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What's the Difference Between a Treatment and a Cure?

Medically reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD

Health care providers can treat medical problems and sometimes cure them. But how is a "treatment" different from a "cure"?

A treatment is something that health care providers do for their patients to control a health problem, lessen its symptoms, or clear it up. Treatments can include medicine, therapy, surgery, or other approaches.

A cure is when a treatment makes a health problem go away and it's not expected to come back.

Some health problems have a cure. For example, to treat athlete’s foot, health care providers use special creams, powders, or sprays that kill the fungus that causes the infection.

Other health problems have no cure — this means a person will always have it. When there’s no cure, sometimes a treatment can help to manage the problem. For example, type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition. Health care providers treat it by prescribing insulin. This treatment helps keep a person’s blood sugar levels in a healthy range, but it won’t cure the disease. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day for life.

Scientists are constantly making new medical discoveries. It's possible that a health problem without a cure today will have a cure in the future.

Medically reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD
Date reviewed: September 2022