Know your medical terms: Prophylaxis

Know your medical terms: Prophylaxis

Do you know what 'prophylaxis' means? Here's a simple explanation.

Written by Shraddha Rupavate |Published : April 2, 2014 7:08 PM IST

PROPHYLAXISMany a times, when you visit a doctor, read a health related book or seek information on the internet, you may come across a few complicated, scary words that you don't understand. Most medical terms may sound complicated but have a simple explanation. So here is today's word prophylaxis.

Prophylaxis refers to certain measures that are taken to prevent a particular disease. The idea or concept of prophylaxis came into picture with better understanding of certain infectious diseases and their causative agents. With in-depth study of certain factors like biological behavior, life cycle of the disease causing agent and mode of transmission, controlling the spread of infectious diseases became easier. But, today we have preventive treatment for most types of diseases and conditions.

Medicines or procedures used for prophylaxis of a disease are grouped under prophylactic treatments. There are two types of prophylaxis: Pre-exposure prophylaxis and post-exposure prophylaxis.

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Example of pre-exposure prophylaxis: A vaccine designed to control the spread of polio would be a prophylactic vaccine for the disease. But here the person is not exposed to the disease causing organism before taking the vaccination. Hence, it is called pre-exposure prophylaxis.

Example of post-exposure prophylaxis: An antibiotic prescribed to prevent the development of a disease in a person who is already exposed to the disease causing organism will be called post-exposure prophylactic antibiotic.

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