AskDefine | Define symptom

Dictionary Definition



1 (medicine) any sensation or change in bodily function that is experienced by a patient and is associated with a particular disease
2 anything that accompanies X and is regarded as an indication of X's existence

User Contributed Dictionary



From (sumptōma) "a happening, accident, disease" < stem of (sumpiptō) "Ι befall" < (sun-) "together" and (piptō) "I fall"


  1. Anything that indicates, or is characteristic of, the presence of something else; especially a perceived change in some function, sensation or appearance of a patient that is indicative of a disease or disorder.


  • Treatment of symptoms versus treatment of cause


indicators and characteristics of the presence of something else

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).


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

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

abnormality, acute disease, affection, affliction, ailment, allergic disease, allergy, atrophy, bacterial disease, badge, banner, basis for belief, birth defect, blight, body of evidence, broad hint, cardiovascular disease, chain of evidence, character, characteristic, chronic disease, circulatory disease, clue, complaint, complication, condition, congenital defect, cue, danger sign, data, datum, defect, deficiency disease, deformity, degenerative disease, device, differentia, disability, disease, disorder, distemper, documentation, early symptom, earmark, endemic, endemic disease, endocrine disease, epidemic disease, evidence, exhibit, fact, facts, falling barometer, feature, functional disease, fungus disease, gastrointestinal disease, gathering clouds, genetic disease, gentle hint, gesture, glimmer, glimmering, grounds, grounds for belief, hallmark, handicap, hereditary disease, high sign, hint, iatrogenic disease, idiosyncrasy, illness, image, implication, index, indicant, indication, indicator, indisposition, infectious disease, infirmity, inkling, innuendo, insignia, insinuation, intimation, item of evidence, keynote, kick, look, malady, malaise, manifestation, mark, marker, material grounds, measure, morbidity, morbus, muniments, muscular disease, mute witness, neurological disease, nod, note, nudge, nutritional disease, occupational disease, omen, organic disease, pandemic disease, pathological condition, pathology, peculiarity, picture, piece of evidence, plant disease, precursor, preliminary sign, premises, premonitory sign, premonitory symptom, prodroma, prodrome, prognosis, prognostic, prognostication, prompt, proof, property, protozoan disease, psychosomatic disease, quarantine flag, reason to believe, red flag, red light, relevant fact, representation, representative, respiratory disease, rockiness, scent, seal, secondary disease, seediness, sickishness, sickness, sigil, sign, signal, signature, significant, signs, skull and crossbones, spoor, stamp, storm petrel, stormy petrel, suggestion, sure sign, suspicion, symptomatology, symptomology, symptoms, syndrome, telltale, telltale sign, the pip, thundercloud, thunderhead, token, track, trait, urogenital disease, virus disease, warning sign, warning signal, wasting disease, whisper, wink, worm disease, yellow flag, yellow jack
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