Asymptomatic: How You Can Be Sick And Not Even Know It

Doctor carefully listening to her patient
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The definition of asymptomatic is without symptoms.

What Are Symptoms?

In medicine, symptoms of a disease or a condition are the changes that you notice in your body.

These are the things that happen to your body that causes you to seek medical care. 

When you go to see your doctor she will most likely ask you why you are there. She may say something like,

“I understand you are coming to see me because of a problem with your periods.”

This is the time when you would tell your doctor your complaints. When you list your complaints you are also telling your doctor about your symptoms. This conversation is called history taking. It is important that you give your doctor as thorough a history as possible explaining all of your symptoms. Your doctor will likely ask you several questions to help you give her a clear picture of what is going on.  Some examples of symptoms that you might list about your period include:

  • Heavier bleeding than usual
  • Passing blood clots
  • Soaking through a super tampon and a maxi pad in an hour
  • Increased cramping with your period
  • Painful urination during your period
  • Low back pain with your period

Your doctor should listen very carefully to you when you are talking about your symptoms. This is one of the most important parts of your visit to the doctor. By the time you have finished explaining how and what you are feeling your doctor should have an idea of the possible causes of your symptoms.

What Are Signs?

Now your doctor will do an examination. This is called a physical.

Your doctor will now look for changes in your body that could explain the symptoms that you are feeling. What your doctor is now looking for are signs of a condition or a disease.  Based on the above complaints the signs that your doctor might find are:

  • A mass in your lower abdomen
  • Pain when she moves your cervix
  • An enlarged uterus
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge

Your doctor will then combine your symptoms with the signs she found on the exam and she will either make a diagnosis or have made a short list of possible diagnoses. She may order some testing to help her make a final diagnosis.

What If I Am Asymptomatic?

The pathway to making a diagnosis is much different when you are asymptomatic meaning that you do not have any symptoms. You don’t have any changes in your body that are bothering you. If you don’t have any symptoms of a condition you will not know that you may have a serious condition until it is too late.

This is why it is important to see your doctor regularly so they can look for signs of disease.

Also, it is equally important to have all of the recommended screening tests to help detect diseases before they cause serious problems or become too advanced. Early detection and treatment usually result in a better outcome. Some examples of conditions in women that may be asymptomatic until they become very advanced or start to cause problems are:

Sometimes your doctor may find something on physical exam that is not causing you any symptoms and that is not dangerous for your health. In these cases, your doctor may not recommend any further treatment.

Remember, you play a vital role in your own health.  Pay attention to changes in your body, report these to your doctor and keep up with recommended screening tests.

As always, it is important to discuss any concerns that you have about your health with your doctor

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