departure from normal function or feeling which is noticed by a patient, reflecting the presence of an unusual state, or of a disease; subjective, observed by the patient, cannot be measured directly

Symptoms are used in diagnosis. The term is used in medicine, and in other fields such as fault-finding in engineering.

In medicine, it refers to things the patient feels or notices. It contrasts with signs, which are changes which a doctor sees in a patient. What a patient feels is subjective, whereas what a doctor sees is objective.

In diagnosis, all symptoms and signs are brought together to make a hypothesis as to what is going wrong. This might suggest further investigation or treatment. A complete investigation ends with a diagnosis that summarizes all this.

  • Pain is a symptom, and red color is a sign, of a skin burn.
  • Feeling sick is a symptom, and vomiting and diarrhea are signs, of food poisoning, cholera and other causes.
  • Pain in the chest is a symptom, and cyanosis (blue color of skin) is a sign, of heart disease.
  • Headaches, aching muscles, and nausea are symptoms of influenza.

Similar terms

  • Symptomatic: having or showing symptoms.
  • Asymptomatic: not showing symptoms.