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“Medicine for Hope”. Truly, medicine HAS brought us hope. In the last sets of decades, the medical world has tremendously evolved (maybe just as fast as the world of technology has and hey, who knows, even more) and diseases that were once a death sentence have joined the group of curable diseases.
Tuberculosis is by far one of the most notorious diseases in the history of human kind, and in the world of medicine. And just as much as it helped to make an important discovery in the medical world (the invention of the stethoscope by the French physician René Laennec,the discovery of its cure also marked an important milestone in the history of diseases treatment. Caused by an atypical type of bacteria (Mycobacterium Tuberculosis), tuberculosis is a disease of the respiratory tract that affects the lungs by causing localized areas of necrosis which can further progressed into disseminated disease (particularly in the cases of reactivated tuberculosis.
It is resistant to the typical bacterial digestion that our immune cells perform to get rid of bacteria. Because its cell wall cannot be broken by our immune cells, specialized immune cells therefore trap the bacteria in a structure called granuloma, preventing its evasion. However, when the immune system is weak, even that defense fails and the Mycobacterium TB is capable of escaping.
Tuberculosis generally presents with fever, night sweats, hemoptysis (coughing of blood) and weight loss within a period of 1-2 months.
This HIV induced systemic disease is no longer a death sentence, thanks to the advances in molecular biology and the discovery of anti-retroviral drugs. And just to highlight how life changing these medications are, it has been confirmed that patients with HIV who are on antiretroviral drugs have the same life expectancy as people without HIV.
With a boosted immune system, the HIV is unable to replicate at a rapid rate, and the patient is not at risk of opportunistic infections (which are the main criteria in AIDS). Antiretroviral drugs do not stop one from being infected with the Human Immunodeficient Virus (apart from fetuses in utero and newborns); but for the average individual, safe sex practices, careful blood transfusions and reduction of the use of infected needles help with that. However, they prevent you from sinking into AIDS, which is more often than not, a stage of no return.
There was a time when having a heart attack was the equal and direct synonym of being dead. Not that myocardial infarctions (routinely known as “heart attacks”) have necessarily been less frequent – because, frankly, the main risk factors which are diabetes, hypertension and cigarette smoking still remain – but we have become more apt, skilled and proficient at recognizing it early and treating it accurately. Physicians now know that the tell-tale signs of a myocardial infarction (a typical one, at least) are severe crushing chest pain (that could radiate to the left arm), sweating and nausea, all of a sudden onset. And even if it ends up not being a heart attack at the end, we carefully screen all patients presenting with the red flags for a heart attack, just to be on the safe side. Additionally, new technologies and management strategies have been developed to assist depending on the degree of coronary artery stenosis. In other words, a person whose coronary artery is blocked at 70% would not be treated as one whose artery is blocked at up to 90% is. On another side, measures are being taken to reduce the risk factors of heart attacks, particularly for those who are at higher risks (people suffering from hypertension, diabetes or those who smoke).