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Cause vs Symptom vs Trigger vs Syndrome

 Reviewed 16 November 2018 share-a-picture Or go to discussion?join-the-discussion dogphoto
Symptom vs Trigger vs Cause

This is what Google detects as presumably the world's top content to help people understand cause vs symptom:

cause vs symptom

Now note that cause vs symptom arguably is the most critical differentiation of all in western medicine! See Why Cause vs Symptom is Critical.

And this is what Google detects as presumably the world's top content to help people understand cause vs trigger, the trigger in medicine:

cause vs trigger

Now note that, to understand the cause of some sickness it is vital to be able to differentiate cause vs trigger! See Why Cause vs Trigger is Critical.

So, let's help improve everyone's understanding of arguably the nucleus of medicine! IMHO at least.

What is CAUSE?

Cause is the one circumstance that originates a defect, disorder, or disease.

More of course under CAUSE.

What is SYMPTOM?

Symptom is a physiological, microbiological, or behavioral sign that may suggest a defect, disorder, or disease.

More of course under SYMPTOM.

Cause vs Symptom

When is a circumstance the cause and when a symptom?

A circumstance that suggests sickness is a symptom.

A circumstance that has the same effect on every organism is the cause for sickness.

What is TRIGGER?

Trigger is what contributes to activate a defect, disorder, or disease.

More of course under TRIGGER.

Cause vs Trigger

When is a circumstance the cause and when a trigger?

A circumstance is the cause only if it has the same effect on every organism, else it is a trigger.

Cause vs Symptom vs Trigger as a graphic

Allow me to repeat my above thumbnail now in full size I made it, back at the time when large graphics were taboo:

Symptom vs Trigger vs Cause

In short: Symptoms result from triggers and the cause of some illness.


Syndrome is a symptom or more often a set of symptoms that may reliably identify a defect, disorder, or disease.

Examples under SYNDROME.

Symptom vs Syndrome vs Cause vs Trigger

I can even offer you a shorthand that helps memorize these four related terms:

  • Symptom: Suggests
  • Trigger: Activates
  • Cause: Originates
  • Syndrome: Identifies

Clarity in Terminology

Do you see how clear, systematic and, more importantly, disjunct the definitions here are?

Admittedly it took long to get there but they have proven to stand the test of time: All these medical definitions have served me well in daily practice, I apply them all the time because these definitions cleanse the mind from all the ambiguity and contradictions out there!


There is not one article to be found on Google in the first 100 results for any medical search term that systematically reserves each term for its disjunct circumstances, and only those. Indeed it appears that to this day the medical lingo is no lingua franca: it's a mess.

When I was young I was taught:

"Clarity in the mind requires clarity in the language."

I feel it holds true.

If we cannot agree to reserve each term for its disjunct circumstances then we cannot agree on cause, on triggers, on symptoms, nor on treatment.

And note that that's regardless which approach to treatment you favor. wink

Indeed clarity in terminology is required

Why Cause vs Symptom is Critical

Cause vs Symptom arguably is the most critical differentiation of all in western medicine because the medical approach in the western hemisphere is: "symptom equals sickness".

Physicians here learn to focus on symptoms. To enquire about "your symptoms?". Drugs are being developed to relieve patients of symptoms. The entire western medicine oscillates around symptoms.

We know:

Further we know:

  • symptoms naturally change over time, may temporarily disappear, then reappear or not - with or without treatment
  • and for many disorders and diseases the symptoms show almost like they have a lifecycle: wandering from one body system to the next in a known fashion
  • this is why the one-off diagnosis in a single consultation without the most comprehensive interrogation inevitably suggests improper treatment
  • treatment that ultimately is able to relieve the present symptoms but that precipitates further symptoms because the cause persists.

Why Cause vs Trigger is Critical

To understand the cause of some sickness it is vital to be able to differentiate cause vs trigger because:

  • symptoms often do not even show although the cause exists
  • this is because typically the cause of sickness requires at least one trigger for symptoms to show
  • different individuals are subject to different triggers, and at different times
  • after one or more rounds of treatment the cause and some or all triggers can become unidentifiable retrospectively
  • this is why starting out by treating symptoms without first getting a complete picture of the cause and involved triggers is not actually helpful but detrimental.

And yet you saw above that Google documents that only in three small subject areas physicians understand to differentiate between cause and trigger:

cause vs trigger

Do you have migraine, or asthma, or psoriasis?

In this case you are "lucky": according to the top 100 Google results the experts in these fields of medicine are pretty much the only ones who discuss and thus presumably understand the importance of differentiating trigger vs cause before attempting any treatment at all.

Let's hope you, and I too, will never have any health problem other than migraine, asthma, or psoriasis... mrgreen

Understanding All: Cause, Symptom, and Trigger

The above points make it necessary that we consider and evaluate all three: symptoms, triggers, and the cause. And before we decide on any treatment.

Let's close this chapter with a few examples.

Examples: Cause vs Symptom vs Trigger

First, here's an example that shows the difference between symptom, trigger, and cause where all three differ:

Say, your dog has painful Diarrhea each time you feed something with beef, but not when you feed anything else. Then:

Because an allergy is an immune system disorder and the above links each explain how those circumstances impair the immune system.

A beef allergy (or any other allergy!) is not inherited but acquired.

Next, here's an example where trigger and cause arguably are the same (this is primarily with a defect):

Say, your dog bleeds incessantly after a lesion or surgery. Then:

One that arguably does not require a trigger, although some physicians make the point that vWD does require a trigger that is different from the cause.

Most suggest the trigger is an acquired immune system disorder following vaccination.



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