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Portal:Medicine

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Medicine

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

Medicine is the science and practice of the diagnosis, 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 existed for thousands of years, 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. For 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, treatments outside the bounds of safety and efficacy are termed quackery. Read more...

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The Cerebellum.
The cerebellum (Latin: "little brain") is a region of the brain that plays an important role in the integration of sensory perception and motor output. Many neural pathways link the cerebellum with the motor cortex—which sends information to the muscles causing them to move—and the spinocerebellar tract—which provides feedback on the position of the body in space (proprioception). The cerebellum integrates these pathways, using the constant feedback on body position to fine-tune motor movements.

Because of this 'updating' function of the cerebellum, lesions within it are not so debilitating as to cause paralysis, but rather present as feedback deficits resulting in disorders in fine movement, equilibrium, posture, and motor learning. Initial observations by physiologists during the 18th century indicated that patients with cerebellar damage show problems with motor coordination and movement. Research into cerebellar function during the early to mid 19th century was done via lesion and ablation studies in animals. Research physiologists noted that such lesions led to animals with strange movements, awkward gait, and muscular weakness. These observations and studies led to the conclusion that the cerebellum was a motor control structure. However, modern research shows that the cerebellum has a broader role in a number of key cognitive functions, including attention and the processing of language, music, and other sensory temporal stimuli. (More...)

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Erythema migrans - erythematous rash in Lyme disease - PHIL 9875.jpg
The pathognomonic erythematous rash of Lyme disease is called erythema migrans. It has the pattern of a “bull’s-eye”, which manifested at the site of a tick bite on this woman’s right upper arm.

Photo credit: James Gathany, United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (public domain)

erythema chronicus migrans

Did you know...?

  • ...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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