002;51:452–6.
3. Lea MJ, Aber RC. Descriptive epidemiology of night sweats upon admission to a university hospital South Med J. 1985;78:1065–7.
in reply: We would like to thank Dr. Mold for his comments and appreciate the study1 conducted by him and his colleagues on the prevalence of night sweats in primary care patients. When we conducted the research for our article and revised it, that study was not yet published. An informal survey of medical students, house officers, and senior physicians (including infectious disease specialists, oncologists, and generalists) found that tuberculosis is the first disease to come to mind when a patient reports night sweats.2 The same pool of physicians and students reported that they rarely encountered night sweats as a symptom among patients with tuberculosis. In our original manuscript,3 we cited the study4 by Lea and Aber that discussed the descriptive epidemiology of night sweats, but that section was subsequently edited out of the final article. This study4 reported that out of 174 randomly selected university hospital patients, 72 reported night sweats within three months before admission. None of these patients had tuberculosis. These observations that many possible common causes of night sweats were not known served as the initial basis for our article.
1. Mold JW, Mathew MK, Belgore S, DeHaven M. Prevalence of night sweats in primary care patients: an OKPRN and TAFP-Net collaborative study. J Fam Pract. 2002;51:452–6.
2. Fred HL. Night sweats. Hosp Pract (Off Ed). 1993;28:88.
3. Viera AJ, Bond MM, Yates SW. Diagnosing night sweats. Am Fam Physician. 2003;67:1019–24.
4. Lea MJ, Aber RC. Descriptive epidemiology of night sweats upon admission to a university hospital. South Med J. 1985;78:1065–7.
Send letters to Kenneth W. Lin, MD, MPH, Associate Deputy Editor for AFP Online, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 11400 Tomahawk Creek Pkwy., Leawood, KS 66211-2680.
Please include your complete address, e-mail address, and telephone number. Letters should be fewer than 400 words and limited to six references, one table or figure, and three authors.
Letters submitted for publication in AFP must not be submitted to any other publication. Possible conflicts of interest must be disclosed at time of submission. Submission of a letter will be construed as granting the American Academy of Family Physicians permission to publish the letter in any of its publications in any form. The editors may edit letters to meet style and space requirements.
Copyright © 2003 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact email@example.com for copyright questions and/or permission requests.
Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions