People often tend to interchange the words signs and symptoms. Most even think they are the same. However, in the medical field, these two words are totally different and are used uniquely.
What are signs?
Signs are physical manifestations of diseases, injury or illness which are expressed to both the doctor or others. In other words, a sign simply means the features of an abnormality which others can notice and see in a person. Examples include sweating, wounds, bleeding, swelling, fracture, stroke, etc. All of these can be seen in a patient and thus are not hidden.
Wound - example of a sign
What are symptoms?
Symptoms are something which only the patient can experience. In other words, neither the doctor nor others see it. Thus, only the patient feels it and can tell what he/she is experiences Examples include headache, body pain, nausea, dizziness, etc.
Headache - example of a symptom
To put it clearly, a sign is what the doctor or others see, while a symptom is what a patient feels or experience. Therefore, when a patient comes to a doctor, the first thing he examines are the signs from the outward appearance. He then goes on to find out the symptoms from the patient himself.
A good example is when a person comes to a doctor, he first examines the skin, mucous membrane, throat, the eye color and other necessary parts. He is simply checking out for signs. He then goes on to ask questions like, "How do you feel?", "How often does the headache come?", "Can you eat well?" All of these questions point to the symptoms which only the patient can tell. Together with the signs, symptoms, and further laboratory investigations and tests, a doctor then arrives at an accurate diagnosis of the disease.
In summary, a sign can be seen not just by the patient but others as well including the doctor. On the other hand, a symptom is known only to the patient until it is revealed.
Hope you found this educative !
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