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Medical history is usually divided into surgical history (all prior surgeries), social history (sexual, recreational, and alcohol/drug factors), family history (heritable diseases and conditions and their presence in family members), and health or personal health history (the subject's prior illnesses, together with their treatments and outcomes). A patient's ability to "give a good history," that is to accurately recall and describe the details of relevant background, is essential in the treatment of an illness.
This term has nothing to do with the subject of history per se and derives instead form the ancient Greek meaning of "history" as "narrative." Patients who are "poor historians" will often require the intervention of family members or care givers to provide the missing pieces of history. Patients who mislead physicians about their histories, either consciously or unconsciously, can greatly aggravate the process of diagnosis and delay treatment by requiring the physician to obtain all past medical records.
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