Tongue diagnosis of traditional chinese medicine for Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • LC Lo
  • CH Chen
  • JY Chiang
  • TL Cheng
  • HJ Lin
  • HH Chang
Keywords: TCM, Rheumatoid arthritis, Tongue diagnosis, Rheumatoid factor, Blood stasis


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, systemic autoimmune disease with unknown aetiology that causes the immune system to attack the joints (synoviums), leading to chronic inflammation. According to the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), RA falls into the category of Impediment disease (“Bi” syndrome), that is, poor circulation of qi and blood (stasis). Tongue diagnosis is an important method of TCM to detect blood stasis. In this study, 74 RA patients, meeting the pre-set criteria, were recruited via rheumatology outpatient clinic and examined by experienced rheumatology physicians. Two images-one of the tongue and the other, sublingual vessels-of the same patient were taken by a Canon digital camera in a darkroom with uniform lighting conditions. Relevant features of the tongue were extracted by utilising image processing techniques. Every tongue was classified into corresponding patterns based on the features identified. The subjects included 62 females and 12 males with an average age of 49.86±13.81 years old, an average morbidity period of 4.56±3.92 years, an average rheumatoid factor (RF) of 225.3±373.8 IU/mL and an average erythrocyte sedimentation rate of (ESR) 40.9±31.9m/hr. According to our study, 86% of the patients with RA have tongues with sublingual vessels with a width of more than 2.7mm, a length of more than 3/5 from tongue tipto sublingual caruncle, or a count of sublingual vessels more than 2. Moreover, since RA index is highly correlated with blood stasis in TCM, a logistic regression is conducted to predict the probability of presence of RA using RF and ESR as explanatory variables. Also, the logistic regression analysis of RA with respect to the conventional tongue diagnosis criteria was performed. Based on the aforementioned studies, we concluded that tongue diagnosis is helpful in detecting blood stasis of RA.

Key words: TCM, Rheumatoid arthritis, Tongue diagnosis, Rheumatoid factor, Blood stasis


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eISSN: 0189-6016