Attempts to treat and cure illness and disease

Attempts to treat and cure illness and disease

Middle Ages Treatments and Cures (c500-1500)

  • Theory of the four humours: Predominant medical theory, suggesting balance of four bodily fluids (blood, yellow bile, black bile, phlegm) affects health. Treatment often involved trying to restore this balance.
  • Bloodletting and purging: Common methods to ‘balance’ the humours and therefore treat disease.
  • Herbal remedies: Natural ingredients used for treatment based on their supposed effects relating to the four humours.
  • Prayer and divine intervention: Illness was often seen as a punishment from God, thus religious activities were used as treatment.
  • Apothecaries: Early pharmacists that prepared and sold medicinal remedies.
  • Surgery: Used in extreme cases, often without anaesthetic or antiseptics; risky due to high chance of infection.

Early Modern Treatments and Cures (1500-1750)

  • Continuation of humoral theory: Still a key part of medical understanding, with treatments reflecting this.
  • Development of paracelsian theory: Belief that illnesses could be cured by chemical remedies; root of modern pharmacology.
  • Surgeons and barber surgeons: Began to gain more status; key individuals treating disease, despite primitive understanding.
  • Superstition and folklore: Still influenced many treatments, with people relying on charms and rituals.
  • Hospitals: Began to be more about medical treatment rather than spiritual care.

19th Century Treatments and Cures (1800-1900)

  • Development of anesthesia: Essential for pain management during surgery, beginning with ether and chloroform.
  • Antiseptics: Use of substances to kill bacteria on wounds and surgical instruments progressed drastically, pioneered by Joseph Lister.
  • Vaccination: Edward Jenner’s smallpox vaccine became more widespread, alongside development of other vaccines.
  • Medical profession and hospitals: Emergence of professional doctors and improved hospitals led to better treatment.

20th Century Treatments to Present (1900-Present)

  • Antibiotics: Penicillin, discovered by Alexander Fleming, revolutionised treatment of bacterial infections.
  • Medical technology: Advances such as X-rays, MRI scans, and ultrasound improved diagnosis and treatment.
  • Surgery: Techniques improved drastically, with development of heart surgery, transplants, and keyhole surgery.
  • Cancer treatments: Chemo and radiotherapy became more effective in treating various types of cancers.
  • HIV/AIDS treatment: Antiretroviral therapy transformed HIV/AIDS from a fatal disease to a chronic condition.
  • Mental health treatment: Much greater understanding and treatments for mental health conditions, including medication and therapy.
  • DNA and genetic research: Leading to tailored treatments and potential cures based on individual genetic makeup.