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Medicines and treatments

Applying a plaster cast to a broken armApplying a plaster cast to a broken arm The modern healthcare system offers a wide range of medicines and other treatments to cure, manage, prevent and diagnose diseases, injuries and disorders. Doctors (usually called physicians in the USA), nurses, technicians and therapists who work in the system have to be specially trained and usually licensed (legally allowed to work in the profession). The treatments they offer are based on what works best to cure disease and improve a person's quality of life. Treatments include pharmaceutical medicines, surgery, implants, tooth “fillings”, eye spectacles and therapies to help with physical and mental issues.


A doctor examines a patient’s earA doctor examines a patient’s earBefore any treatment can be offered, a doctor or other healthcare worker must diagnose what is causing a patient’s symptoms. First a doctor will find out about a patient’s “history”, including full details of symptoms, facts about their own and their family’s health, and relevant details such as recent travel to foreign countries. A doctor will also physically examine the patient, which may include checking for signs of disease, taking their temperature and checking their pulse (heart rate).

A doctor may also arrange for further tests, such as blood tests, urine, X-rays, ultrasound—for viewing inside the body using sound waves—or electrocardiograms, which monitor the heart’s activity. Using their knowledge of medicine, and perhaps after discussion with other doctors, a doctor will then give a diagnosis and suggest a course of treatment.

The first safe, mass-produced medication was the painkiller aspirin, which was produced by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer AG from 1899.

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