Encyclopedia of Family Health - Vol. 15

By David B. Jacoby; Robert M. Youngson | Go to book overview

Symptoms

Questions and Answers

How does a doctor know when
babies are sick? They can’t talk
about their symptoms.

Babies show signs of illness like
diarrhea and vomiting, but often
doctors rely upon the intuition of
the mother. Sometimes, there are
obvious upsets in a baby’s
behavior such as crying, not
eating, and sleeplessness. At other
times, the mother might suspect
that the baby is sick even if there
is no real evidence. Doctors
always try and find out from the
mother as much as they can, since
a mother is most aware of how
her baby is feeling. The doctor
will then make a diagnosis from
this and from an examination.

Do all serious illnesses give rise to
symptoms?

No, and this is both a good and a
bad thing. On the one hand, it is
obviously a good thing that
people don’t necessarily have to
suffer unpleasant symptoms like
the horrifying pain caused by
blockage in one of the coronary
arteries (main blood vessels to the
heart). On the other hand, some
diseases that might be treatable
in their early stages can go
unnoticed until it is too late. So
symptoms can be both unpleasant
and a valuable early warning at
the same time.

I get a severe pain in my teeth,
yet my dentist says the trouble is
in my sinuses. Why is this?

Many different conditions and
diseases can cause pain at a place
away from the center of the
trouble. This is called the
radiation of pain. Doctors can
gain useful information by finding
out where pain radiates to. Heart
pain, for example, may be felt in
the chest but can spread to the
arms, shoulders, and jaw.
Sometimes, it is felt only in these
unconnected places.

To a doctor, symptoms are the primary means of discovering what is wrong with a patient. To a patient suffering, symptoms are what prompt him or her to seek help from a doctor.

Unpleasant or persistent symptoms are usually what impel a person to consult a doctor in the hope of having them relieved. The symptom being complained about is often just one of the clues a doctor has to make a diagnosis. He or she will then treat a patient on the basis of the diagnosis.


What are symptoms?

Many people get confused about what symptoms really are. In effect, a symptom is any change in the body or its functions that intrudes sufficiently upon a person’s awareness to cause him or her to associate it with a possible illness. These physical or mental sensations can range all the way from a pain in the stomach after eating, to amnesia after an accident. The range of symptoms is enormous, and people suffering from the same underlying illness can experience and describe the way they feel in vastly different ways. This can makes it difficult for a doctor to interpret, from the patients’ own words, what they are actually experiencing, but a description of a patient’s symptoms is a doctor’s primary means of diagnosis, whereby he or she can establish what direction to pursue in tracking down the nature of the patient’s Illness. When the doctor takes what is called a history—asking diverse questions about the patient’s life and general health—other symptoms often come to light. These are often complaints that the patient thought were unconnected with whatever he or she was suffering from. For instance,

Often, pain can be felt in an area of the
body unrelated to the site of the actual
problem. For instance, as well as the pain
felt in the center of the chest caused by
angina or even a heart attack, victims
usually feel pain in the left arm, the left
shoulder, and even the jaw. Because
nerves relaying pain from both the heart
and the arm enter the spinal cord quite
close to each other, it is thought that there
is some crossover of never signals in the
spinal cord that causes the brain to
perceive pain in the arm as well as in
other areas of the body
.

-2149-

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Encyclopedia of Family Health - Vol. 15
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Spastic Colon 2022
  • Specimens 2024
  • Speculum 2027
  • Speech 2028
  • Speech Therapy 2032
  • Sperm 2034
  • Sphygmomanometer 2036
  • Spina Bifida 2037
  • Spinal Cord 2040
  • Spleen 2044
  • Splinters 2047
  • Splints 2048
  • Sports Injury 2050
  • Sports Medicine 2052
  • Sprains 2056
  • Stammering and Stuttering 2058
  • Staphylococcus 2062
  • Starch 2063
  • Stem Cell 2065
  • Stenosis 2067
  • Sterilization 2068
  • Steroids 2072
  • Stethoscope 2074
  • Stiffness 2076
  • Stillbirth 2080
  • Stimultants 2083
  • Stitch 2086
  • Stomach 2088
  • Stomach Pump 2091
  • Strangulation 2094
  • Streptococcus 2097
  • Stress 2098
  • Stress Management 2103
  • Stretch Marks 2105
  • Sty 2112
  • Subconscious 2114
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome 2116
  • Suffocation 2118
  • Sugars 2120
  • Suicide 2122
  • Sunburn 2126
  • Sunstroke 2130
  • Suppositories 2132
  • Surgery 2134
  • Surrogacy 2141
  • Sutures 2144
  • Swellings 2145
  • Symptoms 2149
  • Syphilis 2153
  • Syringing 2156
  • Index 2158
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