The Medicine Portal

Marble statue of Asclephius on a pedestal, symbol of medicine in Western medicine

Medicine is the science and practice of establishing the diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. Medicine encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness. Contemporary medicine applies biomedical sciences, biomedical research, genetics, and medical technology to diagnose, treat, and prevent injury and disease, typically through pharmaceuticals or surgery, but also through therapies as diverse as psychotherapy, external splints and traction, medical devices, biologics, and ionizing radiation, amongst others.

Medicine has been practiced since prehistoric times, during most of which it was an art (an area of skill and knowledge) frequently having connections to the religious and philosophical beliefs of local culture. For example, a medicine man would apply herbs and say prayers for healing, or an ancient philosopher and physician would apply bloodletting according to the theories of humorism. In recent centuries, since the advent of modern science, most medicine has become a combination of art and science (both basic and applied, under the umbrella of medical science). While stitching technique for sutures is an art learned through practice, the knowledge of what happens at the cellular and molecular level in the tissues being stitched arises through science.

Prescientific forms of medicine are now known as traditional medicine and folk medicine. They remain commonly used with, or instead of, scientific medicine and are thus called alternative medicine. As an example, evidence on the effectiveness of acupuncture is "variable and inconsistent" for any condition, but is generally safe when done by an appropriately trained practitioner. In contrast, alternative treatments outside the bounds not just of scientific medicine, but also outside the bounds of safety and efficacy are termed quackery. This can encompass an array of practices and practitioners, irrespective of whether they are prescientific (traditional medicine and folk medicine) or modern pseudo-scientific, including chiropractic which rejects modern scientific germ theory of disease (instead believing without evidence that human diseases are caused by invisible subluxation of the bones, predominantly of the spine and less so of other bones), with just over half of chiropractors also rejecting the science of immunization. Read more...

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Georges Gilles de la Tourette.jpg

Tourette syndrome is an inherited neurological disorder with onset in childhood, characterized by the presence of multiple physical (motor) tics and at least one vocal (phonic) tic; these tics usually wax and wane. Tourette's is defined as part of a spectrum of tic disorders, which includes transient and chronic tics. Tourette's was once considered a rare and bizarre syndrome, most often associated with the exclamation of obscene words or socially inappropriate and derogatory remarks (coprolalia). However, this symptom is present in fewer than 15% of people with Tourette's. It is no longer considered a rare condition, but it may not always be correctly identified because of the wide range of severity, with most cases classified as mild. Genetic and environmental factors each play a role in the etiology of Tourette's, but the exact causes are unknown. (More...)

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Karyotype color chromosomes white background.png
Human karyotype with color added to distinguish chromosome pairs.

Photo credit: nih.gov

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  • ...that during the "Age of Heroic Medicine" (1780-1850), educated professional physicians aggressively practiced "heroic medicine", including bloodletting (venesection), intestinal purging (calomel), vomiting (tartar emetic), profuse sweating (diaphoretics) and blistering? These medical treatments were well-intentioned, and often well-accepted by the medical community, but were actually harmful to the patient.
  • ...thalidomide is a drug that was sold during the late 1950s and 1960s to pregnant women as an antiemetic? It was later found to be teratogenic, causing amelia and phocomelia. However, it is still used for other indications such as for leprosy and multiple myeloma, with close regulation through the System for Thalidomide Education and Prescribing Safety (STEPS) program.

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