Medical Care

November 23, 2012 10:55 am

Medical Care
Do you ever visit the doctor? Sometimes people visit doctors because they are not feeling very well. Sometimes people visit doctors for a physical examination, or checkup. Visits to doctors are part of medical care. Many other people also contribute to medical care.
Doctors try to diagnose, or figure out, what makes people sick. If you have a sore throat or a bad cough, the doctor examines you with a stethoscope. The doctor uses the stethoscope to listen to your heartbeat and to the sound your lungs make when you breathe. The doctor looks into your nose, ears, and throat and may order some laboratory tests. Then the doctor diagnoses your problem. Sometimes the doctor tells you your body will get well on its own. Sometimes the doctor orders drugs to help you.
Some doctors are specialists. They have extra training. Different kinds of specialists treat heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and other diseases. Some specialists only treat children or old people. Other specialists do surgery. Surgeons can take out diseased organs and even replace hearts, lungs, and livers. Some surgeons fix broken bones and replace knees and hips.
Many other people besides doctors provide medical care. Nurses, for example, are very important to medical care.
Have you had your tonsils out? Did you go to the hospital? If you did, nurses probably took care of you. Nurses care for sick patients.
Nurses help doctors do examinations and give treatments. Special nurses called nurse practitioners do many things that doctors once did. They diagnose what is causing an illness and prescribe drugs. Surgical nurses help with operations. Nurse-midwives deliver babies and care for mothers.
If you have a sore throat, your doctor may take some mucus from the inside of your throat. Medical laboratory technicians study this material to see if there are disease-causing germs. Laboratory technicians also examine blood samples for signs of illness.
When people fall and hurt themselves, medical imaging technicians take X rays of the bones. The pictures show if any bones are broken. Other medical imaging tools can show if there are any clumps of abnormal cells called tumors inside the body.
Physician’s assistants sometimes work in places where there is no doctor nearby. They do many of the things that doctors do. They also talk to a physician by telephone or e-mail. Dentists look after your teeth. Psychologists and psychiatrists work on mental health.
You may have visited the doctor in an office. Most doctors share an office with other doctors. Some doctors work in a clinic, a hospital, or a big medical center. Nurses work in many of the same places as doctors.
You may have seen a doctor in a hospital. If you broke a bone, you probably went to the emergency room at a hospital for medical care.
You never see some of the people who take part in your medical care. Medical researchers work in research laboratories. They have made discoveries that saved millions of lives.
Medical researchers try to find the cause of diseases. Then they try to find treatments to cure or prevent the disease.
One of the greatest medical research discoveries was that bacteria, viruses, and other microscopic germs cause infections. French scientist Louis Pasteur and German scientist Robert Koch in the 1800s showed that germs spread disease. Making sure people had germ-free water and food stopped deadly diseases such as cholera and typhoid.
Researchers in the mid-1900s discovered antibiotics, drugs that cure infections by killing bacteria. Researchers also found vaccines that protect against smallpox, polio, and other diseases caused by viruses. Vaccines work by getting the body ready to kill these germs if they attack.
People long ago thought evil spirits caused disease. Prehistoric people danced and made magic charms to drive the spirits away. Sometimes they cut a hole in the sick person’s head to let the evil spirit out. Other ancient peoples thought that illness was a punishment from the gods. The ancient Greeks were the first to understand that evil spirits and gods do not cause disease.
Hippocrates, called the father of medicine, and another Greek physician named Galen believed that disease was caused by an imbalance of four body fluids. They called these fluids humors. Until the mid-1800s, doctors used the ideas of Hippocrates and Galen to treat illnesses. Many of their ideas were wrong, however.
Until the mid-1800s, doctors could carry all their instruments and medicines in one little black bag. There were few cures for serious illness. Doctors used bleeding as a treatment for almost all illnesses. The doctor cut a blood vessel and drained out some blood. They thought this brought the humors back into balance. Doctors also gave powerful drugs to clean harmful poisons from the body.
Doctors performed surgical operations. Most operations in the 1800s were amputations of arms and legs. About half of the surgical patients died from infection. Operating rooms were filthy, and surgeons did not even wash their hands. After germ theory was discovered by Pasteur and Koch, British surgeon Joseph Lister showed how to make operating rooms germ-free.
Operations once had to be done quickly because there was no way to put patients to sleep. A doctor and a dentist first used ether in the 1840s. Ether and other drugs let surgeons put patients to sleep during operations. These drugs, called anesthetics, reduce pain during surgery. With anesthetics, surgeons learned how to perform longer, more complicated operations to save lives.
Medical researchers are now looking for ways to cure diseases caused by problems with genes. Genes are the basic units of heredity. Through genes, parents transmit traits such as eye color to their children. Genes also give instructions to our body’s cells. Genes are made of DNA. If something goes wrong with its DNA, the gene can make trouble. Some problems with genes appear at birth. Others occur later on. Doctors do not yet have good treatments for diseases caused by genetic problems.
Doctors and researchers are also working to prevent diseases by helping people lead healthy lives. They tell us to eat nutritious food, exercise, avoid smoking, and have regular physical checkups.
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