prophylaxis

prophylaxis

[proh-fuh-lak-sis, prof-uh-]
prophylaxis, measures designed to prevent the occurrence of disease or its dissemination. Some examples of prophylaxis are immunization against serious diseases such as smallpox or diphtheria; quarantine to confine communicable disease; public health measures to ensure the safety of food, milk, and water; the care of teeth to offset decay; and restrictions put on persons with such disorders as diabetes or heart disease to prevent the aggravation of these conditions.

Efforts toward disease prevention in the community and the individual. It covers patient interviews and testing to detect risk factors; sanitary measures in homes, communities, and medical facilities; patient education; and diet and exercise programs as well as preventive drugs and surgery. It has three levels: primary (e.g., prevention of coronary heart disease in a healthy person), secondary (e.g., prevention of heart attack in a person with heart disease), and tertiary (e.g., prevention of disability and death after a heart attack). The first is by far the most economical. Important advances in preventive medicine include vaccination (see vaccine), antibiotics, diagnostic imaging, and recognition of psychological factors. Seealso epidemiology, immunology, industrial medicine, quarantine.

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Prophylaxis (Greek "προφυλάσσω" to guard or prevent beforehand) is any medical or public health procedure whose purpose is to prevent, rather than treat or cure a disease. Roughly, prophylactic measures are divided between primary prophylaxis (to prevent the development of a disease) and secondary prophylaxis (whereby the disease has already developed and the patient is protected against worsening of this process).

Specific examples

Influenza vaccines are prophylactic.

Antibiotics are sometimes used prophylactically: For example, during the 2001 anthrax attacks scare in the United States, patients who were believed to be exposed were given ciprofloxacin. Similarly, the use of antibiotic ointments on burns and other wounds is prophylactic.

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) may, with caution, be an example of a chronic migraine preventative (see Amitriptyline and migraines' prevention by medicine).

Antimalarials such as chloroquine are used both in treatment and as prophylaxis by visitors to countries where malaria is endemic to prevent the development of the parasitic plasmodium which cause malaria.

Condoms are sometimes referred to as "prophylactics" because of their use to prevent pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.

Low molecular weight heparin is used as a prophylaxis in hospital patients, as they are at risk for several forms of thrombosis due to their immobilisation.

Professional cleaning of the teeth is dental prophylaxis.

Daily and moderate physical exercise in various forms can be called prophylactic because it can maintain or improve one's health. Cycling for transport appears to very significantly improve health by reducing risk of heart diseases, various cancers, muscular- and skeletal diseases and overall mortality.

Prophylaxis may be administered as vaccine. Prophylactic vaccines include: PEP, nPEP, PREP, or nPREP. PEP stands for post-exposure prophylaxis used in an occupational setting. nPEP is non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis. nPEP may be used in a recreational setting e.g. during intercourse if the condom breaks and one partner is HIV-positive, nPEP will help to decrease the probability of spread of infection of HIV. PREP is often used in occupational settings e.g. in hospital staff to prevent the spread of HIV or Hepatitis C from patient to staff. nPREP is a measure taken before exposure but in a non-occupational setting (non-occupational Pre-exposure prophylaxis) e.g. injection drug users may seek nPREP vaccinations.

See also

References

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