Diseases & Conditions

The human body is a remarkable structure. It's designed to efficiently manage the wear and tear of everyday life and fend off all sorts of threats. Most of us are healthy for most of our lives. But we're also susceptible to hundreds of injuries, diseases, and conditions. Some are quite common, others are extremely rare. Here are some of the most common conditions that affect humans.


Diseases & Conditions Articles

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis B is hepatitis caused by the hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B virus spreads through contact with infected blood. Specifically, hepatitis B may be spread through: Direct contact with the blood of an infected person Unprotected sexual activity with an infected person Needle sharing among intravenous drug users Sharing razors or other personal items with an infected person Being pierced or tattooed with contaminated instruments Blood transfusions (extremely rare in the United States because of improved testing) Childbirth, when the virus is passed from mother to child (Locked) More »

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

In generalized anxiety disorder, a person has frequent or nearly constant, nagging feelings of worry or anxiety. These feelings are either unusually intense or out of proportion to the real troubles and dangers of the person's everyday life. The disorder is defined as persistent worry for more days than not, for at least several months. In some cases, a person with generalized anxiety disorder feels he or she has always been a worrier, even since childhood or adolescence. In other cases, the anxiety may be triggered by a crisis or a period of stress, such as a job loss, a family illness or the death of a relative. The crisis or stress may have ended, but an unexplained feeling of anxiety may last months or years. In addition to suffering from constant (or non-stop) worries and anxieties, people with generalized anxiety disorder may have low self-esteem or feel insecure because they see people's intentions or events in negative terms, or they experience them as intimidating or critical. Physical symptoms may lead them to seek treatment from a primary care doctor, cardiologist, pulmonary specialist or gastroenterologist. Stress can intensify the anxiety. Experts believe that some people with this disorder have a genetic (inherited) tendency to develop it. The disorder probably stems from how a variety of brain structures communicate with each other as they manage the fear response. Chemical messengers, gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) and serotonin, transmit signals along the circuits connecting brain regions. The medications used to treat anxiety affect these circuits. About 3% to 8% of people in the United States have generalized anxiety disorder. Women have the problem twice as often as men. The average adult patient first seeks professional help between the ages of 20 and 30. However, the illness can occur at any age. Generalized anxiety disorder also has been diagnosed in young children, teenagers and elderly people. The illness is the most common anxiety disorder affecting people age 65 and older. Of all psychiatric illnesses, generalized anxiety disorder is the least likely to occur alone. Between 50% and 90% of people with the disorder also have at least one other problem, usually panic disorder, a phobia, depression, dysthymia (a less severe form of depression), alcoholism or some other form of substance abuse. (Locked) More »

Phobia

A phobia is a persistent, excessive, unrealistic fear of an object, person, animal, activity or situation. It is a type of anxiety disorder. A person with a phobia either tries to avoid the thing that triggers the fear, or endures it with great anxiety and distress. There are three major types of phobia: Specific phobia (simple phobia). With this most common form of phobia, people may fear specific animals (such as dogs, cats, spiders, snakes), people (such as clowns, dentists, doctors), environments (such as dark places, thunderstorms, high places) or situations (such as flying in a plane, riding on a train, being in a confined space). These conditions are at least partly genetic (inherited) and seem to run in families. Social phobia (social anxiety disorder). People with social phobia fear social situations where they may be humiliated, embarrassed or judged by others. They become particularly anxious when unfamiliar people are involved.  Agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is a fear of being in public places where it would be difficult or embarrassing to make a sudden exit. Childhood phobias occur most commonly between the ages of 5 and 9, and tend to last a short while. Most longer-lasting phobias begin later in life, especially in people in their 20s. Adult phobias tend to last for many years, and they are less likely to go away on their own. Without proper treatment, phobia can increase an adult's risk of other types of psychiatric illness, especially other anxiety disorders, depression and substance abuse.   (Locked) More »

Osgood-Schlatter Disease

Osgood-Schlatter disease is a common, temporary condition that causes knee pain in older children and teenagers, especially those who play sports. During activities that include a lot of jumping and bending — hockey, basketball, volleyball, soccer, skating, gymnastics, or ballet — the quadriceps muscle (thigh muscle) pulls tightly against the kneecap and the kneecap's anchor, the patellar tendon. The fibers of the patellar tendon are attached to the shinbone (tibia). With repeated pulling against these fiber connections, the tendon can become inflamed at or near its bone attachment. The result is pain and swelling at the tibial tuberosity, which is a raised area at the top of the shinbone. The tibial tuberosity is where the patellar tendon attaches to the bone. (Locked) More »

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic (long-lasting) disease in which a person with psoriasis develops the symptoms and signs of arthritis joint pain, stiffness and swelling. Psoriasis is a common, inherited skin condition that causes grayish-white scaling over a pink or dull-red skin rash. Psoriasis can develop before or after the arthritis, but psoriasis develops first in about 75% of cases. A person may begin to get morning joint stiffness before the arthritis is recognized. People who have psoriasis that involves the nails, especially nail pitting, are much more likely to develop arthritis than those without this problem (50% versus 10%). The cause of psoriatic arthritis is unknown. There is some evidence that infection or trauma can play a role in the development of the disease. For example, psoriatic arthritis seems to flare up in people whose immune systems are affected by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Also, heredity seems to play a role. Up to 40% of people with psoriatic arthritis have a family history of skin or joint disease. Certain genes seem to be involved in certain types of psoriatic arthritis. For example, the gene HLA-B27 has been associated with psoriatic spondylitis. (Locked) More »

Scoliosis

A normal spine has several front-to-back curves between the neck and the pelvis. In scoliosis, the spine curves abnormally to the side or twists. Although scoliosis seems to run in some families, most cases appear for unknown reasons in children and adolescents who previously had a straight spine. Scoliosis without a known cause is called idiopathic scoliosis. Girls and boys are affected equally by idiopathic scoliosis, but girls with this condition are more likely to develop curves that get big enough to require treatment. (Locked) More »

Shoulder Dislocation

The shoulder joint is called a ball-and-socket joint. The ball is the rounded top of the bone in the upper arm (humerus), which fits into the socket — the cup-shaped outer part of the shoulder blade. When the top of the humerus moves out of its usual location in the shoulder joint, the shoulder is said to be dislocated. A related injury called a shoulder subluxation occurs when the top of the humerus is only partially displaced and not totally out of its socket. In some cases, a shoulder is dislocated when the arm is pulled or twisted with extreme force in an outward, upward or backward direction. This extreme force literally pops the top of the humerus out of its socket. In other cases, a shoulder dislocation is the result of a fall on an outstretched arm, a direct forceful blow to the shoulder, a seizure or a severe electric shock. Seizures and shock can cause shoulder dislocations because they produce extreme, unbalanced muscle contractions that can wrench the humerus out of place. Doctors classify shoulder dislocations into three types, depending on the direction of the dislocation: Anterior dislocation — The top of the humerus is displaced forward, toward the front of the body. This is the most common type of shoulder dislocation, accounting for more than 95% of cases. In young people, the cause is typically sports-related. In older people, it usually is caused by a fall on an outstretched arm. Posterior dislocation — The top of the humerus is displaced toward the back of the body. Posterior dislocations account for 2% to 4% of all shoulder dislocations and are the type most likely to be related to seizures and electric shock. Posterior dislocations also can happen because of a fall on an outstretched arm or a blow to the front of the shoulder. Inferior dislocation — The top of the humerus is displaced downward. This type of shoulder dislocation is the rarest, occurring in only one out of every 200 cases. It can be caused by various types of trauma in which the arm is pushed violently downward. Shoulder dislocations are the most common joint dislocation seen by emergency room doctors, accounting for more than 50% of all dislocations treated in hospitals. Young adult men and older women tend to be the groups with the highest rate of shoulder dislocations. Almost all shoulder dislocations are related to trauma. Occasionally, the dislocation occurs after ordinarily harmless motions, such as raising an arm or rolling over in bed. In these mysterious cases, the real cause may be that the shoulder ligaments are abnormally loose. Loose ligaments are sometimes due to an inherited condition that can increase a person's risk of dislocation in other body joints as well. Posterior dislocation — The top of the humerus is displaced toward the back of the body. Posterior dislocations account for 2% to 4% of all shoulder dislocations and are the type most likely to be related to seizures and electric shock. Posterior dislocations also can happen because of a fall on an outstretched arm or a blow to the front of the shoulder. Inferior dislocation — The top of the humerus is displaced downward. This type of shoulder dislocation is the rarest, occurring in only one out of every 200 cases. It can be caused by various types of trauma in which the arm is pushed violently downward. Shoulder dislocations are the most common joint dislocation seen by emergency room doctors, accounting for more than 50% of all dislocations treated in hospitals. Young adult men and older women tend to be the groups with the highest rate of shoulder dislocations. Almost all shoulder dislocations are related to trauma. Occasionally, the dislocation occurs after ordinarily harmless motions, such as raising an arm or rolling over in bed. In these mysterious cases, the real cause may be that the shoulder ligaments are abnormally loose. Loose ligaments are sometimes due to an inherited condition that can increase a person's risk of dislocation in other body joints as well.   (Locked) More »

Sprain (Overview)

A sprain is a tear of ligaments, the tough bands of fibrous tissue that connect bones to one another at a joint. Normally, ligaments stabilize a joint, keep the joint's bones aligned and limit the motion of a joint to the normal range. When a joint is sprained, its torn or stretched ligaments can lose part or all of their ability to reinforce the joint and to keep it moving normally. In severe cases, the sprained joint can become unstable and loose, bones can move out of alignment and the joint may extend beyond its normal range of motion. Although ligaments can be sprained in a variety of ways, the actual ligament damage is usually caused by at least one of the following: Flexing (bending), extending (stretching out) or twisting a joint beyond its normal range of motion — This injury is a common cause of wrist sprains in skiers. If a skier falls with a ski pole still strapped to the wrist, the attached pole can twist the wrist beyond its normal limits and cause a sprain. Suddenly increasing the tension (strain or pull) on a ligament to the point that it snaps in two — This type of injury can happen in the knee joint if you suddenly stop short while running. The extreme tension of the braking force actually tears one of the knee ligaments in two, often causing a pop that can be felt or even heard when the ligament snaps. Hitting the joint directly or hitting one of the bones near the joint — This type of sprain often happens in contact sports, especially when a shoulder or knee joint takes the full impact of a collision between two athletes. Any unusual force across a joint can cause a sprain. Among athletes, more than any other group, sprains are common. Knee sprains and shoulder sprains are common among those who participate in football, basketball, soccer, rugby, wrestling, gymnastics and skiing. Foot sprains are a danger for ballet dancers, snowboarders, windsurfers, equestrians and competitive divers. Wrist sprains are common in skiing, football, basketball, baseball, roller hockey, boxing, basketball, volleyball and weightlifting. The specific joint that tends to be sprained during a particular sport is usually related to the kinds of joint movements that the sport requires or to the types of impact or collision that can happen. For example, many knee sprains in football players are caused by the extreme knee stress of cutting moves and sharp turns. Others are caused by the direct impact of tackles. Off the playing field, sprains often occur because of high-impact accidents — for example, striking the knee on the dashboard during a car crash or slipping on a patch of ice and landing on a wrist or shoulder. Sprains are also common in the workplace. (Locked) More »

Somatization Disorder

A person with somatization disorder is chronically preoccupied with numerous "somatic" (physical) symptoms over many years. These symptoms, however, cannot be explained fully by a non-psychiatric diagnosis. Nonetheless, the symptoms cause significant distress or impair the person's ability to function. The person is not "faking." Somatization disorder is a medical problem. The disorder, however, is probably related to brain functioning or emotional regulation rather than the area of the body that has become the focus of the patient's attention. The symptoms are real and are not under the person's conscious control. People with somatization disorder report multiple medical problems over many years, involving several different areas of the body. For example, the same person might have back pain, headaches, chest discomfort, and stomach or urinary distress. Women often report irregular periods. Men may report erectile dysfunction (impotence). The person may: Describe symptoms in dramatic and emotional terms Seek care from more than one physician at the same time Describe symptoms in vague terms Lack signs of defined medical illness Have complaints that medical tests fail to support People with somatization disorder do get diagnosable medical illnesses, too, so doctors must be careful not to dismiss symptoms too easily. A person with somatization disorder also may have symptoms of anxiety and depression. He or she may begin to feel hopeless and attempt suicide, or may have trouble adapting to the stresses of life. The person may abuse alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications. Spouses and other family members may become distressed because the person's symptoms continue for long periods of time and no medical treatment seems to help. Symptoms of somatization disorder vary by culture, sometimes depending on how illness or "sick roles" are viewed in a given culture. Cultural factors also affect the proportions of men and women with the disorder. Female relatives of people with somatization disorder are more likely to develop the disorder. Male relatives are more likely to develop alcoholism and personality disorder. Scientists do not know the cause of the symptoms reported by people with somatization disorder, but researchers have some theories. It is possible, for example, that people with this disorder perceive bodily sensations in an unusual way. Or they may describe feelings in physical (rather than mental or emotional) terms. Trauma or stress may cause a person's physical sensations to change.   (Locked) More »