October 11, 2013 | Posted in Basics, Concepts in Anthroposophic Medicine

A diagnosis is a label that, if accurate, carries a lot of meaning.  It is generally used to transmit information efficiently from one professional to another.

It can also be the point at which people stop thinking. So a diagnosis must be arrived at carefully.


The foundation for accurate diagnosis is collecting facts from careful observation.  See Observation, phenomenology.  Careful observation is a foundation of many scientific endeavors.

The facts come from the history of the problem (what hurts, where, when, in what position, what is related to the pain, what helps or worsens…), and from physical exam, and from laboratory work and imaging.

Rather than say ‘I have gall bladder problem’ more information is presented with ‘I have pain in my right upper abdomen after fatty meal; it goes to my right shoulder.’

The facts stated from observing the event of pain, etc.,  and its nature and circumstance and location and movement, are as valuable as gold.

With the final-sounding statement ‘I have gall bladder problem’ the search is over, the investigation closed. That is fine as long as the process arriving at diagnosis was accurate.

To avoid misdiagnosis, it is important to stay in close touch with the facts we can observe, and become ever more careful observers of our family’s symptoms, and our own. If there is a misdiagnosis, going back to these facts, reviewing them, and then seeking patterns afresh will be of great value.

With the abundance of information available today, people self-diagnose commonly. The pitfalls are the following: undue fear, and detouring down wrong road for treatment.

Most of us have at some time found a pimple or normal lymph node, and jumped to a cancer conclusion. We may have lived in fear for some time, until the item resolves itself or we see a professional who sets the impression aright.

Occasionally people want to ‘try’ a treatment without doing testing to get a diagnosis. This ‘therapeutic trial’ approach can be legitimate if diagnostic tests are not available and the therapeutic substance is safe, and the delay in full diagnosis is not harmful. If a treatment works, it can point to a diagnosis.

But erroneous treatment can waste time and money, and obscure the diagnosis. ‘Shotgun’ therapy is the term used when without a diagnosis, a person tries to treat every possible problem. Hunters usually prefer rifles, though there are shotguns available.

The healthcare professional is trained to bring an objective eye, a receptive ear, and open mind to the symptoms and physical exam.  With clear thinking, accurate diagnosis is reached.  This sound diagnosis is the foundation of any treatment, whether the treatment is with natural treatments or conventional medicines.

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