Saturday, July 06, 2013

1892: Dr. Osler defines asthma x

William Osler is often referred to as the
Father of Modern Medicine.  He shared his
medical knowledge in 1896:  "The Principles
and Practice of Medicine
William Henry Osler is considered by many to the the Father of Modern Medicine. He shared his medical knowledge in his 1896 publication "The Principles and Practice of Medicine."  It is from this book we can still delve into his mind to see what he was thinking about various diseases, including our own: asthma.

It was his ideals about medicine that transformed the way medicine was taught.  He was well respected by physicians around the world, and his word was considered like words from the Bible.

In this way he was able to settle many debates about medicine, and push forward new ideas that were scientifically solid and old ideas that continued to have merit in the newly founded scientific world of medicine.

While he didn't have much new to add to asthma wisdom, he set the standards for future practice and research in this area.  He believed the following to be true about asthma and allergies:  (1):
  1. It's of nervous origin
  2. Various triggers set off an acute attack
  3. Attacks involve swelling of bronchial mucus membrane
  4. Attacks involve constriction of bronchial muscles
  5. Attacks involve increased secretions 
  6. Flow is obstructed by this swelling, constriction and increased secretions
  7. Asthma and allergies are similar in origin and unique in their symptoms
  8. Asthma and allergies are hereditary
  9. Many asthmatics present with allergies (hay fever)
  10. Children are more affected than adults
  11. Men are affected more so than women (1)
As with Frances Rackemann, his ideas about asthma being a nervous condition sent many researchers and scientists down the wrong path, and may ultimately have delayed progress in the field of asthma. He wrote that "the affection sometimes runs in families, particularly those with irritable and unstable nervous systems."

Yet his understanding of the benefits of science in medicine would prove to benefit asthmatics.

Further reading:
  1. Osler, William, "The Principles and Practice of Medicine," 1892, New York, pages 497-501

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