What is Difference Between Sign and Symptom

Although the signs and symptoms describe the same conditions, these two are different in many features. While signs are what a doctor sees, symptoms are what a patient experiences. This is the main difference between signs and symptoms but not the only one.

It should be noted that the word sign can have other meanings, but for the purposes of this comparison, we will rely on its definition within the field of medicine.

Sign and Symptom



Generally speaking, “sign” is a word used to indicate or provide information about something. In medical terms, the word ‘sign’ is used by health professionals to get real information about a particular illness, disease, etc. by asking about the symptoms of the patients and also using other measurable ways like blood tests, X-rays, observing the temperature, etc.

There are three types of medical signs, such as anamnestic, prognostic, and diagnostic signs.

  • Anamnestic signs refer to the past experience of the disease or conditions. An example is paralysis and myocardial infarction.
  • Prognostic signs predict future disease, by observing the signs and symptoms, the doctor predicts the chances of disease onset.
  • Diagnostic signs show the actual illness that the person is currently suffering from.


The symptoms are felt by the patient only. It is a kind of report that the patient provides to the doctor, on the basis of which further diagnoses are made. Symptoms are said to be subjective, as they can only be felt by the person. Examples: chills, headache, body aches, nausea, and muscle fatigue.

The symptoms can be considered as an indication of a particular disease; These are not visible to others. The symptoms should be taken seriously and if detected, a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible.

There are three types of medical symptoms.

  • Chronic symptoms: In this type of symptom there is prolonged pain, which does not disappear as in cancer, AIDS, or asthma.
  • Recurring symptoms: These are the symptoms that reappear, after disappearing in the past. The best example is multiple sclerosis and cancer.
  • Remission symptoms: the symptoms that escape completely from the body.

Difference between Sign and Symptom

A sign is the physical manifestation of a disease or injury, on the other hand, the symptoms can be defined as what a patient experiences about the disease or injury that he/she presents. The patient is the one who notices the symptoms, but it is others, especially the doctor, who notices the signs. This is the main difference between signs and symptoms.

As signs can be called high temperature, rapid pulse, low blood pressure, open wound, and bruises. Symptoms can be aches, chills, nausea, fever, or dizziness.

Signs are considered to be objective, while symptoms on the other hand are subjective. The signs are called objective in the sense that they can be felt, heard, or seen. Swelling, fever, high blood pressure, or tachycardia are signed.

Symptoms are considered subjective in the sense that they are visible to the patient. This means that it is only the patient who experiences and perceives the symptoms.

When the patient begins to experience certain symptoms is when he decides to approach a specialist. These symptoms described by patients are what help the doctor make a diagnosis.

Taking into account that many symptoms are not visible, it is very important that the patient is as descriptive as possible so that the doctor can evaluate them and take action.

Another difference between signs and symptoms lies in the fact that symptoms can also be defined as everything that the patient does not report, but that cannot be verified. Being dizzy, tired, or in pain are some of the symptoms that are not verifiable.

But the signs on the other hand can be verified. These can be measured in a clinical setting. Doctors, for example, can measure blood pressure, study rapid heart rate, or measure fever.

Another thing that differentiates them is that the symptoms can be vague but the signs, being visible, can be measured. A sign is therefore an objective indication of a health problem that can be detected by a doctor.

These signs may not mean much to patients, but they are very important to a doctor in helping them diagnose health conditions.

One can describe the symptoms as one that are experienced and reported by a patient. Meanwhile, the doctor discovers signs of an illness while examining a patient.

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