The Dead Sea is a terminal desert lake remaining from an earlier series of lakes which spread along the Syrian African rift during prehistoric times. It represents the lowest salt lake on earth being situated at minus 423 meters below sea level. Due to the mineral content of the lakes ground which dissolves into the water has turned the lakes salt unique both in composition and in concentration. As a a result the lakes water contains a high concentration of cations such as magnesium, sodium and calcium and anions such as phosphorus, bromide and chloride. The high ionic pressure raises the density of the water to 1.237 Kg/L. This special composition and concentration of the water does not permit the life of organisms short of specifically adapted unicellular organism such as halophylic bacteria and algae. The low altitude of the area results in an elevation of the atmospheric pressure which in turn causes a five to six percent increase of the partial oxygen pressure.
Natural springs containing mainly sulfur and some other minerals are being located along the Dead Seas shores.
Black mud containing hyperemic and some antibacterial properties can be found on the lakes shores. The area is characterized by a dry stable temperature reaching high levels in midsummer months while the rainfall is extremely low in winter. The air is, in view of the sparsity of industry and car traffic unpolluted and has in view of limited vegetations a low allergenic content but is rich in certain aerosols such a bromides and magnesium. Solar rays in the area are also unique an issue to be discussed later in detail by Dr A Kudish.
This special combination of salutary natural agents is unparalleled in the world. Some of the unique properties of the Dead Sea were already considered in Greek and Roman times to be beneficial for a host of diseases so that even King Herod while being terminally ill, went to be exposed to its waters. In the ancient Jewish scripts, the Talmud (mostly a code of civil and ecclastic law) The Dead Sea is mentioned with the issue whether bathing in the Dead Sea should be, or should not be permitted on a Sabbat.
While in mediveal times the area fell into disregard and neglect, it arose anewed interest in the middle of the last century, first by dermatologists and rheumatogists as being of value for the treatment of skin and joint diseases which later will be dealt with respectively by Dr Marco Harari and Professor Shaul Sukenik.
Since then the types of diseases to be beneficially treated in the Dead Sea area have increased, including presently certain heart and lung diseases and an eye disease (chronic uveitis). Hyposchemic heart disease and chronic hyposchemic lung disease are, in view of the raised partial pressure of oxygen present in the area of special interest while patients with asthma due to the raised partial O2 pressure and sparsity of allergens and cystic fibrosis patients have also benefited from a stay in the area.
As an example a study of patients with chronic heart disease will be first described. Professor Katz and associates studied the effect of descent and stay at the Dead Sea Health resort on patients with systolic congestive heart failure and an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) with or without rechronization therapy, evaluating the issue of safety, quality of life (QOL), exercise capacity, heart failure and attacks of arrhythmia. The study included 19 patients aged 65.3 plus minus 9.6 years of whom 16% were males. The descent to and from the Dead Sea area was well tolerated and uneventful. The QOL improved by 11 points and a six minute walk increased by 63 meters (p=0.001). B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) increased slightly (without statistical significance), Heart rate variability (HVR)decreased (p=0.018_) No significant changes in blood pressure weight, O2 saturation and ejection fraction were found. The conclusion is that under these conditions descent, ascent and stay at the Dead Sea resort are safe and might be beneficial in some aspects in patients with systolic congestive heart failure and an ICD. Abineder who followed a group of cardiac patients both after by pass operation and after catheterization after their stay a the Dead Sea and noted an improvement in their condition. Kramer studied patients with chronic lung disease such chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD)patients and found that after a stay at the Dead Sea such patients showed a rise in their PO2 and SaO2 and their exercise capacity with consequently an improvement of their quality of life.Grinberg studied a group of Cystic Fibrosis patients who after a three weeks stay at the Dead Sea area showed an improvement in their FEV 1 their SaO2 and their apetite leading to a weight increased which lasted after their return home. No cross infection with Pseudomonas bacilly was noted in these patients.
55 patients with chronic uveitis were studied who after a 28 day exposure to the Dead Sea sun showed an improvement in their visual acuity and in certain eye tests which enabled the patients to decrease the amount of medicine they required for the suppression of their disease.
It turns out that the unique features present at the Dead Sea permit an application of climatotherapy thallasotherapy, pelotherapy and balneotherapy, separate or in combination as required which are effective in a variety of diseases. These unique features being present at the Dead Sea provide a variety of therapeutic potentials which do not exist elsewhere in the world.