Chronic diseases are health conditions that persist for a long time. Due to complex factors, they are usually not preventable by vaccines or cured by drugs. Chronic conditions rarely go away on their own and often lead to disability or impaired function.
Most chronic diseases persist throughout a person’s life and may reduce the quality of life and decrease life expectancy. Chronic diseases affect 60% of US adults, while 40% of the nation’s adult population have two or more chronic diseases.
Examples of chronic diseases include
- Heart diseases
- Oral diseases
- Parkinson’s disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- Crohn’s disease
The causes of chronic diseases are complex, but risk factors common to them include poor nutrition, alcohol use, smoking, genetic tendencies, and lack of physical activity.
Chronic Heart Diseases
Heart disease is a general term covering various conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels, including coronary heart disease, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmia, valvular heart disease, and heart infections. The symptoms of heart disease include:
- Severe pain in the chest that radiates to the arm or face,
- Shortness of breath,
- Back pain,
- Abdominal pain,
- Exercise intolerance,
Symptoms of heart disease vary among individuals and worsen with time if untreated.
In many cases, the first sign of heart disease is a heart attack, which happens when the heart stops and can no longer function. The symptoms of a heart attack include crushing chest pressure, breathlessness, sweating, palpitations, irregular heartbeat, and a choking sensation.
Treatment of heart disease depends on the type of heart disease a person has, and common strategies include drugs, lifestyle changes, and surgical interventions.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes the rapid buildup of cells on the skin, leading to scaling, redness, and inflammation. The scales appear silvery-white with red or pink patches on light-skinned individuals and gray with dark-brown or purple patches on dark-skinned people.
Psoriasis affects 7.5 million people in the US, and symptoms may include:
- Thick, pitted nails
- Painful, swollen joints
- Dry, cracked skin
- Sore, itchy patches
Though the cause of psoriasis is unclear, but genetics and autoimmune activity play a significant role in developing the condition. Psoriasis flare triggers include stress, anxiety, hormonal changes, infections, and the use of medications like lithium and quinidine.
Treatments for psoriasis include medications, topical therapies, light therapy, home remedies, and lifestyle changes. Like most chronic diseases, psoriasis has no cure, but available treatment helps individuals reduce the frequency and severity of their flares.
Cancer – One of the most Dreaded Chronic Diseases
Cancer is a broad term for a group of diseases that occur when cells in a specific part of the body grow and multiply uncontrollably, leading to tumors, immune system damage, and other impairments. The abnormal cells can infiltrate normal body tissue and spread to other parts of the body.
There are over 200 cancer types, the most common ones being breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and bowel cancer. The symptoms of cancer depend on the type, but they generally include:
- Palpable lump or thickening around the affected area
- Persistent, unexplained pain
- Unexplained bleeding or bruising
- Changes to bowel habits
- Sores that refuse to heal
- Skin changes such as reddening, darkening, or yellowing of the skin
Gene mutations cause cancer to the DNA within cells. DNA contains genes that carry instructions for cell functions, and errors in those instructions cause the cells to stop functioning and become cancerous.
Risk factors for cancer include genetics, environmental chemicals, age, smoking, excessive alcohol use, poor nutrition, physical inactivity, and obesity.
Approaches to cancer treatment include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, bone marrow transplantation, immunotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted drug therapy.
Living with the Chronic Diseases
The initial shock of a chronic disease diagnosis can leave you feeling frightened, confused, and overwhelmed. However, having a chronic condition does not mean your life has to grind to a halt. You can take charge of your new reality by adopting effective coping strategies like:
Educate Yourself about the Chronic Disease
After a chronic disease diagnosis, you first want to learn everything you can about the condition. Ask your doctor specific questions about the disease and what to expect. You can also search for physical and online resources to increase your knowledge.
Pay attention to your body to discover peculiar situations or things that improve or aggravate your symptoms. Knowing all you can about your diagnosis puts you better positioned to overcome the illness.
The treatment of almost all chronic conditions will involve lifestyle changes. You must be ready to follow a treatment plan strictly while making lifestyle adjustments that will help you manage and improve your symptoms.
You will generally have to change your diet, exercise, stress levels, and mental health. Keeping up with the new changes may be challenging at first, but most people adapt to their new way of life in no time. You can also set reminders on your phone or calendar, so you always remember to keep up with your schedules.
Also Read: Dealing with Chronic Pain? Get to the Root of the Problem.
Watch Your Emotions
A chronic disease diagnosis often comes suddenly and can be disruptive to your emotional health. It is not unusual to feel anger, sadness, fear, and depression after learning you have a chronic illness. You have to be intentional about dealing with these negative feelings, so they don’t worsen and impact your ability to tackle the chronic condition.
Activities that can help you stay grounded and manage your emotions include meditation, journaling, reading, listening to music, and relaxing with family and friends.
Maintain Healthy Relationships
It would help to have your family, friends, and people who understand what you are going through on this journey. You may not have as much time or energy to socialize and meet with people anymore.
It is important to make strategic decisions about your relationships and channel your energy appropriately. Ideally, your focus should be on supportive people who want you to get better, while letting go of relationships that bring more stress than value.
Having a chronic disease does not have to reduce the quality of your life. You can enjoy a rich life by learning about your condition and adhering strictly to your treatment requirements. Also, having a sound support system of family, friends, and counselors help you live a healthy, vibrant life regardless of your diagnosis.
Further Reading: Frontiersin
Hi, I’m the Founder and Developer of Paramedics World, a blog truly devoted to Paramedics. I am a Medical Lab Tech, a Web Developer and Bibliophiliac. My greatest hobby is to teach and motivate other peoples to do whatever they wanna do in life.