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.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that causes a variety of symptoms, including:
diarrhea and/or constipation
The severity of the disorder varies from person to person. Some people experience symptoms that come and go and are just mildly annoying. Others have such severe daily bowel problems that IBS affects their ability to work, sleep and enjoy life.
In addition, symptoms may change over time. A person may have severe symptoms for several weeks and then feel well for months or even years.
Most people are never cured of IBS. However, the disorder is not related to any other disease. It does not develop into colitis. People with IBS do not have an increased risk of colon cancer.
IBS has been called irritable colon, spastic colon, mucous colitis and functional bowel disease.
Onycholysis is the separation of a fingernail or toenail from its pink nail bed. The separation occurs gradually and is painless.
The most common cause of onycholysis is trauma. Even slight trauma can cause onycholysis when it happens repetitively — for example, the daily tapping of long fingernails on a keyboard or counter. Onycholysis also can be caused by manicure tools that are pushed beneath the nail to clear dirt or smooth the nail. Too much moisture also can cause the problem.
Some medical conditions can cause onycholysis, generally by changing the nail's shape or the contour of the soft tissue bed beneath it. In these situations, the nail cannot attach smoothly to the nail bed.
Fungal infections of the nails thicken the tissue immediately underneath the nail plate and cause edge of the nail to lift.
The skin condition psoriasis is a common cause of onycholysis.
After exposure to some medicines (notably medicines from the psoralen, tetracycline or fluoroquinolone groups) the nail can react to sun exposure by lifting away from its bed.
An overactive thyroid gland can cause onycholysis.
Tetanus, also called lockjaw, is a life-threatening infection caused by Clostridium tetani bacteria. Although these bacteria are especially common in the soil and manure of farms, they can be found almost anywhere. They live in the dirt of suburban gardens and in the dirty waters of floods. They also contaminate dust in cities.
Tetanus bacteria usually enter the body through a dirty puncture wound, cut, scrape or some other break in the skin. Once inside the skin, they multiply and produce a toxin, or poison, that affects the body's nerves. This toxin causes severe muscle spasms, cramps and seizures. Spasms in the jaw muscles produce lockjaw. Spasms also occur in muscles of the throat, chest, abdomen and extremities. If you don't receive proper treatment, the toxin's effect on respiratory muscles can interfere with breathing. If this happens, you may die of suffocation.
A tetanus infection may develop after almost any type of skin injury, major or minor. This includes cuts, punctures, crush injuries, burns and animal bites. In rare cases, a tetanus infection also can occur after surgery, an ear infection, a dental infection or an abortion. Among drug users, tetanus infections have followed heroin injections, especially if the heroin was mixed with quinine. Tetanus also can develop after body piercing, tattooing, an insect sting or even a tiny splinter.
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.