Curative care is medical treatment to cure or control a condition. This differs from palliative care to provide support at the end stages of life and preventative care to stop medical problems before they start. An example of curative care is antibiotics for a urinary tract infection; the medication is designed to eliminate the bacteria responsible for the infection, allowing the patient to achieve a full recovery.
Not all conditions can be cured. In some cases, it is only possible to control or manage the condition. This can include treatment to address specific symptoms, prevent the progression of disease, or offer other benefits to the patient. People with asthma, for instance, may need to use inhalers to control breathing and take other measures to protect themselves, like getting flu shots to reduce the risk of getting a severe infection. Fully curative care isn't available in these situations but treatment can keep the patient more comfortable and may extend lifespan as well.
Advances in medicine constantly change the treatment options and occasionally uncover new treatments that may make previously incurable conditions manageable or curable. Antibiotics are an example of such a development; historically, relatively mild infections could kill patients because no viable curative treatment was available. This changed with the introduction of antibiotics to kill bacteria, allowing for a full recovery from infection in cases that had once been considered fatal.
In the case where a condition can be entirely eliminated, curative care options may include medications, the use of medical devices, and other measures like physical therapy. Care providers have a variety of metrics they can use to assess the effectiveness of the treatment plan. For example, if someone has a stroke, the patient can be assigned a score on a scale based on the severity of the symptoms. As the patient recovers, reassessments can determine whether the score is changing, and if the patient makes a full recovery, this can be reflected in a perfect score.
Sometimes curative care can be difficult. It may be possible to successfully treat some cancers, for instance, while other patients don’t respond as well to treatment. Constant adaptations are critical to allow care providers to tailor treatments to the patient and change direction if a therapy is clearly not working. In some cases, this may result in transitioning from curative to palliative care, to start alleviating pain and suffering for the patient without undertaking heroic measures to cure disease.