As already mentioned earlier, the selection of a homeopathic medicine depends upon the symptoms of the patient. Taking symptoms from the patient is a unique art. In order to select the right and unique symptoms it is important for a homeopathic doctor to know about various type of symptoms. Knowledge of these symptoms also helps the patient to understand which symptoms are more important and have to be told to the doctor.
Subjective symptoms: These are the symptoms experienced by the patient. Only he can express these symptoms properly to the doctor. These may include pain or other abnormal sensations. Dr. Hahnemann gave much value to these symptoms as they belong to the psychic and mental sphere. They are ranked highest among all the symptoms while evaluating them for selection of homeopathic medicine.
Objective symptoms: These are the signs observed by the physician or the attendants or family members. These include physiological findings or laboratory investigations e.g. blueness of skin, increased heart rate, abnormal ECG or X-ray findings etc. These findings basically help in diagnosing the disease condition.
Basic symptoms: These are the symptoms seen in many diseases. They are those symptoms which are observed in large number of patients and in large number of provers (people on whom drugs are proved) during drug proving. They are common symptoms (like fever, vomiting, loss of appetite, loss of weight etc.) which help in diagnosis of disease. As these symptoms do not help in individualization of a patient they are not helpful in selection of a homeopathic medicine.
Pathognomonic symptoms: These symptoms help in differential diagnosis (i.e. distinguishing one disease from the other) of disease. They include signs or the objective symptoms e.g. frequent urination, frequent thirst, feeling hungry frequently, sugar in blood, fatigue are pathognomonic symptoms of diabetes.
Pathogenetic symptoms: These symptoms pertain to the cause of the disease e.g. exposure to cold air, getting wet in rain, overexposure to heat, sudden financial or familial loss etc.
Characteristic symptoms: These symptoms are uncommon orunique to the patient. They are found only in few patients and in proving of few medicines (these symptoms are very peculiar and cannot be explained on the basis of pathology). They help in individualizingevery patient and help in distinguishing between different medicines for e.g. there are three patients suffering from viral fever, one of them feels very thirsty and wants small sips of water at frequent intervals, the second feels thirsty and wants large quantity of water at frequent intervals and the third patient is thirstless. Although all three patients are suffering from the same disease because of their unique symptoms they will be requiring different medicines. So the first patient will be givenArsenic album, the second one will be given Bryonia and the third patient will be given Pulsatilla.
General symptoms: These symptoms are the one that pertains to the patient as a whole. The patient expresses these symptoms to the doctor using ‘ I ‘ e.g. I feel thirsty, I like salty food, I dislike coffee etc. As these symptoms represent the state of the patient as a whole they are of immense value in selection of homeopathic medicine. General symptoms are of two types:
- Mental generals: These include the mental symptoms of the patient e.g. fear, anger, anxiety, depression, grief, jealousy, suspicious etc.
- Physical generals: These include the physical symptoms referring to the body as a whole e.g. aversions and cravings, likes and dislikes, thirst, perspiration, urine, stool etc.
Particular symptoms: These symptoms are the one that pertains to a part of a body. The patient expresses these symptoms to the doctor using ‘ My ‘ e.g. My head is aching, my stomach is burning, my eyes are watering etc. These symptoms are of very less importance as compared to the general symptoms.
Chief symptom: This is the main complaint for which the patient has come to the doctor.
Concomitant symptoms: These are the symptoms which are present along with the chief complaint. Although they do not trouble the patient much, they help to individualize a patient e.g. cold sweating on forehead during menses, nauseating feeling with pain in stomach.
Complete symptom: In Homeopathy a symptom is said to be complete when it covers the following criteria’s:
- Location: Although disease is not localized to any particular area but some part of the body may be affected more than the rest. Location includes the area, side of the body affected, any extension or change in site e.g. if a person is having headache then which area is involved (front of head, back of head, top of head, temples), which side is involved (right or left side or both), whether the pain is extending to any other part (like to the nose or the eyes or ear).
- Sensation: What type of sensation is felt e.g. what is the nature of pain in head. Is it throbbing, pinching, bursting, shooting, sensation of tight band around the head etc.
- Modality: These include the factors which improve (ameliorate) or worsen (aggravate) the symptoms. For example the headache feels better by tying a cloth around the head or by pressing and gets worse by noise, light and sleep.
- Concomitant symptoms: These are the symptoms associated with the main complaint.
Making the symptom complete with respect to location, sensation, modality and concomitant helps to individualize the patient as many people may be suffering from same condition (e.g. headache) but they may experience pain in different areas, have different sensation and modalities. Thus more complete a symptoms the more it helps in selecting a most similar medicine for the patient.