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Symptom

A symptom (from Greek σύî¼Ï€Ï„ωî¼î±, "accident, misfortune, that which befalls"[1], from συî¼Ï€î¯Ï€Ï„ω, "I befall", from συî½- "together, with" + πî¯Ï€Ï„ω, "I fall") is a departure from normal function or feeling which is noticed by a patient, indicating the presence of disease or abnormality. A symptom is subjective,[2] observed by the patient,[3] and not measured.[4]

A symptom may not be a malady, for example symptoms of pregnancy. One could debate, however, that this is an example of common misuse of a word, as the majority of symptoms and the history of the word are related to malady. The proper word for such situations would be "indication" or "suggestion" or simply "sign"

Contents

[edit] Types

Symptoms may be chronic, relapsing or remitting. They also may progressively worsen or progressively become better (convalescence). Conditions may also be classified as symptomatic (present and demonstrating symptoms) or asymptomatic (present but without symptoms). Asymptomatic conditions and asymptomatic infections can exist for many years undiagnosed and may only be found upon medical testing (such as high blood pressure).

Constitutional or general symptoms are those that are related to the systemic effects of a disease (e.g., fever, malaise, anorexia, weight loss). They affect the entire body rather than a specific organ or location.

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

Non-specific symptoms are those self-reported symptoms that do not indicate a specific disease process or involve an isolated body system. For example, fatigue is a feature of an enormous number of medical conditions, and is a documented feature of both acute and chronic medical conditions, both physical and mental disorders, and as both a primary and secondary symptom. Fatigue is also a normal, healthy condition when experienced after exertion or at the end of a day.

[edit] Positive and negative symptoms

In describing mental disorders,[5][6] especially schizophrenia, symptoms can be divided into positive and negative symptoms.[7]

  • Positive symptoms are symptoms that most individuals do not normally experience but are present in the disorder. Examples are hallucinations, delusions, and bizarre behavior.[5]
  • Negative symptoms are symptoms that are not present or that are diminished in the affected persons but are normally found in healthy persons. Examples are social withdrawal, apathy, inability to experience pleasure and defects in attention control.[6]

[edit] Possible causes

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.

[edit] Symptom versus sign

A symptom can more simply be defined as any feature which is noticed by the patient. A sign is noticed by other people. It is not necessarily the nature of the sign or symptom which defines it, but who observes it.

A feature might be sign or a symptom, or both, depending on the observer(s). For example, a skin rash may be noticed by either a healthcare professional as a sign, or by the patient as a symptom. When it is noticed by both, then the feature is both a sign and a symptom.

Some features, such as pain, can only be symptoms, because they cannot be directly observed by other people. Other features can only be signs, such as a blood cell count measured in a medical laboratory.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Sumptoma, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, at Pursues
  2. ^ Pathology - Glossary
  3. ^ eMedicine/Stedman Medical Dictionary Lookup!
  4. ^ Devroede G (1992). "Constipation--a sign of a disease to be treated surgically, or a symptom to be deciphered as nonverbal communication?". J. Clin. Gastroenterol. 15 (3): 189–91. doi:10.1097/00004836-199210000-00003. PMID 1479160. 
  5. ^ a b Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders: positive symptom
  6. ^ a b [http://www.minddisorders.com/Kau-Nu/Negative-symptoms.html Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders: negative symptom
  7. ^ Mental Health: a Report from the Surgeon General


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