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
A hernia repair is the surgical procedure to fix a hernia. This procedure is also known as herniorrhaphy.
A hernia occurs when part of an internal organ or body part protrudes into an area where it should not. The most common hernias occur in the abdominal area. A small portion of the intestine, or a piece of fat, pokes through a weak area in the muscular wall of the abdomen. This causes an abnormal bulge under the skin of the abdomen, usually near the groin or navel.
Barotrauma refers to injuries caused by increased air or water pressure, such as during airplane flights or scuba diving. Barotrauma of the ear is common. Generalized barotraumas, also called decompression sickness, affects the entire body.
Your middle ear includes the eardrum and the space behind it. The only connection between your middle ear and the "outside world" is a thin canal called the Eustachian tube. This connects your ear with the back of your mouth. When you swallow, you may notice a small click in your ears. This is a bubble of air being moved through the Eustachian tube. These bubbles are constantly moving into the middle ear, where they balance the ear's inner pressure. Ear barotrauma can occur when these tubes become blocked or partially blocked.
On an airplane, barotrauma to the ear – also called aero-otitis or barotitis – can happen as the plane descends for landing. Barotrauma of the ear also can happen when scuba divers descend. The pressure change can create a vacuum in the middle ear that pulls the eardrum inward. This can cause pain and can muffle sounds. Your ear will feel stuffed and you may feel as if you need to "pop" it.
In more severe cases of barotrauma, the middle ear can fill with clear fluid as the body tries to equalize the pressure on both sides of the eardrum. This fluid is drawn out of blood vessels in the lining of the inner ear, and can only drain if the Eustachian tube is open. Fluid behind the eardrum is called serous otitis media. It can create pain and hearing difficulty similar to a middle ear infection.
The eardrum can rupture (break) in severe cases of ear barotrauma, causing bleeding or leaking of fluid from the ear. A ruptured eardrum can result in hearing loss. In severe cases, it is possible for the pressure to create a leak between the deepest structures of the ear (the fluid-filled bony canals called the cochlea and semicircular canals) and the inner ear space. This deep leak is known as a fistula. If this occurs, the balance center can be affected, resulting in a sensation of spinning or falling called vertigo. This complication may require emergency surgery.
Barotrauma is the most common medical problem reported by air travelers. It is much more likely to happen to people who have colds, allergies or infections when they are flying. It is common in children because their Eustachian tubes are narrower than those of adults and become blocked more easily.
Barotrauma in the lungs also can occur, but this is not seen in air travelers. It occurs, rarely, in divers who hold their breath, when the diaphragm moves abruptly in a "gasping" effort. The diaphragm is the main muscle used in breathing. This form of barotrauma creates a vacuum in the lungs and can result in bleeding into the lung tissue. A more common form of barotrauma in the lungs is caused by the mechanical ventilation systems used in hospital intensive care units to help patients breathe. In this case, air sacks (alveoli) in the lungs may be ruptured or scarred due to high air pressure within the lungs. Ventilator-associated barotrauma is a complex medical concern.
The peritonsillar space lies between each tonsil and the wall of the throat. An infection can cause a pus-filled swelling (abscess) to develop in this space. Peritonsillar abscesses, also called quinsy, usually occur as a complication of tonsillitis. They most often are caused by "strep throat" bacteria (group A beta-hemolytic streptococci).
If a peritonsillar abscess is not treated promptly, the infection can spread to the neck, roof of the mouth and lungs. The swelling can push the tonsil closest to it into the center of your throat and move the uvula (the flap of tissue hanging in the back of your throat) from the center toward the unaffected side of your throat. In severe cases, the swelling can make breathing difficult or can close your airway.
Peritonsillar abscesses most often are found in older children, adolescents and young adults. They are less common than in the past because tonsillitis now often is treated with antibiotics, which destroy the infection-causing bacteria.
Diabetic neuropathies are nerve disorders that affect people with diabetes. They occur more often in people with persistently high blood sugar levels.
There are several different diabetic neuropathies. They include:
Peripheral neuropathy. This is the most common type. It affects the longest nerves in the body. These nerves are part of the peripheral nervous system. This is the network of nerves that carry signals from your brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body and back.
The most common symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are numbness or pain in the feet and lower legs.
Autonomic neuropathy. This neuropathy damages collections of nerves that control your unconscious body functions. It may affect your digestion, your circulation and your sexual function.
Localized nerve failures (focal neuropathy). A nerve that controls a single muscle can lose its function. For example, focal neuropathy may cause problems with eye movement that result in double vision. Or it may cause drooping of one cheek.
Diabetic neuropathies occur in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. They are most common in people whose blood glucose (blood sugar) levels are not well controlled.
Diabetic neuropathies can occur in people who have had diabetes for a short time. But they are most likely to affect those who have had the disease for more than a decade. It is also more common in people older than 40. Diabetics who smoke are especially at risk.
Diabetic neuropathy results from several changes in the nerves. But the specific cause of neuropathy is not completely understood. A persistently high concentration of blood sugar surrounding nerve cells definitely plays a role. The nerve cells must adjust their internal sugar content to be in balance with their surroundings. To do so, nerve cells make and store the sugar sorbitol. Sorbitol can gradually damage nerve cells.
Tremor is the shaky movements of your hands, limbs, head or voice that you can't control. Sometimes tremor is a normal reaction to a situation such as fear, fatigue or anger. It also can be a side effect of too much caffeine, a medication, or withdrawal from a drug or medicine. When tremor occurs during activities and there is no emotional or chemical cause, it can be a sign of a neurological disease called essential tremor.
Essential tremor is different than Parkinson's disease, another neurological illness. Essential tremor is most noticeable when your body is in action, such as when you are writing, typing or pouring a beverage. In contrast, the tremors of Parkinson's are more noticeable at rest.
The salivary glands make saliva and release it into the mouth.
There are three pairs of relatively large, major salivary glands:
Parotid glands. Located in the upper part of each cheek, close to the ear. The duct of each parotid gland empties onto the inside of the cheek, near the molars of the upper jaw.
Submandibular glands. Under the jaw. They have ducts that empty behind the lower front teeth.
Sublingual glands. Beneath the tongue. They have ducts that empty onto the floor of the mouth.
The vocal cords are two bands of elastic muscle tissue. They are located side by side in the voice box (larynx) just above the windpipe (trachea). Like other tissues in the body, vocal cords can be strained and damaged. Vocal cords are also subject to infections, tumors and trauma.
When you are silent, the cords remain open. They create an airway through which you breathe.
When you speak, the air you exhale from your lungs is forced through the closed vocal cords. This causes them to vibrate. They vibrate faster for higher-pitched sounds, slower for lower-pitched sounds.
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
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.
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.