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

Does heartburn feel like a heart attack?

Chest pain can indicate acid reflux causing heartburn, or it could be the first sign of an impending heart attack. It’s important to note symptoms in order to tell the difference. (Locked) More »

Don’t delay treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition caused when the median nerve, which runs down your arm into your hand, is compressed by a ligament that crosses over it. Symptoms include numbness and pain in your hand. Women tend to be more prone to carpal tunnel syndrome. If you suspect you have carpal tunnel syndrome, don’t delay treatment, or you may wind up with lasting nerve damage. More »

Quick-start guide to headaches

There are several types of common headaches. Migraines typically begin on one side of the head, with pain stretching from the front to the back of the head. Tension headaches feel like a tight band around the head. Cluster headaches cause a terrible stabbing pain around the eye. Sinus headaches are usually behind the eyes and nose and feel more like pressure than pain. An occasional headache is probably nothing to worry about. But when pain is sudden or chronic—more than once a week— it’s time to tell a doctor. (Locked) More »

Shingles may raise heart attack risk

The painful, blistering rash known as shingles may increase a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke, especially in the first year after the onset of shingles. Most people over age 60 should get a shingles vaccine, which lasts about five years. More »

Should you take an antiviral drug when you get the flu?

Antiviral medications may help reduce the symptoms of influenza. They must be taken within two days of the start of symptoms to be effective. In June 2017, the World Health Organization removed one antiviral, oseltamivir (Tamiflu), from its list of essential medications because of questionable effectiveness. However, Harvard experts say antivirals are the only medication option, have a good safety record, and at least some people respond to the drugs if they are prescribed promptly. (Locked) More »

What should you do about those unpleasant eye floaters?

For some people, debris from the vitreous in the eye may wind up floating around. These “floaters” may interfere with vision and become bothersome. Options include getting used to them, which becomes easier over time, or undergoing surgery to remove them. Another option that’s not currently recommended is a laser procedure called YAG vitreolysis, which vaporizes floaters with heat. The procedure is controversial, mainly because some doctors have been offering it since the early 1990s without solid evidence about its safety and effectiveness. Recent research suggests YAG vitreolysis may deserve more investigation. More »

How’s your heart rate and why it matters?

When it comes to your heart rate, it's a bit like the speed of your car. What you want is not too fast, not too slow, and not too erratic. In fact, most of the time, heart rhythm and pace are not things you need to think about. And unless something unusual is going on, you're likely completely unaware of what your heart is doing. Heart rate is important because the heart's function is so important. The heart circulates oxygen and nutrient-rich blood throughout the body. When it's not working properly, just about everything is affected. Heart rate is central to this process because the function of the heart (called "cardiac output") is directly related to heart rate and stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped out with each beat). More »

Other conditions may be causes of chest pain

Although chest pain is often—and rightfully— associated with heart disease, other medical problems can be causes of chest pain. Angina—feelings of pressure, heaviness, tightness. or pain in the chest—occurs when plaque in the coronary arteries partially blocks blood flow and the heart muscle isn't getting enough oxygen and nutrients. (You can learn more about angina in the Harvard Special Health Report Diseases of the Heart: A compendium of common heart condition and the latest treatments.) Yet the heart isn't the only organ in the upper abdomen, and chest pain may be due to conditions affecting the esophagus, lungs, gall bladder, or stomach. When chest pain—particularly pain in the lower chest— is triggered by a meal, it is likely to emanate from the digestive system, rather than from the heart, and can be due to the following: More »