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

Medicine is the science and practice of caring for a patient and managing the diagnosis, prognosis, prevention, treatment or palliation of their injury or 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 or folk medicine, which remains commonly used in the absence of scientific medicine, and are thus called alternative medicine. Alternative treatments outside of scientific medicine having safety and efficacy concerns are termed quackery. (Full article...)

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smallpox

Smallpox is an acute infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants named Variola major and Variola minor. Also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera; a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning spotted, or varus, meaning "pimple". The term "smallpox" was first used in Europe in the 15th century to distinguish variola from the great pox (syphilis).

Smallpox localizes in small blood vessels of the skin and in the mouth and throat. In the skin, this results in the characteristic maculopapular rash, which evolves into raised vesicles, then into fluid-filled pustules. V. major produces a more serious disease and has an overall mortality rate of 30–35%. V. minor (also known as alastrim, cottonpox, milkpox, whitepox, and Cuban itch) causes a milder form of disease which kills ~1% of its victims.

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DaVinciCardiovascularWoman.jpg
The cardiovascular system and principal organs of a woman (c. 1507) is a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci.

Photo credit: Public domain

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