Medicine has two basic meanings, it refers to 1. The Science of Healing; the practice of the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease, and the promotion of health. 2. Medications, drugs, substances used to treat and cure diseases, and to promote health. This collection of articles focuses on the science of healing, its history from prehistoric times until today, and the medications and healing methods used.
Some people might call medicine a regulated patient-focused health profession which is devoted to the health and well-being of patients.Whichever way medicine is described, the thrust of the meaning is the same - diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease, caring for patients and a dedication to their health and well-being. According to Medilexicon's medical dictionary, Medicine is:
1. A drug. 2. The art of preventing or curing disease; the science concerned with disease in all its relations. 3. The study and treatment of general diseases or those affecting the internal parts of the body, especially those not usually requiring surgical intervention.
Modern medicine includes many fields of science and practice, including:
- Clinical practice - the physician assesses the patient personally; the aim being to diagnose, treat, and prevent disease using his/her training and clinical judgment.
- Healthcare science - a multidisciplinary field which deals with the application of science, technology, engineering (mathematics) for the delivery of care. A healthcare scientist is involved with the delivery of diagnosis, treatment, care and support of patients in systems of healthcare, as opposed to people in academic research. A healthcare scientist actively combines the organizational, psychosocial, biomedical, and societal aspects of health, disease and healthcare.
- Biomedical research - a broad area of science that seeks ways to prevent and treat diseases that make people and/or animals ill or causes death. It includes several areas of both physical and life sciences. Biomedical scientists use biotechnology techniques to study biological processes and diseases; their ultimate objective is to develop successful treatments and cures. Biomedical research requires careful experimentation, development and evaluations involving many scientists, including biologists, chemists, doctors, pharmacologist, and others. It is an evolutionary process.
- Medications - drugs or medicines and their administration. Medications are chemical substances meant for use in medical diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of disease.
- Surgery - a branch of medicine that focuses on diagnosing and treating disease, deformity and injury by instrumental and manual means. This may involve a surgical procedure, such as one that involves removing or replacing diseased tissue or organs. Surgery usually takes place in a laboratory, operating room (theater), a dental clinic, or a veterinary clinic/practice.
- Medical devices - instruments, implants, in vitro reagents, apparatuses, or other similar articles which help in the diagnosis of diseases and other conditions. Medical devices are also used to cure disease, mitigate harm or symptoms, to treat illness or conditions, and to prevent diseases. They may also be used to affect the structure or function of parts of the body. Unlike medications, medical devices achieve their principal purpose (action) by mechanical, thermal, physical, physic-chemical, or chemical means. Medical devices range from simple medical thermometers to enormous, sophisticated and expensive image scanning machines.
The History of Medicine - humans have been practicing medicine in one way or another for over a million years. In order to understand how modern medicine got to where it is now, it is important to read about the history of medicine. In this series of articles, you can read about:
- Alternative medicine - includes any practice which claims to heal but does not fall within the realm of conventional/traditional medicine. In most cases, because it is based on cultural or historical traditions, instead of scientific evidence. Scientific refers to, for example, demonstrating the effectiveness or a therapy or drug in a double-blind, random, long-term, large clinical human study (clinical trial), in which the therapy or drug is compared to either a placebo or another therapy/drug. Examples of alternative medicine include homeopathy, acupuncture, ayurveda, naturopathic medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine.
- Psychotherapy, physical therapy (UK: physiotherapy), occupational therapy, nursing, midwifery, and several other fields
According to the World Health Organization, "Traditional Medicine" is:
"The sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness."
There are many branches in medicine, below is a list of some of them (there are many more):
- Anatomy - the study of the physical structure of the body
- Biochemistry - studies what chemical components are and what they do in the body
- Biomechanics - studies how biological systems in the body work, as well as their structure. This is done using mechanics.
- Biostatistics - applying statistics to biological fields. Biostatistics is crucial for successful medical research as well as many areas of medical practice.
- Biophysics - uses physics, mathematics, chemistry and biology to model and understand the workings of biological systems.
- Cytology - a branch of pathology, the medical and scientific microscopic study of cells
- Embryology - a branch of biology which studies the formation, early growth and development of organisms.
- Endocrinology - the study of hormones and their impact on the body
- Epidemiology - the study of causes, distribution and control of diseases in populations.
- Genetics - the study of genes.
- Histology - studies the form of structures under the microscope. Also known as microscopic anatomy.
- Microbiology - the study of organisms that are too small to see with the naked eye - microorganisms. Included in this field are bacteriology, virology, mycology (study of fungi), and parasitology.
- Neuroscience - the study of the nervous system and the brain. Included in this field are diseases of the nervous system, computational modeling, psychophysics, cognitive neuroscience, cellular neuroscience, and molecular neuroscience.
- Nutrition - studying how food and drink influence health and help treat, cure and prevent diseases and conditions which influence on disease risk.
- Pathology - the study of disease. A branch of medicine which looks at the essential nature of disease.
- Pharmacology - the study of pharmaceutical medications (drugs), where they come from, how they work, how the body responds to them, and what they consist of.
- Physiology - studying how living organisms exist, how they feed themselves, move and reproduce.
- Radiology - the use of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation to diagnose and treat disease.
- Toxicology - studying poisons, what they are, what effects they have on the body, and how to detect them.
On the next page, we look at prehistoric medicine.