Difference between signs and symptoms
Signs vs symptoms:
When a person is ill or on medication the doctors will talk about ‘signs and symptoms’. But we hardly find someone who has a clear idea on signs and symptom. The terms, signs and symptoms, refer to distinct medical terms with different medical meanings. Even so, patients and the typical layperson frequently confuse the two. Even healthcare professionals may slip-up and use the words interchangeably. So it is good academia to know the difference between a sign and a symptom even if you are a healthcare professional or not. Thereby, this article aims to enlighten those of who are yet blind to the distinction between signs and symptoms by providing brief descriptions regarding the two including a short account of their differences as well.
What is a sign?
A medical sign is an objective indication of some medical fact or characteristic that may be detected by a physician during a physical examination or by a clinical scientist by means of an in vitro examination of a patient or even by the patient, family, and friends. Medical signs represent objective physiological patient conditions. When patients listen to their own bodies and verbalize their subjective symptoms, it then becomes the doctor’s job to find and interpret any relevant medical signs. Examples of signs include a patient’s measured body temperature, blood pressure, a visibly red or swollen throat, and anything else a physician can objectively observe, detect, or measure. However, signs may have no meaning to the patient, and may even go unnoticed, but meaningful and significant to the healthcare provider in assisting the diagnosis of medical condition(s) responsible for the patient’s symptoms. Medical signs may be classified by the type of inference that may be made from their presence. For example, Prognostic signs that indicate the outcome of the current bodily state of the patient, Anamnestic signs that (taking into account the current state of a patient’s body), indicate the past existence of a certain disease or condition, Diagnostic signs that lead to the recognition and identification of a disease, Pathognomonic signs, the particular signs whose presence means, beyond any doubt, that a particular disease is present.
What is a symptom?
Symptoms are subjective presentations of medical problems and diseases. It is pathologic evidence that can be felt only by the patient and / or revealed by lab result or other investigational tools. Symptoms represent the concerns, feelings, aches, pains or reactions that compel patients to make an appointment with their doctor in the first place. Common medical symptoms used by patients to describe their unique physical complaints, or feelings, to a physician include things like fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, or a sore throat. Symptoms are not measurable and health care professional only know they’re present because the patient tells them so. Some symptoms occur in a wide range of disease processes, whereas other symptoms are fairly specific for a narrow range of illnesses. For example, a sudden loss of sight in one eye has a significantly smaller number of possible causes than nausea does. Some symptoms can be misleading to the patient or the medical practitioner caring for them. For example, inflammation of the gallbladder often gives rise to pain in the right shoulder, which may understandably lead the patient to attribute the pain to a non-abdominal cause such as muscle strain. There are three main types of symptoms. Chronic symptoms, which are long lasting or recurrent symptoms, Relapsing symptoms, symptoms which had occurred in the past, disappeared, and then come back and Remitting symptoms, which go away completely when it improves.
What is the difference between symptoms and signs?
During a physician examination, the doctor uses his specialized knowledge and experiential skills and equipment to objectively measure, detect, or observe signs and conditions that could possibly cause the patient’s symptoms. The heat, or flushing, experienced by the patient is a symptom; the fever, objectively observed and measured by the doctor, is a sign of a larger medical condition causing the fever.
Though signs and symptoms describe the same conditions, these two are different in many characteristics. While signs are what a doctor sees, symptoms are what a patient experiences. A symptom can be defined as one of the characters of a disease. Meanwhile, sign is the definite indication of a specific disease. It is only when the patient experiences certain symptoms that he or she approaches a physician. Symptoms help the physician diagnose the problem. As symptoms are not visible outwards, it is most important that the patient be as descriptive so that the doctor or the physician may be able to assess and evaluate the symptoms. Symptoms can also be defined as what the patient reports, but which cannot be verified. Feeling tired, feeling dizzy and having pain are some of the symptoms, which cannot be verified. But signs on the other hand can be verified. Signs can be measured in a clinical setting. High or low blood pressure, rapid heart rate or fever, can be measured.
While signs are objective, symptoms on the other hand are subjective. Signs are called objective in the sense that they can be felt, heard or seen. Bleeding, bruising, swelling and fever are signs. Symptoms are subjective in the sense that they are not outwardly visible to others. It is only the patient who perceives and experiences the symptoms. While signs are the physical manifestation of injury, illness or disease, symptoms can be described as what a patient experiences about the injury, illness or disease. When the patient notices symptoms, it is the others, especially the physician or doctor who notices signs. A high temperature, a rapid pulse, low blood pressure, open wound and bruising can be called as signs. Chills, shivering, fever, nausea, shaking and vertigo are the symptoms. Symptoms are vague but signs are visible. Sign is only an objective indication of some medical fact that may be detected by a physician. These signs may not have any meaning to patients but they are significant for a physician to diagnosis the medical conditions. One can describe symptom as one that is experienced and reported by a patient. Meanwhile the doctor discovers signs of a disease during a patient’s examination.
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