A Glossary of Common Medical Diagnoses
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s, including early-onset Alzheimer’s, include problems with memory, judgment, and thinking, which makes it hard to work or take part in day-to-day life. As the stages of Alzheimer’s progress, memory loss and other signs of Alzheimer’s become more apparent. Many people find help with Alzheimer’s drugs, but there is no cure for this form of dementia.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
In the U.S., amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is often nicknamed “Lou Gehrig’s disease” after the famed baseball player whose struggle with this disease and death in 1941 brought it national attention. ALS is an incurable, progressive degenerative neurological disorder. For reasons that are not understood, the nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement gradually deteriorate. As a result, muscles waste away, leading to paralysis and death, usually in two to five years.
An irregular heartbeat is an arrhythmia (also called dysrhythmia). Heart rates can also be irregular. A normal heart rate is 50 to 100 beats per minute. Arrhythmias and abnormal heart rates don’t necessarily occur together. Arrhythmias can occur with a normal heart rate, or with heart rates that are slow (called bradyarrhythmias — less than 50 beats per minute). Arrhythmias can also occur with rapid heart rates (called tachyarrhythmias — faster than 100 beats per minute).
Common arthritis symptoms of inflammation, pain, and stiffness are usually caused by degenerative arthritis (osteoarthritis). Other types of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis and gout. No matter which type of arthritis you have, you need an accurate diagnosis before your doctor can recommend a program for treatment.
Atrial fibrillation (AF or Afib) is the most common type of irregular heartbeat. It increases with age. If you have AF, the impulse does not travel in an orderly fashion through the atria. Instead, many impulses begin simultaneously and spread through the atria and compete for a chance to travel through the AV node.
Autism spectrum disorders affect as many as 1 in 150 American children. Types of autism include autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder, and Asperger’s syndrome. The cause of autism is unknown not known.
Cancer, also called malignancy, is characterized by an abnormal growth of cells. There are more than 100 types of cancer, including breast cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and lymphoma. Cancer symptoms vary widely based on the type of cancer. Cancer treatment includes chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. If you’re considering complementary treatments for cancer, discuss this with your doctor as they may interact with other cancer treatment.
According to the National Eye Institute, a cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. Most cataracts are related to aging. Cataracts are very common in older people. According to Prevent Blindness America’s Vision Problems in the U.S. report, more than 24 million Americans age 40 and older have cataracts. By age 80, more than half of all Americans will have cataracts. Read More…
Abnormal cholesterol levels such as high LDL cholesterol or low HDL cholesterol are a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. An unhealthy diet can cause high cholesterol. Sometimes high cholesterol runs in families. A low-cholesterol diet can help improve cholesterol levels. If the low-cholesterol diet does not work to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe medications or consult with any cholesterol questions.
Chronic Kidney Disease
Having chronic kidney disease means that for some time your kidneys have not been working the way they should. Your kidneys have the important job of filtering your blood. They remove waste products and extra fluid and flush them from your body as urine. When your kidneys do not work right, wastes build up in your blood and make you sick.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a long-term lung disease that refers to both chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Get information on symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatments for COPD that can help you manage your illness.
Pain management is important for ongoing pain control, especially if you suffer with long-term or chronic pain. After getting a pain assessment, your doctor can prescribe pain medicine or other pain treatments to help you get pain relief. Sometimes psychotherapy is also useful in learning new coping skills to help with chronic pain.
Congestive Heart Failure
Heart failure means your heart muscle does not pump as much blood as your body needs. Failure does not mean that your heart has stopped. It means that your heart is not pumping as well as it should. Lifestyle changes and certain medications can help prolong your life.
Depression includes a group of conditions that negatively affect how you feel, think, and act. Symptoms of depression can include persistent feelings of sadness and loneliness as well as a general disinterest in life and activities. Causes of clinical depression include stressful events, chemical imbalances, alcohol and drugs, family history, and illness. It is estimated that 5% of adults suffer from clinical depression.
Diabetes affects the body’s ability to use blood sugar for energy. The main types include type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes. Diabetes insipidus, a rare disorder, is not related to diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes). Diabetes symptoms may include increased thirst and urination, blurred vision, and fatigue.
Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that are made up of the muscle and connective tissue from the wall of the uterus — a woman’s womb. Fibroids may grow as a single nodule or in clusters and may range in size from 1 mm to more than 20 cm (8 inches) in diameter. They may grow within the wall of the uterus or they may project into the interior cavity or toward the outer surface of the uterus. In rare cases, they may grow on stems projecting from the surface of the uterus.
Fibromyalgia syndrome affects the muscles and soft tissue. Fibromyalgia symptoms include chronic pain in the muscles, fatigue, sleep problems, and painful tender points or trigger points at certain parts of the body. Fibromyalgia pain and other symptoms can be relieved through medications, lifestyle changes, stress management, and other fibromyalgia treatment.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety is a mental health disorder characterized by ongoing feelings of worry and fear that interfere with daily activities. Symptoms of anxiety include excessive and persistent worry and fear, fast heart rate, rapid breathing, feelings of tension, increased blood pressure, and feeling tired. Anxiety affects people of all ages, from children to older adults, and is treatable with medication and therapies.
Heart disease includes conditions affecting the heart, such as coronary heart disease, heart attack, congestive heart failure, and congenital heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S. Preventative measures may include quitting smoking, lowering cholesterol, controlling high blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising.
Viral hepatitis, including hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C, are distinct diseases that affect the liver. Other causes of hepatitis include drugs and medications. Each type of hepatitis has different hepatitis symptoms and causes and treatment options may depend on the type. Your doctor will run laboratory tests to determine the type of hepatitis.
Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV/AIDS weakens a person’s ability to fight infections and cancer. HIV transmission can occur with unprotected sex or with needle sharing. Symptoms of HIV vary widely. A person may have HIV symptoms or AIDS symptoms without knowing it until they get HIV testing. There is no HIV cure at this time although medications can delay the onset of AIDS.
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
High blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease and stroke so it’s important to know how to lower high blood pressure. Hypertension risk factors include obesity, drinking too much alcohol, smoking, and family history.
Hyperthyroidism means your thyroid makes too much thyroid hormone. Your thyroid is a gland in the front of your neck. It controls your metabolism, which is how your body turns food into energy. It also affects your heart, muscles, bones, and cholesterol.
IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS affects up to 55 million Americans, mostly women. IBS causes are unknown. IBS symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal cramps. There are IBS treatments such as diet and lifestyle changes and medications that can help.
Incontinence and OAB (Overactive Bladder)
Urinary incontinence affects more than 12 million American adults. Stress incontinence and overactive bladder (OAB) are the main causes of incontinence. Stress incontinence, which is more common in women, causes urine to leak when you laugh or cough. Overactive bladder, also called urge incontinence, is caused by urinary muscle spasms that cause an urgency to urinate. Incontinence can also be caused by multiple pregnancies, being overweight, and genetic weaknesses.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which causes inflammation in the digestive tract. Inflammatory bowel disease symptoms include abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea, fever, and weight loss. The goal of IBD treatment is to suppress inflammation. The causes of IBD are unknown.
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness that infects respiratory passages. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can be fatal. Some signs and symptoms of Influenza are chills, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, fatigue, muscle or body aches, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. The flu virus spreads primarily by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. The droplets come in contact with the mouths or noses of individuals nearby. The best way to prevent influenza from spreading is by getting a flu vaccine on an annual basis.
Normally, food is absorbed into the bloodstream in the form of sugars such as glucose and other basic substances. The increase in sugar in the bloodstream signals the pancreas (an organ located behind the stomach) to increase the secretion of a hormone called insulin. This hormone attaches to cells, removing sugar from the bloodstream so that it can be used for energy. In insulin resistance, the body’s cells have a diminished ability to respond to the action of the insulin hormone. To compensate for the insulin resistance, the pancreas secretes more insulin.
Acute renal failure means that your kidneys have suddenly stopped working. Your kidneys remove waste products and help balance water and salt and other minerals (electrolytes) in your blood. When your kidneys stop working, waste products, fluids, and electrolytes build up in your body. This can cause problems that can be deadly. As you get older, it is important to maintain your kidney health.
Leukemia is cancer of the blood cells. It starts in the bone marrow, the soft tissue inside most bones. Bone marrow is where blood cells are made.
Liver failure occurs when large parts of the liver become damaged beyond repair and the liver is no longer able to function. Liver failure is a life-threatening condition that demands urgent medical care. Most often liver failure occurs gradually and over many years. However, a more rare condition known as acute liver failure occurs rapidly (in as little as 48 hours) and can be difficult to detect initially.
Lupus, an autoimmune disease, happens when the immune system attacks its tissues, causing inflammation, swelling, pain, and damage. Lupus symptoms vary, and early lupus symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, fever, and a lupus rash, especially after being in the sun. Doctors diagnose lupus by symptoms and blood tests. Lupus is not contagious but has a hereditary component, so family health information is important.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over age 60. It occurs when the small central portion of the retina, known as the macula, deteriorates. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of the eye. Because the disease develops as a person ages, it is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Although macular degeneration is almost never a blinding condition, it can be a source of significant visual disability.
Skin cancers include melanoma, basal cell, and squamous cell. Basal and squamous cell are common and treatment is very effective; malignant melanoma, especially in later stages of melanoma, is serious and treatment is difficult. It is important to learn the risk factors to see if you're at risk. Sun exposure is the biggest cause of melanoma and other skin cancers, but early diagnosis and treatment can increase the survival rate from melanoma.
Multiple sclerosis affects the brain and spinal cord. Early symptoms of multiple sclerosis include weakness, tingling, numbness, and blurred vision. Other possible warning signs are muscle stiffness, thinking problems, and urinary problems. A multiple sclerosis diagnosis is made by the history of symptoms and a neurological exam, often with the help of tests such as an MRI or a spinal tap. No one’s sure what causes multiple sclerosis, but it may be hereditary. There’s no cure for multiple sclerosis, but treatment can relieve worsening of symptoms.
Osteoarthritis, the “wear and tear” arthritis, is common, especially as we age. Causes include aging joints, previous injuries, and obesity, among others. Symptoms of osteoarthritis include joint pain and stiffness. Osteoarthritis may affect any joint, including the hand, wrist, neck, back, knee, and hip. Osteoarthritis treatment depends on the joint but often includes medication and exercise. There is no special osteoarthritis diet, but weight loss may improve symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Osteoporosis, or thinning bones, is a serious condition that can result in tremendous pain with fractures. Risk factors for osteoporosis include aging, being female, low body weight, low sex hormones such as during menopause, smoking, and some medications. There are no symptoms of this bone disease until you fracture a bone. Prevention and treatment of osteoporosis include calcium and vitamin D, regular exercise, and osteoporosis medications, if needed.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include muscle rigidity, tremors, and changes in speech and gait. Parkinson’s causes are unknown but genetics, aging, and toxins are being researched. After a Parkinson’s diagnosis, Parkinson’s disease treatments are given to help relieve symptoms. There is no cure for Parkinson’s and herbal remedies are unproven. Studies on using stem cells to treat Parkinson’s disease are under way. The prognosis depends on the patient’s age and symptoms.
Pneumonia is a lung infection that can make you very sick. You may cough, run a fever, and have a hard time breathing. For most people, pneumonia can be treated at home. It often clears up in 2 to 3 weeks. But older adults, babies, and people with other diseases can become very ill. They may need to be in the hospital. Take preventative measure against pneumonia and learn the signs and risks in elderly.
A spinal cord injury is damage to the spinal cord. The spinal cord is a soft bundle of nerves that extends from the base of the brain to the lower back. It runs through the spinal canal, a tunnel formed by holes in the bones of the spine. The bony spine helps protect the spinal cord.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disorder of the part of the nervous system that affects movements of the legs. Because it usually interferes with sleep, it also is considered a sleep disorder.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic type of arthritis. Early symptoms of RA include fatigue, joint pain, and stiffness. As it progresses, rheumatoid arthritis symptoms may feel like the flu, with achiness, muscle aches, and loss of appetite. The causes of rheumatoid arthritis are unknown, although there may be a genetic component. Early and effective rheumatoid arthritis treatment can improve the prognosis and may help prevent joint and bone destruction associated with RA.
Shingles is a viral infection that most often appears in form of a painful rash or tripe of blisters on your torso. Vaccines can help reduce the risk of shingles. Older adults are more likely to get shingles and are also prone to more severe symptoms and complications.
Spina bifida is a birth defect. Most children who have spina bifida do not have problems from it. It occurs when the bones of the spine (vertebrae) do not form properly around part of the baby’s spinal cord. It can affect how the skin on the back looks. And in severe cases, it can make walking or daily activities hard to do without help. The disease can be mild or severe.
Stroke is brain damage caused by a blocked blood vessel or bleeding in the brain. The signs of a stroke may include weakness, numbness, blurred vision, confusion, and slurred speech. Getting to a hospital quickly is vital for a good outcome with a stroke.
Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
Some people call a transient ischemic attack a mini-stroke, because the symptoms are like those of a stroke but do not last long. A TIA happens when blood flow to part of the brain is blocked or reduced, often by a blood clot. After a short time, blood flows again and the symptoms go away. With a stroke, the blood flow stays blocked, and the brain has permanent damage.
Ulcerative colitis is a disease that causes inflammation and sores (ulcers) in the lining of the large intestine, or colon. It usually affects the lower section (sigmoid colon) and the rectum. But it can affect the entire colon. In general, the more of the colon that’s affected, the worse the symptoms will be.