Arbitrariness and conventionality: actions speak louder than words

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 01 March 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:476
  1. Emma Stapleton, clinical research fellow, University of Edinburgh (

    When patients present with balance symptoms, it's essential to find out exactly what their symptoms are. Patients complaining of dizziness could mean vertigo, dysequilibrium, light-headedness, presyncope, or something entirely different. And when patients report that they suffer from vertigo, there's every possibility that they're using the term to mean something other than the clinical definition—a sensation of spinning or motion.

    When a deaf patient signs that he has vertigo he touches his index finger to his forehead, then moves his hand in small circles next to his head. The meaning is obvious. The intention is similarly clear when a deaf patient signs …

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