Medical Treatments

While it is often said that "prevention is the best medicine," once you have a medical illness or condition, medical therapies are often needed to fully recover ("get cured") or keep the condition from causing you to have symptoms or feel bad ("get it under control"). The treatment prescribed by your doctor will depend on what is wrong and how you are feeling.

MEDICAL THERAPIES can be divided into:

  • Medications. Medications come in all shapes, colors, sizes, and purposes. Your doctor will prescribe the best medications for you to get well quickly. You will need to take these medications as directed, since the closer you follow the directions, the better chance the medication will help you improve. Sometimes, medications can cause undesired (or side) effects, and you should let your doctor know if you experience any of these. Other medications do not need to be prescribed by a doctor (known as "over-the-counter" medications). Be sure to let your doctor know if you take any of these, so they don't interact with the medications your doctor may prescribe.
  • Non-Medication Treatments. Many treatments do not involve medications but can be essential to getting better. Specially-trained Therapists work with patients on a number of areas like physical rehabilitation, breathing, and speech.
  • Procedures. A medical procedure is performed for diagnostic (to find out what is going on) or therapeutic (to help you feel better) purposes. It is not as involved (lower risk) than surgery.
  • Surgery. "Surgery" refers to a surgical procedure or operation, performed by a trained Surgeon. The goal of surgery is to improve a medical illness or condition for which medications alone will not be enough. During the operation, an Anesthesiologist ensures that you are comfortable and not feeling any discomfort.



Medications can be categorized by (a) route of administration, (b) types of medication based on purpose, (c) organ system targeted, etc. In addition, medications need to be given at varying frequencies (e.g. once a day, several times a day) based upon the individual characteristics of the medication. This section will give a broad framework within which to better understand medications and why they are given to patients.

  • Routes of Administration. This means how medications enter the body. Various medications have different routes of administration based upon (a) which route results in most effective delivery, (b) whether patients can take medications by mouth or not, and (c) which organ system is being targeted.
      • Oral (PO). Medications taken by mouth are the most common ones, and they can come in tablet, capsule, or liquid form. The active ingredients in these medications are absorbed through the gastrointestial tract (e.g. the stomach) and get into your blood stream to achieve its purpose. You should take these medications in the amounts and frequencies as prescribed by your doctor.
      • Intravenous (IV). These medications are delivered directly into the blood stream through an IV line (small catheter in your skin which connects to your venous system). When given in this way, medications do not need to go through the gastrointestinal (or GI) tract, and this represents a more reliable means of getting the medications to where it does the most good.
      • Inhaled. These mediations are aerosolized (liquid particles in air) for delivery to the lungs where it can improve breathing or be absorbed into the blood stream.
      • Subcutaneous (SQ). Some medications can only be delived by direct injection subcutaneously or "under the skin." By this route, they can then enter the tissues and blood stream.
  • Types of Medications. Medications can be divided into different categories or groups, based on purpose or organ system targeted. Here are some examples.
      • Allergy Medications. Help prevent or decreaes symptoms related to allergies. These primarily consist of antihistamines (that prevent or stop the trigger of allergic reactions and help decrease itching and sneezing) and decongestants (which shrink swollen blood vessels and tissues to relieve congestion).
      • Asthma Medications. Asthma is an inflammatory disease of the lungs that leads to wheezing and difficulty breathing. These medications are typically inhaled (going directly into the lungs) and help decrease inflammation and opening the airways so you can breathe easier.
      • Analgesics ("Pain Medications"). Pain is uncomfortable and when needed, there are a number of medications that can be used to control pain.
      • Antibiotics. While antibiotics (to fight infection) are often over-used (e.g. when you have a "cold" due to a virus), they pay a vital role in treating serious infections in the hospital. Your doctor will know which is the best antibiotic for you depending upon where the infection is and the results of cultures.
      • Anti-Diarrhea Medications. Diarrrhea refers to loose watery bowel movements that can be frequent and annoying. There can be a variety of different causes, but usually it goes away on its own. It is important to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, and medications are available to help decrease discomfort if needed.
      • Anti-emetics ("Nausea Medications"). Feeling nauseated (like you need to throw up) is very uncomfortable. These medications can decrease the sensation of nausea so you can be more comfortable.
      • Laxatives ("Constipation Medications"). Constipation occurs when it is difficult to have a bowel movement and stools do not pass. This can be caused by changes in diet, having an illness, from taking certain medications, etc. Laxatives are medications to help you with a bowel movement when constipated.

Non-Medication Treatments

Patients often benefit from non-medication treatments from therapists to get well. Therapy is a partnership where patients must do their part to improve, after working with and learning from a specialist in the field. Some examples include:

  • Physical Therapy. When patients are immobile or less able to get around after an illness, injury, surgery, or a fall, Physical Therapists can help increase their movement and mobility so patients can regain their previous level of functioning.
  • Respiratory Therapy. Not being able to breathe can be a scary experience. Respiratory Therapists help patients by evaluating their breathing, and giving treatments or exercises to breathe more easily.
  • Occupational Therapy. Patients want to be able to go back to their usual activities at school, work, and home. Occupational Therapists have received special training to guide patients along the road to recovery so they can leave the hospital and do their usual daily activities.
  • Speech Therapy. It can be very frustrating if you can't talk or communicate readily. Speech-language pathologists, also known as Speech Therapists, are experts who help patients deal with or overcome speech impediments.