In the United States, chronic diseases are the leading cause of disability and death. While many can be prevented, such diseases are notoriously difficult or even impossible to cure once they have developed. Chronic diseases require on-going medical management. Though serious and ongoing or recurring, in a lot of cases people with chronic diseases can manage their symptoms and live fairly normal lives.
Heart disease is a leading cause of death in many Western nations, including the United States. The term refers to a wide range of conditions and symptoms that affect the heart, from heart defects to coronary artery disease. Heart disease requires continuing medical management. While some conditions are preventable with the implementation of changes to diet and lifestyle, others cannot be. Symptoms of heart disease include tightness in the chest, weakness in the arms or legs, and loss of breath. Heart conditions may be managed with medication, but some people require surgical intervention.
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Diabetes refers to a group of diseases that affect how the body uses glucose—blood sugar. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are chronic diseases that require close management. Symptoms of unmanaged diabetes include extreme hunger, thirst, frequent urination, slow wound healing, blurred vision, and unexplained weight loss. Type 2 diabetes is often preventable with exercise and a healthy diet. Either type can develop at any time. Management of diabetes depends on the type; many individuals take a hormone injection to replace what the body is not sufficiently creating, but not always.
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HIV or human immunodeficiency virus is a chronic condition that currently has no cure, but thanks to modern advances in treatment, is often not the terminal precursor of AIDS it once was. With effective treatment, many people with HIV can expect to lead relatively normal lives with a normal life expectancy. Treatment involves antiretroviral therapy, drugs that block the virus and prevent it from diminishing the functionality of the immune system.
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While the cause of multiple sclerosis is not clear, this chronic disease can take several forms. MS interrupts the flow of information between the brain and the body. The disease can be disabling, but more and more people can effectively manage it thanks to the development of new therapies. Symptoms of the disease include fatigue, slurred speech, tingling and pain, double vision, and weakness in one or more limbs.
Rheumatoid arthritis mainly affects the joints, and experts believe genetics or environmental factors are the primary causes. The goal of treatment for this disease is to decrease pain and promote continued functionality. The disease frequently affects the hands and wrists, but it can also impact other areas of the body. Symptoms include swollen and painful joints, and treatment aims to encourage remission by decreasing inflammation. While there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, studies demonstrate that early treatment with strong medication is typically the key to success.
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Cancer takes many forms. While some are curable, others persist to cause chronic issues over long periods. Cancer develops when cell growth becomes uncontrollable by the body's systems. The growth begins in a cancerous tumor and then spread to other parts of the body. There are more than 100 types of cancer, and symptoms vary depending on the type. According to statistics, tobacco use accounts for more than 20% of cancer diagnoses. Today, various treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery can either cure or help to manage this group of diseases.
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Epilepsy encompasses a group of neurological disorders that often involve epileptic seizures -- medical events that cause uncontrollable twitching and convulsions. The causes of epilepsy are unknown, but in some instances, they can be the result of a brain injury, brain tumors, strokes, and other conditions. In many cases, medication and other treatment can control seizures, but not always. Medical caregivers have various medications in their arsenal to help prevent or reduce the number of seizures a person experiences.
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Parkinson’s disease is a central nervous system condition that involves shaking, rigidity, and on-going difficulty with movement. Researchers are uncertain what causes Parkinson's but suspect it may have genetic or environmental instigators. Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, though researchers are developing medications to reduce the severity of symptoms. Today's medications can dramatically reduce symptoms, allowing individuals to combat many of the symptoms and restore their quality of life.
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Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that causes symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized behavior. Most experts believe a combination of genetic and environmental factors cause schizophrenia. Therapy and drug treatments allow effective management of the condition, but it is generally regarded as incurable.
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Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that causes swollen joints, fever, fatigue, hair loss, and rashes. There are even more symptoms that can occur, depending on the person. The disease prompts the body’s immune system to mistakenly attack its own healthy tissues. Genetics and environmental causes appear to cause this chronic illness. People with lupus can experience long periods of remission, but also lengthy flare-ups.
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