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Hippocrates’ Contributions to Dermatology Revealed

Hippocrates’ Contributions to Dermatology Revealed Although dermatology did not become a medical subspecialty until the end of the 18th century, many concepts regarding dermatological diseases remain as fresh today as when they were first described over 2000 years ago. In the third century bc, the Hippocratic Collection, also known as the Corpus Hippocraticum, gave information about the anatomy and physiology of the skin (eg, the role of perspiration in maintaining homeostasis) and described skin conditions throughout the collection because they were regarded as cutaneous manifestations of systemic diseases.1,2 For example, Hippocrates noted that clubbed fingernails are associated with underlying pulmonary disease,2 and that urticaria associated with swollen joints and diarrhea may indicate a worm infestation.3 Hippocrates also described an association between the onset of guttate psoriasis and a sore throat. As he dealt with anogenital pruritus and ulceration, he was possibly the first person to describe Behcet disease.3 He described many forms of itching, including itching from icterus.1 The Corpus Hippocraticum also describes a myriad of cutaneous diseases, which together constitute a short catalog of modern skin diseases, including acne, alopecia areata, freckles, varicose veins, frostbite, various disturbances of the nail, dermatitis, weeping eczema of the scalp, various vesicular, pustular and fissured eruptions, erysipelas, eruptions with scales and bullae, purulent wounds, secondary infections, anthrax, scabies, condylomas, warts, gangrene, burns, boils, buboes, intertriginous inflammation, scarlet fever, aphthous stomatitis, leucoderma, and universal exfoliative dermatitis resulting in death.1 Hippocrates used the word herpetic to creeping eruption and defined lichen as a rough and itchy eruption. His descriptions of skin conditions span the full range of ages from verrucae in children, scrofuloderma in teenagers, to skin cancer in adults. Hippocrates believed that physicians should do the opposite to the body of what was inflicted by the disease, such as applying a drying agent to the moist area and applying an emollient to a dry area. He treated superficial skin tumors by curettage and cautery, using a curette similar to that used today. Hippocrates used clinical observation to make prognosis, for example, Hippocratic facies indicated impending death.3 Hippocrates was clearly one of the earliest pioneers of medicine and dermatology. However, his unique contribution to dermatology was overshadowed by his status as the father of medicine and the oath ascribed him.3 Still, his descriptions of skin diseases and ability to recognize cutaneous manifestations of systemic disease were remarkable and remain a testament to his contributions to the field of dermatology. Back to top Article Information Corresponding Author: Mohammed Alsaidan, MD, Department of Dermatology, Salman bin Abdulaziz University, PO Box 173, Al-Kharj, Riyadh 11942, Saudi Arabia (dr.saidan@hotmail.com). References 1. Pusey WA. The History of Dermatology. Vol 1. Springfield, IL: C.C. Thomas; 1933:21-23. 2. McCaw IH. A synopsis of the history of dermatology. Ulster Med J. 1944;13(2):109-122.PubMedGoogle Scholar 3. Liddell K. Choosing a dermatological hero for the millennium: Hippocrates of Cos (460-377 BC). Clin Exp Dermatol. 2000;25(1):86-88.PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png JAMA Dermatology American Medical Association

Hippocrates’ Contributions to Dermatology Revealed

Abstract

Although dermatology did not become a medical subspecialty until the end of the 18th century, many concepts regarding dermatological diseases remain as fresh today as when they were first described over 2000 years ago. In the third century bc, the Hippocratic Collection, also known as the Corpus Hippocraticum, gave information about the anatomy and physiology of the skin (eg, the role of perspiration in maintaining homeostasis) and described skin conditions throughout the collection because...
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Publisher
American Medical Association
Copyright
Copyright © 2015 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved.
ISSN
2168-6068
eISSN
2168-6084
DOI
10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.0201
pmid
26061955
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Although dermatology did not become a medical subspecialty until the end of the 18th century, many concepts regarding dermatological diseases remain as fresh today as when they were first described over 2000 years ago. In the third century bc, the Hippocratic Collection, also known as the Corpus Hippocraticum, gave information about the anatomy and physiology of the skin (eg, the role of perspiration in maintaining homeostasis) and described skin conditions throughout the collection because they were regarded as cutaneous manifestations of systemic diseases.1,2 For example, Hippocrates noted that clubbed fingernails are associated with underlying pulmonary disease,2 and that urticaria associated with swollen joints and diarrhea may indicate a worm infestation.3 Hippocrates also described an association between the onset of guttate psoriasis and a sore throat. As he dealt with anogenital pruritus and ulceration, he was possibly the first person to describe Behcet disease.3 He described many forms of itching, including itching from icterus.1 The Corpus Hippocraticum also describes a myriad of cutaneous diseases, which together constitute a short catalog of modern skin diseases, including acne, alopecia areata, freckles, varicose veins, frostbite, various disturbances of the nail, dermatitis, weeping eczema of the scalp, various vesicular, pustular and fissured eruptions, erysipelas, eruptions with scales and bullae, purulent wounds, secondary infections, anthrax, scabies, condylomas, warts, gangrene, burns, boils, buboes, intertriginous inflammation, scarlet fever, aphthous stomatitis, leucoderma, and universal exfoliative dermatitis resulting in death.1 Hippocrates used the word herpetic to creeping eruption and defined lichen as a rough and itchy eruption. His descriptions of skin conditions span the full range of ages from verrucae in children, scrofuloderma in teenagers, to skin cancer in adults. Hippocrates believed that physicians should do the opposite to the body of what was inflicted by the disease, such as applying a drying agent to the moist area and applying an emollient to a dry area. He treated superficial skin tumors by curettage and cautery, using a curette similar to that used today. Hippocrates used clinical observation to make prognosis, for example, Hippocratic facies indicated impending death.3 Hippocrates was clearly one of the earliest pioneers of medicine and dermatology. However, his unique contribution to dermatology was overshadowed by his status as the father of medicine and the oath ascribed him.3 Still, his descriptions of skin diseases and ability to recognize cutaneous manifestations of systemic disease were remarkable and remain a testament to his contributions to the field of dermatology. Back to top Article Information Corresponding Author: Mohammed Alsaidan, MD, Department of Dermatology, Salman bin Abdulaziz University, PO Box 173, Al-Kharj, Riyadh 11942, Saudi Arabia (dr.saidan@hotmail.com). References 1. Pusey WA. The History of Dermatology. Vol 1. Springfield, IL: C.C. Thomas; 1933:21-23. 2. McCaw IH. A synopsis of the history of dermatology. Ulster Med J. 1944;13(2):109-122.PubMedGoogle Scholar 3. Liddell K. Choosing a dermatological hero for the millennium: Hippocrates of Cos (460-377 BC). Clin Exp Dermatol. 2000;25(1):86-88.PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref

Journal

JAMA DermatologyAmerican Medical Association

Published: Jun 1, 2015

References