A medical sign is an objective[1] indication of some medical fact or characteristic that may be detected by a patient or anyone, especially a physician, before or during a physical examination of a patient. For example, whereas a tingling paresthesia is a symptom (only the person experiencing it can directly observe their own tingling feeling), erythema is a sign (anyone can confirm that the skin is redder than usual). Symptoms and signs are often nonspecific, but often combinations of them are at least suggestive of certain diagnoses, helping to narrow down what may be wrong. In other cases they are specific even to the point of being pathognomonic.

 Examples of signs include elevated blood pressure, a clubbing of the ends of fingers (which may be a sign of lung disease, or many other things), a staggering gait (human) and arcus senilis of the eyes.Some signs may have no meaning to the patient, and may even go unnoticed, but may be meaningful and significant to the healthcare provider in assisting diagnosis.

The term sign is not to be confused with the term indication, which in medicine denotes a valid reason for using some treatment.


Medicine is both an art and a science. Both are interdependent and inseparable, just like two sides of a coin. The importance of the art of medicine is because we have to deal with a human being, his or her body, mind and soul. To be a good medical practitioner, one has to become a good artist with sufficient scientific knowledge. Technology covered with the layer of art alone can bring relief to the sick.

In the field of medical education, this dying art of medicine has to be revived throughout the world. So the conclusion to the debate on the status of medicine as art or science is crystal clear. Let us conclude with the famous words of Albert Einstein (Wikiquote, 2006):

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom his emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.

Medicine is what helps or heals. From time immemorial, man has been struggling to control disease. Medicine has advanced with the progress of science. It is thus built on the best of the past. Park (2002), discussing Medicine in Antiquity has rightly quoted Dubos:

Ancient medicine was the mother of science and played a large role in the integration of early culture.

Ancient medicine across the globe was different due to vivid cultures and civilizations. In due course, this was enriched by integration of cultures across many geographical boundaries, races and ethnic groups. Due to this, medicine has undergone wide changes, so much so that its definition itself has metamorphosed many times.

What, then, is medicine? Many people think it is a science, others think it is an art. Another group is of the view that medicine is both an art and a science. Rogers (2006), in his Introduction to the Study of Medicine, says:

Medicine is sometimes considered a science, and sometimes an art; the object of medical science is to study disease.

Steve Solomon has tried to define medicine in the first chapter of hygiene library catalog of his website. In his discussion he differs from the view of Rogers quoted above. According to Solomon (2006):

Man should be studied in life and health-the influences on the body of food, clothing, bathing, and the daily care of the body. A live man, well understood, is worth more from a health standpoint than thousands of dead men. The aim of medical art is to restore and maintain health.

He further points out:

Medicine is supposed to be a scientific study and its practice an art. The study of disease requires the aid of science. Consummate art is required to effect a cure when nature is no longer able to help herself.

In Cecil’s Textbook of Medicine (Goldman and Dennis, 2004), art of medicine is conceived of as the activity of patient advocacy by means of human faculty, and the role of science as subordinate to the humane art of listening and advocacy is highlighted. Another view is that the goal of medicine is to produce healing or health for the sake of the patient, and not for the sake of art (Goldman and Dennis, 2004), whereas Saunders (2000) sees the art of medicine as part of the culture of science. Warsop (2002)says:

The cosmetic surgeon takes aesthetic factors into consideration as part of her daily work, but such factors are subsumed by the priority to restore her patient’s health.

Warsop means to say that cosmetic surgeon’s goal is not to create art, using her patient as raw material, as a potter uses clay. Citing this example, he concludes that medicine fails to qualify as an art in the sense of art understood as fine art, as say painting or sculpture.

Saunders (2000) says, “The practice of clinical medicine with its daily judgments is both science and art. In the practice of clinical medicine, the art is not merely part of the ′medical humanities′ but is integrated to medicine as an applied science”. Warsop (2002) finally agrees by saying that science is of course essential to medicine, but medicine cannot be simply identified with pure science or even with applied science. The art of medicine is essentially composed of the clinical skills of listening and advocacy brought to bear in the consultation.