Signs and symptoms: Why you should never mistake them.
signs and symptoms

We use the words signs and symptoms every other day and sometimes we do not know what they mean, how they differ, and whether we should care about them.

For what reason do signs and symptoms matter?

In normal day usage, people use the words “sign” and “symptom” to mean the same thing. It is not so in the medical field as they are different.

A sign is any physical proof of sickness, like a skin rash or a cough. A specialist like a doctor or a nurse, relatives, and the individual encountering the signs can recognize these.

A symptom, however, is when there is an internal break in ordinary body functions like stomach ache, backache, and weakness, which is only recognized by the person who is experiencing them. Another person can know of a symptom if only the person going through the pains or discomfort tells.

In this article, we will see the history of signs and symptoms and also look at what they mean and whether you should care about them. We will also discuss how useful they are to you and to the medical field.

Quick distinctions on signs and symptoms

  • A light headache is a symptom while fever is a sign. Another person cannot see or physically feel the headache of another although they can measure the fever with a thermometer.
  • A running nose is a sign while because another person can physically see it while dizziness is a symptom because only the person experiencing it can feel it. Even though another person can see when the patient manifests it by acting weakly, he cannot really see it without the patient acting it.
  • High blood pressure is a sign as it is measured with a Sphygmomanometer.

Sign versus Symptoms

A sign is the impact of a medical problem that can be seen by another person. A symptom is an impact noticeable and experienced exclusively by the individual who has the condition.

The important distinction between signs and symptoms is who notices the impact.

It doesn’t matter who observes a sign or symptom, all that matters is that signs and symptoms are a way that the body informs an individual that not all things are moving along as expected. A few signs and symptoms need the attention of a doctor, while others are sorted out completely without treatment by the body.

History of signs and symptoms

In the past, Hippocrates had to taste the urine of a patient to diagnose symptoms. Health professionals were limited by the absence of technology.

Today, diagnosis is enhanced by technology and the health professional can with ease handle signs and symptoms.

At the point when Antony van Leeuwenhoek designed the microscope and used it to observe cells and microorganisms in 1674, he ushered the era of identifying signs of sickness totally undetectable to the unaided eye. Foreign microbes could be detected in the blood and urine, variations in the composition of blood and waste matters could be noted, and other important observations were now possible.

These indicators could just be the line between a healthy individual and a critically ill person.

Propelling innovation has placed more power in the possession of clinicians with regards to recognizing sicknesses.

Since the 1800s, clinical science has greatly progressed in assisting physicians with unmistakably recognizing signs. Medical gadgets are currently accessible to assist specialists with distinguishing and investigating signs that even the patient might not have perceived.

Medical tools to observe signs

These tools include:

Stethoscope: It is used by a specialist to listen to the sounds of internal organs like the heart, intestines, and lungs.

Thermometer: It is used to measure the temperature of a patient.

Spirometer: It is used by a specialist to measure the functioning of the lung.

Ophthalmoscope: It is used by an eye specialist to inspect the eye.

X-ray imaging: Used to see damage made to the bones.

Sphygmomanometer: This is a gadget put around your arm that tights your arm so that your blood pressure could be measured.

During the twentieth century, many new gadgets and procedures were made to assess signs. This was the period when the expressions “sign” and “symptoms” obtained separate meanings, as specialists and patients no more had to closely cooperate in order to identify medical issues.

Specialists would now be able to see signs they would previously have depended upon patients to describe. This moved so many issues that were previously considered symptoms to be currently classified as signs.


There are three primary kinds of symptoms:

Remitting symptoms

When symptoms improve or resolve totally without additional medical help, they are known as remitting symptoms. An example is the common cold that comes and goes after a few days without intervention.

Chronic symptoms

These are enduring or intermittent manifestations. Chronic symptoms are frequently seen in continuous conditions, like diabetes, asthma, and cancer.

Relapsing symptoms

These are symptoms that have happened before, resolved, and afterward returned. For example, symptoms of depression that come, go, and resurface again.

Conditions without symptoms

Asymptomatic conditions

Some conditions display no symptoms at all. They are known as asymptomatic conditions. An example is high blood pressure as it can be present in a human for years without the person knowing. Also, cancer can be present in the body for years without symptoms until when it reaches more aggressive stages. Such conditions are dangerous and deadly. This is one of the reasons that you are advised to go for frequent medical checkups where such low-lying conditions can be detected.

Subclinical infections

Subclinical infections are also such conditions that do not show symptoms. They are infections that show no symptoms but can be transmitted to other people. Even though they may not cause any discomfort, they are contagious even during their incubation periods. A recent example is the COVID-19 that can be transmitted by a host who does not herself feel any discomfort.

Subclinical infections are also dangerous in that they can cause complications different from the infection itself. An example is urinary tract infections (UTIs) that if untreated, can result in premature birth in pregnant women.

In fact, there are many dangerous diseases that do not show symptoms but are contagious. Some examples are HIV, human papillomavirus (HPV) herpes simplex virus (HSV), syphilis, and hepatitis B and C

Many times when asymptomatic conditions are detected at their early stages is when the person goes to the doctor about a different symptom. When checks and tests are done, the asymptomatic condition is identified.

The only way you can keep your health free from the devastating results of asymptomatic conditions is to do frequent visits to the doctor.

Most cancers are asymptomatic in nature as they are silent in their early stages. If detected early, most are treatable with comparatively little effort. However, when they develop to later stages, they may become untreatable and fatal. This is what makes cancer so dangerous.

The general advice for every person and mostly for at-risk people is to go for regular screening tests.


A medical sign is a sign that can be detected by a doctor or other health professional or a medical instrument during the examination of a person. Usually, they are measured and the measurement is very important for detecting a medical issue.

There are signs that escape the notice of the patient or they may overlook them. But such signs are very vital when detected by professional health personnel who knows how it relates to the rest of the body. This same overlooked sign could be central to treating a hiding medical crisis.

Here are a few examples of signs that may be overlooked but could be used by a clinician to diagnose a disease:

  • High blood pressure: This can show a cardiovascular issue, an antagonistic response to medication, a hypersensitivity, or numerous other potential conditions or diseases. This will frequently be joined with different signs to arrive at a conclusion.
  • Clubbing of the fingers: This might be an indication of lung sickness or the scope of hereditary illnesses.
  • Health specialists are taught to detect signs that an untrained person probably won’t consider being significant.

Categorizing signs:

Prognostic signs: These are signs that highlight what’s to come. Rather than demonstrating the idea of the sickness, they foresee the result for the patient, like what is probably going to happen to them and how extreme the infection will presumably be.

Anamnestic signs

These signs highlight portions of an individual’s clinical history. For example, skin scars might be proof of serious skin break out before.

Diagnostic signs

These signs assist the specialist with perceiving and distinguishing a current medical condition. For instance, undeniable degrees of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood of a male might be an indication of prostate cancer or a prostate issue.

Pathognomonic signs

This implies that a specialist can trace a sign to a condition with full assurance. For instance, the presence of a specific microorganism in a blood test can highlight particular viral contamination.

As you can note, signs and symptoms are always good and are important to take into consideration. For those symptoms that do not show out clear, it is wise to go for regular checkups for their detection.

While there are contrasts between signs and symptoms, they are both natural ways that the body tells about a medical condition and the need for a solution to be sought and applied.

It is important not to disregard signs and symptoms you find and signs that the health specialist finds. Also, do not wait to find one before you consult a doctor. Go to her for health checkups and she or her machine may save your life.

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