A medical treatment is care given to a patient by health professionals in order to relieve or prevent illness or injury. This care may include medications, physical therapy, psychological and psychiatric services or mechanical devices such as artificial limbs. Treatments may be administered by physicians, nurse practitioners or other licensed health professionals. All procedures have benefits, risks and possible side effects that should be discussed with a health professional prior to receiving them.
Medicine is an ancient field that has grown to encompass many sub-fields. Some of these fields are specialized in particular organ systems or disease classes, while others focus on specific aspects of medical practice or research. For example, the field of pharmacology is concerned with the discovery, development, evaluation, registration and monitoring of medicines for medical use.
The field of medicine also includes the study of disease and other health related conditions in humans, animals and plants. It has developed a number of methods and techniques for preventing disease, including vaccination, blood screening, public health education and lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. Medical technology is constantly improving. Advances in molecular biology, genetics and evolution are influencing medicine as well.
Medical treatment is generally categorized by the purpose for which it is provided. The most common categories are first aid, medical diagnostic procedures and treatment of disease or injury. First aid includes suturing wounds, administration of fluids and antibiotics, bandaging and splinting limbs, removing foreign objects from the body, treating infections and providing resuscitation. It also includes applying ointments, salves and antiseptics to minor injuries.
Other types of medical treatment include physiotherapy (which is the examination, diagnosis and treatment of diseases or injuries of the muscles, joints and ligaments) and medically necessary surgical care to repair damaged tissue. Some of this surgery is performed on an outpatient basis while other procedures are done in hospitals or clinics.
Some health problems have no cure — these are called chronic illnesses. However, medical treatments can help manage the symptoms of these conditions so that a person lives as comfortably as possible with them. For example, a person with type 1 diabetes will need insulin treatment for life to keep their blood sugar in the normal range.
Other fields of medical treatment include environmental medicine which is concerned with the relationship between human health and the environment, disaster medicine, diving medicine (or hyperbaric oxygen therapy), conservation medicine and ecological medicine. Other medical treatment focuses on gender-based differences such as reproductive medicine and obstetrics, and geriatrics (the management of elderly patients). Finally, the medical specialty of forensic medicine investigates medical questions in legal contexts, such as determining cause of death, time of death and identification through examination of remains. These questions are usually asked in criminal cases or civil lawsuits. This is a very broad category and covers any investigation into the causes or treatment of an illness, accident or other event. This category often includes a variety of other investigative procedures, such as autopsies and laboratory testing.