Signs and symptoms

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A doctor uses a stethescope to listen for signs of a medical problem in the organs in a person's body like the heart and lungs. (called 'ascultation)[1] If this person does not feel well because of a medical problem he tells the doctor what he is feeling; like pain. What the person is feeling are the symptoms.

Signs and symptoms are two words used by doctors to describe how a medical problem makes changes in a person's body.

  • A sign is a change in the body that can be seen or heard by a doctor such as with a stethescope or, what he feels with his hands when he checks a person. Signs may also be seen on medical tests such as x-rays or blood tests.[2]
Example: A blood glucose test measures how much of a kind of sugar called glucose is in the blood. If there is less glucose than there should be this may be a sign that the person has a medical problem called hypoglycemia.[3]
  • A symptom is a change in a person's body caused by a medical problem that can not be seen, heard or felt by a doctor or by medical tests but can be seen, heard or felt by the person who has the symptoms.[4]
Example: Low blood glucose may cause a person to have a headache, this may be a symptom of hypolglycemia. When a person has a headache only they know they have pain in their head, a doctor can not see a headache and a medical test can not tell if a person has pain in their head or not.[5]

A doctor can see, hear or feel signs caused by a medical problem, or see signs in the results of medical tests, only the person who has the medical problem can see, hear or feel the symptoms.

Examples of signs and symptoms[change | edit source]

Signs

Symptoms

 SignA bullseye rash is a sign of Lyme disease.[6] A doctor can see this when he does a physical examination. The person who has the rash can tell the doctor about the rash but does not have to, the doctor can see it.
Sign
A bullseye rash is a sign of Lyme disease.[6] A doctor can see this when he does a physical examination. The person who has the rash can tell the doctor about the rash but does not have to, the doctor can see it.
SymptomSeeing flashing,sparkling lights that are not really there ( called a scintillating scotoma) is a symptom a person may see who has a medical problem such as migraine headache with aura.[7] The person has to tell the doctor what he sees.
Symptom
Seeing flashing,sparkling lights that are not really there ( called a scintillating scotoma) is a symptom a person may see who has a medical problem such as migraine headache with aura.[7] The person has to tell the doctor what he sees.


References[change | edit source]

  1. Merriam Webster':Ascultation
  2. Merriam-Webster: Sign
  3. Allan H. Goroll, Albert G Mulley, Jr.: Primary Care Medicine: Office Evaluation and Management of the Adult Patient; p.97, (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; Sixth edition, 2009) ISBN 0781775132
  4. Merriam-Webster: Symptom
  5. Lisa B. Zaoutis, M.D., Vincent W Chiang: Comprehensive Pediatric Hospital Medicine. p.274; (Mosby; 1 Com edition, 2007) ISBN 0323030041
  6. Nicholas H. Fiebach, M.D.: Principles of Ambulatory Medicine: Barker, Burton and Zieve's; p.562 (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; Seventh edition, 2006) ISBN 0781762278
  7. Marco Mumenthaler, Heinrich Mattle: Fundamentals of Neurology: An Illustrated Guide p. 248 (Thieme; 1 edition, 2005) ISBN 1588904504