According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6 in 10 adults in the U.S. have a chronic disease and 4 in 10 have two or more.
Chronic diseases are conditions that last one year or more. They also require ongoing medical attention and may limit daily activities.
The limitations that come along with chronic diseases are not only due to the physical effects of the disease itself, but also due to various considerations surrounding treatment. There are a number of factors to keep up with when living with a chronic disease, including specific dietary needs, frequent doctor’s appointments, medication schedules and side effects, and keeping any kind of treatment access site clean to avoid infection.
With the right treatment plan, research, support, and understanding, it is possible to live a full and vibrant life with a chronic condition. Before knowing how to incorporate these factors into one’s daily routine, it’s first important to get a good idea of the most common chronic conditions.
The following are most prevalent in the United States:
The term “heart disease” encompasses several different heart conditions. Together, these conditions make up the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the CDC, roughly 1 in every 4 deaths a year is attributed to heart disease.
The most common type of heart disease in the US is coronary artery disease, a condition that affects the flow of blood to the heart.
Part of what makes heart disease so dangerous is that many of these diseases may not cause any symptoms until the affected person experiences a heart attack, arrhythmia, or heart failure. Because heart disease can often go undetected until it is too late, preventative care is key.
Part of this care includes understanding the risk factors. People with high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol are at increased risk of contracting heart disease. Other risk factors include smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol use, and an unhealthy diet.
The most common types of cancer affecting people today include breast cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and skin cancer. Although cancer is prevalent, there are things you can do to reduce your risk. These actions include avoiding alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, and undergoing regular screening.
Despite the lack of a cure, there are several treatment options available that can help cancer patients live a long and fulfilling life. The most common treatments are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Because most of these options involve intravenous treatment, your care team may opt to implant a device called a catheter or port to make those treatments easier.
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
Chronic kidney disease occurs when waste and toxins build up in the blood and the kidneys aren’t able to filter it out properly. Like many chronic diseases, this can be caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, poor nutrition, family history, or correlating conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes.
As the condition progresses through five stages, with stage 5 being end stage renal disease (ESRD), people with kidney disease often have to consider dialysis treatment to ensure their blood remains clean and chemically balanced.
There are two forms of dialysis — peritoneal dialysis or hemodialysis — which require different types of equipment and IV access. Many CKD patients opt for treating kidney failure at home because of the benefits of home dialysis, like flexibility with your schedule, fewer medications, more energy, and easier access maintenance with lower risk of infection.
Diabetes is a condition that occurs when a patient’s blood sugar is too high. If your body doesn’t make enough insulin—a hormone that helps your body convert sugar to energy—the glucose will stay in your blood instead of getting to your cells. This buildup of blood sugar can cause many health problems.
There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes. With Type 1 diabetes (T1D), which is typically diagnosed in children and young adults, your body does not make insulin. With Type 2 diabetes (T2D), the most common type, your body makes insulin but does not use it well. Finally, gestational diabetes develops in some women when they are pregnant. In most cases, this disease will go away after the baby is born. However, experiencing gestational diabetes may increase your risk of developing T2D later on in life.
Treatment for diabetes depends on the type. T1D patients must take insulin every day, either via injection with a needle or by using an insulin pump. Other forms of diabetes may be managed with oral medication or by following a certain diet.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD refers to a group of diseases that cause breathing-related problems. These conditions include chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD affects 16 million Americans according to the CDC. Although there is no cure for COPD, this condition can be treated to improve one’s quality of life.
People at increased risk of developing COPD include women, people 65 years of age or older, smokers, or people with a history of asthma. External risk factors, such as exposure to air pollutants, also play a role.
COPD can greatly impact one’s day-to-day life. These chronic lung conditions can make it difficult to walk, work, or engage in social activities. Thankfully, there are many treatment options available to COPD patients. In some cases, the disease can be managed by cutting out tobacco and following a certain diet. Other treatment options include oral medication and the use of supplemental oxygen.
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