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June 2015

Hippocrates’ Contributions to Dermatology Revealed

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Dermatology, Salman bin Abdulaziz University, Al-Kharj, Saudi Arabia
  • 2Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida
JAMA Dermatol. 2015;151(6):658. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.0201

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

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