Bloodletting (or blood-letting) is the withdrawal of blood from a patient to prevent or cure illness and disease. Bloodletting was based on an ancient system of medicine in which blood and other bodily fluids were regarded as "humours" that had to remain in proper balance to maintain health. It is claimed to have been the most common medical practice performed by surgeons from antiquity until the late 19th century, a span of almost 2,000 years. In Europe the practice continued to be relatively common until the end of the 18th century. The practice has now been abandoned by modern style medicine for all except a few very specific conditions. It is conceivable that historically, in the absence of other treatments for hypertension, bloodletting sometimes had a beneficial effect in temporarily reducing blood pressure by reducing blood volume. However, since hypertension is very often asymptomatic and thus undiagnosable without modern methods, this effect was unintentional. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the historical use of bloodletting was harmful to patients.