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

Benefits of moderate sun exposure

Dr. Robert S. Stern, chair of the Department of Dermatology at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center , calls them "solar-phobes": people so concerned about getting skin cancer that they stay inside or cover every bit of skin. "They cover up like they were going out into the Arabian Desert ," he says. The marketing of ultrablocking sunscreens and special sun-protective clothing plays into these fears. There's no getting around the fact that sunlight is hard on your skin. Age gets blamed for wrinkles and rough, dry skin. But the real culprit is a combination of age and sun that dermatologists call photoaging. The short UVB wavelengths that cause sunburn can also damage DNA and suppress the skin's immune system. The longer, more penetrating UVA wavelengths may create highly reactive oxygen molecules capable of damaging skin cell membranes and the DNA inside. The relationship between sun exposure and skin cancer risk isn't as straightforward as you might think. Genes are a factor, of course: Some protect, some promote. So is skin type: People with pale skin who sunburn easily and don't tan are more likely to get sun-related skin cancer. As for exposure, the "dose" and its timing are crucial. Several studies have suggested that suddenly getting a lot of sun is more dangerous then steady exposure over time. More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Peptic Ulcer Disease

Do you have diffuse or localized abdominal pain? Does the pain ever travel to the back or chest? Do you have nausea associated with the pain? Does eating make the pain better or worse? Do you have black or bloody stools? Do you ever vomit blood or material that looks like coffee grounds? Do you take any medications (for example, pain relievers)? Do you smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol? Do you drink caffeine-containing beverages? Have you ever been tested or treated for a bacteria called H. pylori that can infect the stomach lining? Do you have a family history of peptic ulcer disease? Careful abdominal exam Rectal exam Stool testing for blood Blood or breath test for the presence of H. pylori Upper endoscopy (internal examination of esophagus, stomach, and duodenum) Upper GI series   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Peripheral Artery Disease

Do you develop pain, cramps, aches, fatigue, or numbness in your leg muscles when you walk? At what distance do you develop symptoms? Do they go away when you stop walking? Do you ever develop these symptoms at rest? Do you have decreased sensation in your feet? If you are a man, do you have erectile dysfunction? Are you doing everything possible to modify the risk factors that can worsen this disease (smoking cessation, treating elevated blood pressure and cholesterol, and controlling diabetes)? Are you exercising regularly and at progressively more strenuous levels? Are you taking an aspirin every day? If you have diabetes, do you practice meticulous foot care (cleaning, applying moisturizing lotions, and wearing well-fitting protective shoes)? Do you know when to seek emergency medical care for peripheral artery disease (if your leg becomes suddenly painful, pale, cold and numb)? Do you get chest pain or pressure with exertion or at rest? If so, you may have coronary artery disease. Do you have sudden brief episodes of blindness (like a shade being pulled over your eyes) or sudden episodes of weakness in an arm or leg, or difficulty speaking? These could be warning symptoms of stroke. Heart rate, blood pressure, and weight Pulses in your feet and groin, and behind your knees Listen with the stethoscope over your carotid arteries in your neck Heart and lungs Neurologic exam (reflexes and sensation in your legs) Muscles (looking for atrophy in leg muscles) Skin, looking for changes related to reduced circulation Blood tests, including glucose and cholesterol levels Ultrasound of your carotid arteries Doppler Ankle-Arm Indices Exercise Stress Test MRI/MRA Angiography   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Rash

How long have you had the rash? Where did it start? Has it spread? Is the rash only on parts of your skin that have been exposed to the sun? Does it itch or hurt? Is the rash red, pink, or purple? Is the rash smooth or bumpy? Have you had sores in your mouth, eyes, or other mucous membranes? Have you had blisters on your skin? Have you had trouble breathing? Have you had a fever? Have you symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection (for example, a cold)? Have you had vomiting or diarrhea? Are you taking any prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, herbs, or supplements? Did you start any of them in the past two months? Have you had any new exposures to foods or chemicals? Any exposure to insects? Have you had any recent sun exposure? Temperature Examination of your skin, mouth, eyes, mucous membranes, lymph nodes, liver, and spleen Skin scrapings for microscopic analysis or culture (if the rash looks infectious) Complete blood cell count or other blood tests (if you appear sick or have a fever) Skin biopsy   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections

With each of the bladder or urinary tract infections that you have you had, as far back as you can remember: What were the dates of each? Was a urine culture done to prove you had an infection? What treatment was given, and how quickly did you get better? Did you have a fever, pain in your back, or nausea and vomiting? Have you ever been told that you have abnormalities in the way your kidneys or bladder, or the tubes connecting them, are built? Do you frequently develop bladder or urinary tract infections after sexual intercourse? Do you have any chronic medical problems (for example, diabetes or neurological disease)? Are you on any antibiotics to prevent recurrent bladder or urinary tract infections? If so, which one? If you are a woman, what type of contraception do you use (for example, a diaphragm, spermicide)? Abdominal exam Genital exam Back exam for the presence of tenderness in the area of the kidneys Clean-catch urine specimen for urinalysis and culture Ultrasound of the bladder Full pelvic/renal ultrasound Abdominal CT scan Cystourethrogram   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Sarcoidosis

Have you had difficulty breathing? For how long? How far can you walk without feeling winded? Do you ever have chest pain or tightness? If yes, is it related to activity? Have you had a persistent cough? If yes, is your cough dry or do you produce sputum? Do you suffer from fatigue or malaise? Have you had any fevers? Have you recently lost weight? If so, how much? Do you have pain in your joints, bones, or muscles? Have you noticed any lumps in your neck, armpits, or groin? Have you noticed any rashes or changes in your skin? Have you had blurry vision or watery eyes? Have you ever had red or painful eyes or a past diagnosis of uveitis? Do you smoke cigarettes? Have you had an abnormal chest x-ray in the past? Do you have a family history of sarcoidosis? Are you taking any medications? Have you ever been on steroids or any other treatment for you sarcoidosis? Temperature, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, heart rate Heart and lung exam Joint exam Skin exam Lymph node exam Plain chest x-ray Chest CT scan Pulmonary function tests Bronchoscopy with lung biopsy Blood tests Formal eye exam   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Shingles

Do you have a history of chicken pox? Does your skin hurt, itch, or feel numb? Is the pain sharp, dull, or piercing? How long have you had it? Do you have a rash? If so, for how long? Is the rash in more than one place on your skin? Is the rash on one side of your body only? Has the rash at any time looked like small blisters? Do you still have pain even if the rash is gone? What triggers the pain (for example, a light touch)? Do your symptoms interfere with your ability to sleep or perform activities of daily living? Are you taking any medications? Skin exam almost always confirms the diagnosis Skin scraping to examine under the microscope, or for viral culture, immunofluorescence, or polymerase chain reaction testing (rarely needed)   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Spinal Stenosis

Where is the pain in your back? Does it radiate to your legs? Is it worse when you walk? Does the pain from walking occur suddenly or gradually? Is it relieved by standing? Is it relieved by sitting or lying down? What bothers you more, the pain in your back or the pain in your legs? Does the pain worsen when you cough or sneeze? Do you have numbness or decreased sensation in your legs? Have you had problems with your balance? Have you had any changes or difficulty in your ability to urinate? How long have you had the pain? Is it getting worse? How much does it limit your usual activities? How is your quality of life affected by the pain? Have you ever had spinal surgery? Have you ever injured your back? Have you ever had hip surgery? Do you have diabetes? Do you have poor circulation, such as peripheral artery disease? Do you have foot ulcers? Have you ever had vascular surgery? Do you have any sort of neuropathy (nerve damage)? What are you doing to treat the pain? Have you seen a physical therapist? Are you interested in an injection of a cortisone-like medication into your back? Do you know anything about this procedure? Spine Hip Pulses in the feet, behind the knee and in the groin Neurologic exam X-rays of the spine CT scans of the spine MRI scans of the spine   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Thrombocytopenia

What medications do you take (including over-the-counter drugs and herbal remedies)? Have you been ill recently? What other medical problems do you have? Could you be pregnant? Have you ever been tested for HIV? Have you had fever? Have you had rashes? Have you had diarrhea? Have you had abdominal pain? Have you had headache? Have you had neurologic symptoms? Have you been lightheaded? Have you been short of breath with minimal exertion? Have you had chest pain or pressure? Have you had a cough? Do you have any bruises or nosebleeds? Do your gums bleed when you brush your teeth? If you are a woman, have you had unusually heavy menstrual periods? How long have you had symptoms? Does anyone else in your family have low platelets? How many alcoholic beverages do you drink in an average week? Eyes Mouth Heart Lungs Abdomen Skin Blood tests, which might include complete blood count with microscopic evaluation, kidney function tests, liver function tests, antinuclear antibody, an HIV test Bone marrow biopsy   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Vaginitis

How long have you had this vaginal discomfort? Does it itch or burn? Do you have vaginal discharge? Does it have a bad odor? What is the consistency? Are you pregnant? Are you sexually active? Is sexual intercourse painful? Do you have pain or burning with urination? Are you urinating more frequently? Do you have urinary incontinence? Are you post-menopausal? Do you have vaginal dryness? Do you have diabetes? Have you recently taken antibiotics or corticosteroids? Is your immune system suppressed in any way? Do you take birth-control pills? Do you wear tight pants or synthetic fabrics (nylon)? (These are all predisposing factors for yeast infections). Have you or your partner ever had a sexually transmitted disease? Do you have fevers, chills, abdominal pain, joint pain, or a rash? Abdominal examination Pelvic examination Sample of the vaginal discharge to examine under a microscope (wet smear) Cultures of the vaginal discharge   More »