Diagnosis in TCM places importance on determining the circumstances and manifestations of a disease through inquiry and observation of symptoms. Diagnosis is based on the four traditional examination techniques:
Questioning: The TCM practitioner will establish the medical history of both the patient and his family.
Observation: Examination of the physical features of the body, such as the face, tongue, hair, nails, sputum (mucus that is coughed up), and location of pain, all offer clues to the problem. The tongue is a particularly useful indicator of the functioning of the internal organs.
Listening and Smelling: The odor of sputum and breath and listening to chest sounds offer additional clues to the patient's health.
Touching: Feeling the pulse is a cornerstone of TCM diagnosis and gives the practitioner much information about any bodily imbalance.
TCM practitioners will usually begin with a full investigation of the patient and categorize symptoms under special syndrome groups known as "disharmony patterns." Certain disharmony patterns are present at different stages of a disorder. See article on "Principles of Diagnosis" In addition to manifestations of colorectal cancer as mentioned previously, practitioners also use pulse and tongue examination to obtain a diagnosis.
1. Downward migration of damp-heat
The major diagnostic presentations are abdominal cramps, diarrhea with mucous and bloody stools, tenesmus (painful, ineffectual straining to empty the bowel and bladder), and a burning sensation in the anus. On examination, the tongue is red, and covered by yellow and greasy fur. The pulse is rolling and rapid.
2. Excessive accumulation of poisonous pathogens
The major diagnostic presentations are poor appetite, fever with dysphoria (an emotional state characterized by anxiety, depression, or unease), thirst, abdominal distention and cramping, diarrhea with mucous feces (which are copious and dark purple in color). On examination, the tongue is red, and covered by yellow or dried yellow colored fur. The pulse is surging and rapid.
3. Interior retention of blood stasis
The major diagnostic presentations are fixed and persistent abdominal pain and grayish complexion. On examination, the tongue is dark and purple in color, and covered with brusied spots. The pulse is hesitant or taut or knotted and intermittent.
4. Deficiency in qi (vital energy) and blood
The major diagnostic presentations are pale complexion, light-colored lips and nails, general weakness and shortness of breath. On examination, the tongue is pale with a thin and white coating; the pulse is deep and thready.
5. Yang deficiency in spleen and kidney
The major diagnostic presentations are pale complexion, aversion to cold temperatures, limb coldness and diarrhea in the morning. On examination, the tongue is bulky and the pulse is deep, thready, and weak.
6. Yin deficiency in liver and kidney
The major diagnostic presentations are constipation, wasting of body tissue, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and a feverish sensation in the chest, palms, and soles.
On examination, the tongue is dark red and covered by scanty fur. The pulse is thready and taut, or rapid and thready.