Comprehensive Post-COVID Care Now Available! Click here to learn more.
Chronic Diseases

Chronic Diseases – What you may not know about them?

There are millions of people in the world who struggle with managing a chronic disease. In the United States alone about 51.8% of adults suffer from at least one sort of ongoing, incurable disease like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and multiple sclerosis that affects their quality of life. Many sufferers of chronic diseases have opened up about their struggles and a number of healthcare facilities have launched different chronic disease self-management programs (CDSMP)  to make the lives of such patients better. In this article, we’ll define different types of chronic illnesses, their common characteristics and side effects, and what you can do to manage such diseases.

What is a Chronic Disease?

Chronic disease is a long-term, ongoing illness that can’t be cured, which means the person who suffers from such a disease would need to succumb to its limitations of it and have to manage and adjust to the demands of the particular chronic illness. There are multiple causes of chronic health conditions. Age, gender, and genetics play an important role in being the causes of such diseases. Lifestyle can also determine if you would end up being a sufferer of chronic disease. 

List of Common Chronic Diseases and Illnesses

There are several illnesses that can be categorized as chronic but the following is the list of 6 major chronic illnesses that have higher mortality rates and contribution to healthcare costs. 

  • Cancer

Cancer is a chronic illness caused by the uncontrollable division of cells in any part or multiple locations in the body.  It can form tumors that may be resected if possible, damage the immune system, affect the functionality of the organs, or can result in other forms of impairments. There are different types of cancers classified on the basis of their locality and severity. Breast cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer are amongst the most common types of cancer. 

  • Arthritis

Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints of the body caused by wear and tear, accident, genetics, abnormal metabolism, and immune system dysfunction. It causes symptoms like pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints. The two types of arthritis are osteoarthritis which is caused by wear and tear of the joints and is sometimes referred to as degenerative joint disease and rheumatoid arthritis or RA which is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system starts attacking the healthy bone tissue. 

Heart disease or cardiovascular disease is any disease that damages the heart or the cardiovascular structure surrounding the heart. It is one of the most common and known causes of death in the United States. There are different types of heart diseases, and the most common ones are coronary artery disease, arrhythmia, congenital heart defects, and dilated cardiomyopathy. 

  • Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic medical condition that happens when the blood sugar or blood glucose levels are too high. Glucose is your source of energy and it basically comes from the food you eat. The pancreas releases a hormone known as insulin which helps in the absorption of glucose from the blood into the liver. Diabetes happens when something or other affects the production or usage of insulin in your body. 

There are three types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes,  type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes. Type 1 happens when the immune system destroys the beta cells in the pancreas which are responsible for producing insulin. Type 2 diabetes happens when the cells in your body stop responding to insulin. Lastly, gestational diabetes occurs in some pregnant women due to their enhanced sensitivity to insulin. 

  • Asthma 

Asthma is a chronic disease that is caused due to the inflammation of the tubes that carry air to the lungs. This can cause symptoms like shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing. The severity of this disease varies, but if it is severe it can interfere with daily activities. There are a few types of asthma: exercise asthma, allergy-induced asthma, and occupational asthma.

  • Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease or CKD are diseases that affect the kidney and which result in a loss of function of that organ. Your kidneys are responsible for filtering wastes and extra fluid from your blood, if it stops performing that job it would result in a build-up of waste, excess fluid, and electrolytes in your body. CKD is caused by diabetes, high blood pressure, polycystic kidney disease, and some other severe conditions.

Common Characteristics of Chronic Diseases

While different chronic diseases affect different parts of the body and lead to different symptoms, there are some common characteristics of chronic disease:

  • Multiple health factors lead to the happening of a chronic disease. There is a complex set of several causalities behind each chronic disorder
  • It takes a long time to develop a chronic disease and in the initial stages of it you may not even experience any symptoms
  • Chronic diseases are ongoing and can affect your quality of life. They might even lead to other health issues.
  • Chronic disease tend to hinder or impair your functionality

Common Side Effects Caused by Chronic Diseases

Besides the related symptoms of chronic disease, it might also have other side effects like pain, fatigue, depression, changes in physical appearance, and stress. If you suffer from a chronic disease like cancer or heart problem, you may frequently experience fatigue and pain. It can also take a toll on your mental health. Chronic diseases affect your lifestyle substantially and cause functional impairments, which can lead to depression and anxiety. Some chronic diseases can also lead to changes in your appearance, these changes can turn a positive self-image into a poor one, and this can also affect headspace negatively.

Can Chronic Illnesses be cured?

Most chronic illnesses can not be cured. They require intensive treatment and self-management. Some chronic diseases like cancer can be life-threatening if the person is not subjected to immediate treatment. Most chronic diseases are ongoing after their onset period and would require adherence to some disease management tips to make sure the disease doesn’t affect your everyday life.

How can I Cope up With Chronic Illnesses?

There are a couple of things you need to take note of in order to cope with a chronic illness:

  • Take your medicines on time if the treatment plan is not effective seek out another one
  • Make sure you have established a proper communication channel with your doctor as with chronic diseases you may want to reach them very frequently. 
  • Have a support system. Make sure your family members and friends are aware of your problem so they can help you out in managing it
  • If you see yourself going into depression because of a chronic disease, seek out the help of a therapist

Final Note

Chronic disease can affect your everyday life, but with the help of proper treatment, you can manage the disease while at the same time living a full life. Our expert physicians can help you establish a chronic disease management program for yourself so you can successfully manage a chronic disease. 

– Disclaimer –
This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by Dr. Syra Hanif, M.D. on 08/23/2021

Learn more about our editorial process.

  • About The Author

    Dr. Syra Hanif M.D.

    Board Certified Primary Care Physician

Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

Read More