Cure vs. Treatment

pharmaceutical-litigation

Let’s get back to basics. Many of us have had to face the unfortunate fact that our condition, whatever it may be, is not “curable.” Your doctor may have then explained that there are various treatment options available. In medicine, you will come across the phrase “not curable but treatable” many times. So what is the difference?

Treatment is defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary as “caring for someone medically or surgically.” A cure, on the other hand, is a “complete or permanent solution or remedy.”

An attempt will always be made to treat a condition once it is diagnosed. This means that steps will be taken to make the patient feel better. A cure is when this treatment is able to remove the cause of the illness for good, which is not the case for a lot conditions. Put another way, treatment can only help alleviate the symptoms, but not get rid of the cause of these symptoms permanently.

A simple example of a curable condition is a bacterial lung infection. You take the antibiotics, you eliminate the causative organism, and you cure the condition. Similarly, appendicitis is cured by removing the appendix surgically.

An example of a condition that is treatable, but so far not curable, is diabetes. In diabetes, the body loses the ability to regulate its blood sugar levels. There is no treatment yet that makes the body go back to regulating blood sugar without outside help, but treatment is available that will help control blood sugar levels. This is not a cure, but years ago before insulin was discovered in the 1920s, diabetes meant a very short, unhealthy existence. Now a diabetic patient can lead a healthy, happy, long life with the proper medical care.

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Dermatologically speaking, skin infections, such as impetigo and fungal infections, are curable with the proper antibiotics. On the other hand, many diseases are not yet curable but can be very will controlled with proper treatment. These include psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, and many others.

A source of confusion is recurring conditions. If you treat an infection, but it comes back, doesn’t that mean that you didn’t cure it? Well, not always. Proper treatment cures the infection, but it does not protect the body indefinitely, and you may get infected again, in which case the infection would be a separate and brand new infection. On the other hand, some patients are susceptible to recurrent infections, such as reccurentl genital candidiasis. This can be due to many factors, such as lifestyle, lowered immunity or perhaps uncontrolled diabetes. In those instances the doctor may prescribe a prophylactic treatment and suggest some lifestyle adjustments to keep the recurrences at bay (prophylactic means precautionary, long term treatment to prevent future recurrences).

One recurring problem that certainly keeps a large sector of the population quite irritated is acne. How is that categorized, curable or just treatable? Well, based on what you’ve read today, you tell me :)

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There are instances when medicine fails us, and the lack of a cure means grave consequences. My heart aches every single time this happens, and my prayers are always with each and every single one who is in pain or is dealing with a terminal illness. But I always try to maintain hope. My faith in medical advances that will change our lives is strong and is being reaffirmed every single time I read of a new advancement. This post is not meant to alarm; on the contrary, it is meant to reassure.

Almost every single one of us is living with a condition that does not yet have a permanent cure. We deal with it daily and have learned to live with it. Perhaps the near future will bring relief to some of us? Nothing is impossible. In the meantime, stay happy and healthy!

Thank you for reading!

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by Dr. Hanan Taha M.D.

2 thoughts on “Cure vs. Treatment

  1. Becky says:

    Great article Hanan. I think the psoriasis and dermatitis examples are very good ones demonstrating the difference between treatment and cure. One day, we all pray that enough research is done and a cure is found (as with every other condition without a cure!), but in the meantime, it’s finding the effective treatments that’s key.

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