AskDefine | Define symptoms

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  1. Plural of symptom

Extensive Definition

expert-portal Health A symptom (from Greek σύμπτωμα) is a manifestation of a disease, indicating the nature of the disease, which is noticed by the patient. This may be contrasted to signs which are observed by a medical practitioner. A symptom is subjective, observed by the patient, and not measured.

Loose definition

A symptom may loosely be said to be a physical condition which indicates a particular illness or disorder.
A given phenomenon, such as a gash, can be both a symptom and a sign-- it is a symptom when observed by the patient, and a sign when observed by the phycisian, as explained in below.

Possible causes of a symptom

Some symptoms, such as nausea, 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.

Misleading symptoms

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, rather than the real cause.

Symptoms and diagnosis

The terms chief complaint, presenting symptom, or presenting complaint is used to describe the initial concern which brings a patient to a doctor. The symptom that leads to a diagnosis is called a cardinal symptom.

Symptom vs sign

A symptom can more simply be defined as any feature which is noticed by the patient. A sign is noticed by the doctor or others. It is not necessarily the nature of the sign or symptom which defines it, but who observes it.
The same feature may be noticed by both doctor and patient, and so is at once both a sign and a symptom. A sign or a symptom may be one, the other, or both, depending on the observer(s).
Some features, such as pain, can only be symptoms. A doctor cannot feel a patient's pain. Others can only be signs, such as a blood cell count measured by a doctor or a laboratory.

Engineering definition

In engineering, symptom may be used to refer to an undesired effect occurring in a system. To eliminate the effect, a root cause analysis is performed which traces the symptom to its cause and again through the cause's cause and so on until the subsystem is identified that can be changed to eliminate the symptom.


Symptoms may be constantly present (chronic symptoms), may come and go (relapsing and remitting), progressively become worse or progressively become better (convalescence).


symptoms in Arabic: عرض (طب)
symptoms in Asturian: Síntoma
symptoms in Bulgarian: Симптом
symptoms in Czech: Symptom
symptoms in Danish: Symptom
symptoms in German: Symptom
symptoms in Estonian: Sümptom
symptoms in Spanish: Síntoma
symptoms in Esperanto: Simptomo
symptoms in Basque: Sintoma
symptoms in Persian: نشانه‌های بیماری
symptoms in French: Symptôme
symptoms in Ido: Simptomo
symptoms in Italian: Sintomo
symptoms in Hebrew: תסמין
symptoms in Lithuanian: Simptomas
symptoms in Hungarian: Tünet
symptoms in Dutch: Symptoom
symptoms in Japanese: 症候学
symptoms in Norwegian: Symptom
symptoms in Norwegian Nynorsk: Symptom
symptoms in Polish: Objaw
symptoms in Portuguese: Sintoma
symptoms in Russian: Симптом
symptoms in Simple English: Symptom
symptoms in Slovenian: Simptom
symptoms in Serbian: Симптом
symptoms in Serbo-Croatian: Simptom
symptoms in Finnish: Oire
symptoms in Swedish: Symptom
symptoms in Thai: อาการ
symptoms in Vietnamese: Triệu chứng
symptoms in Ukrainian: Симптом
symptoms in Yiddish: סימפטאם
symptoms in Chinese: 症狀
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