Pathology (from the Greek roots of pathos (πάθος), meaning "experience" or "suffering", and -logia (-λογία), "study of") is a significant component of the causal study of disease and a major field in modern medicine and diagnosis.
The term pathology itself may be used broadly to refer to the study of disease in general, incorporating a wide range of bioscience research fields and medical practices (including plant pathology and veterinary pathology), or more narrowly to describe work within the contemporary medical field of "general pathology," which includes a number of distinct but inter-related medical specialties that diagnose disease—mostly through analysis of tissue, cell, and body fluid samples. Used as a count noun, "a pathology" (plural, "pathologies") can also refer to the predicted or actual progression of particular diseases (as in the statement "the many different forms of cancer have diverse pathologies"), and the affixpath is sometimes used to indicate a state of disease in cases of both physical ailment (as in cardiomyopathy) and psychological conditions (such as psychopathy). Similarly, a pathological condition is one caused by disease, rather than occurring physiologically. A physician practicing pathology is called a pathologist.
As a field of general inquiry and research, pathology addresses four components of disease: cause, mechanisms of development (pathogenesis), structural alterations of cells (morphologic changes), and the consequences of changes (clinical manifestations). In common medical practice, general pathology is mostly concerned with analyzing known clinical abnormalities that are markers or precursors for both infectious and non-infectious disease and is conducted by experts in one of two major specialties, anatomical pathology and clinical pathology. Further divisions in specialty exist on the basis of the involved sample types (comparing, for example, cytopathology, hematopathology, and histopathology), organs (as in renal pathology), and physiological systems (oral pathology), as well as on the basis of the focus of the examination (as with forensic pathology).
The sense of the word pathology as a synonym of disease or pathosis is very common in health care. The persistence of this usage despite attempted proscription is discussed elsewhere.
The study of pathology, including the detailed examination of the body, including dissection and inquiry into specific maladies, dates back to antiquity. Rudimentary understanding of many conditions was present in most early societies and is attested to in the records of the earliest historical societies, including those of the Middle East, India, and China. By the Hellenic period of ancient Greece, a concerted causal study of disease was underway (see Medicine in ancient Greece), with many notable early physicians (such as Hippocrates, for whom the modern Hippocratic Oath is named) having developed methods of diagnosis and prognosis for a number of diseases.The medical practices of the Romans and those of the Byzantines continued from these Greek roots, but, as with many areas of scientific inquiry, growth in understanding of medicine stagnated some after the Classical Era, but continued to slowly develop throughout numerous cultures. Notably, many advances were made in the medieval era of Islam (see Medicine in medieval Islam), during which numerous texts of complex pathologies were developed, also based on the Greek tradition. Even so, growth in complex understanding of disease mostly languished until knowledge and experimentation again began to proliferate in the Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Baroque eras, following the resurgence of the empirical method at new centers of scholarship. By the 17th century, the study of microscopy was underway and examination of tissues had led British Royal Society member Robert Hooke to coin the word "cell", setting the stage for later germ theory. Read More