A disease is a particular abnormal condition that negatively affects the structure or function of part or all of an organism, and that is not due to any external injury.[1][2] Diseases are often construed as medical conditions that are associated with specific symptoms and signs.[1] A disease may be caused by external factors such as pathogens or by internal dysfunctions. For example, internal dysfunctions of the immune system can produce a variety of different diseases, including various forms of immunodeficiency, hypersensitivity, allergies and autoimmune disorders.

In humans, disease is often used more broadly to refer to any condition that causes pain, dysfunction, distress, social problems, or death to the person afflicted, or similar problems for those in contact with the person. In this broader sense, it sometimes includes injuries, disabilities, disorders, syndromes, infections, isolated symptoms, deviant behaviors, and atypical variations of structure and function, while in other contexts and for other purposes these may be considered distinguishable categories. Diseases can affect people not only physically, but also mentally, as contracting and living with a disease can alter the affected person's perspective on life.

Death due to disease is called death by natural causes. There are four main types of disease: infectious diseases, deficiency diseases, hereditary diseases (including both genetic diseases and non-genetic hereditary diseases), and physiological diseases. Diseases can also be classified in other ways, such as communicable versus non-communicable diseases. The deadliest diseases in humans are coronary artery disease (blood flow obstruction), followed by cerebrovascular disease and lower respiratory infections.[3] In developed countries, the diseases that cause the most sickness overall are neuropsychiatric conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

The study of disease is called pathology, which includes the study of etiology, or cause.



In many cases, terms such as disease, disorder, morbidity, sickness and illness are used interchangeably.[4] There are situations, however, when specific terms are considered preferable.

The term disease broadly refers to any condition that impairs the normal functioning of the body. For this reason, diseases are associated with dysfunctioning of the body's normal homeostatic processes.[5] Commonly, the term is used to refer specifically to infectious diseases, which are clinically evident diseases that result from the presence of pathogenic microbial agents, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, multicellular organisms, and aberrant proteins known as prions. An infection or colonization that does not and will not produce clinically evident impairment of normal functioning, such as the presence of the normal bacteria and yeasts in the gut, or of a passenger virus, is not considered a disease. By contrast, an infection that is asymptomatic during its incubation period, but expected to produce symptoms later, is usually considered a disease. Non-infectious diseases are all other diseases, including most forms of cancer, heart disease, and genetic disease.
Acquired disease
An acquired disease is one that began at some point during one's lifetime, as opposed to disease that was already present at birth, which is congenital disease. Acquired sounds like it could mean "caught via contagion", but it simply means acquired sometime after birth. It also sounds like it could imply secondary disease, but acquired disease can be primary disease.
Acute disease
An acute disease is one of a short-term nature (acute); the term sometimes also connotes a fulminant nature
Chronic condition or chronic disease
A chronic disease is one that persists over time, often characterized six months or more.
Congenital disorder or congenital disease
A congenital disorder is one that is present at birth. It is often a genetic disease or disorder and can be inherited. It can also be the result of a vertically transmitted infection from the mother, such as HIV/AIDS.
Genetic disease
A genetic disorder or disease is caused by one or more genetic mutations. It is often inherited, but some mutations are random and de novo.
Hereditary or inherited disease
A hereditary disease is a type of genetic disease caused by genetic mutations that are hereditary (and can run in families)
Iatrogenic disease
An iatrogenic disease or condition is one that caused by medical intervention, whether as a side effect of a treatment or as an inadvertent outcome.
Idiopathic disease
An idiopathic disease has an unknown cause or source. As medical science has advanced, many diseases with entirely unknown causes have had some aspects of their sources explained and therefore shed their idiopathic status. For example, when germs were discovered, it became known that they were a cause of infection, but particular germs and diseases had not been linked. In another example, it is known that autoimmunity is the cause of some forms of diabetes mellitus type 1, even though the particular molecular pathways by which it works are not yet understood. It is also common to know certain factors are associated with certain diseases. However, association and causality are two very different phenomena, as a third cause might be producing the disease, as well as an associated phenomenon.
Incurable disease
A disease that cannot be cured. Incurable diseases are not necessarily terminal diseases, and sometimes a disease's symptoms can be treated sufficiently for the disease to have little or no impact on quality of life.
Primary disease
A primary disease is a disease that is due to a root cause of illness, as opposed to secondary disease, which is a sequela, or complication that is caused by the primary disease. For example, a common cold is a primary disease, where rhinitis is a possible secondary disease, or sequela. A doctor must determine what primary disease, a cold or a bacterial infection, is causing a patient's secondary rhinitis when deciding whether or not to prescribe antibiotics.
Secondary disease
A secondary disease is a disease that is a sequela or complication of a prior, causal disease, which is referred to as the primary disease or simply the underlying cause (root cause). For example, a bacterial infection can be primary, wherein a healthy person is exposed to a bacteria and becomes infected, or it can be secondary to a primary cause, that predisposes the body to infection. For example, a primary viral infection that weakens the immune system could lead to a secondary bacterial infection. Similarly, a primary burn that creates an open wound could provide an entry point for bacteria, and lead to a secondary bacterial infection.
Terminal disease
A terminal disease is one that is expected to have the inevitable result of death. Previously, AIDS was a terminal disease; it is now incurable, but can be managed indefinitely using medications.
The terms illness and sickness are both generally used as synonyms for disease.[6][7] However, the term illness is occasionally used to refer specifically to the patient's personal experience of his or her disease.[8][9] In this model, it is possible for a person to have a disease without being ill (to have an objectively definable, but asymptomatic, medical condition, such as a subclinical infection, or to have a clinically apparent physical impairment but not feel sick or distressed by it), and to be ill without being diseased (such as when a person perceives a normal experience as a medical condition, or medicalizes a non-disease situation in his or her life—for example, a person who feels unwell as a result of embarrassment, and who interprets those feelings as sickness rather than normal emotions). Symptoms of illness are often not directly the result of infection, but a collection of evolved responsessickness behavior by the body—that helps clear infection and promote recovery. Such aspects of illness can include lethargy, depression, loss of appetite, sleepiness, hyperalgesia, and inability to concentrate.[10][11][12]
A disorder is a functional abnormality or disturbance. Medical disorders can be categorized into mental disorders, physical disorders, genetic disorders, emotional and behavioral disorders, and functional disorders. The term disorder is often considered more value-neutral and less stigmatizing than the terms disease or illness, and therefore is a preferred terminology in some circumstances.[13] In mental health, the term mental disorder is used as a way of acknowledging the complex interaction of biological, social, and psychological factors in psychiatric conditions. However, the term disorder is also used in many other areas of medicine, primarily to identify physical disorders that are not caused by infectious organisms, such as metabolic disorders.
Medical condition
A medical condition is a broad term that includes all diseases, lesions, disorders, or nonpathologic condition that normally receives medical treatment, such as pregnancy or childbirth. While the term medical condition generally includes mental illnesses, in some contexts the term is used specifically to denote any illness, injury, or disease except for mental illnesses. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the widely used psychiatric manual that defines all mental disorders, uses the term general medical condition to refer to all diseases, illnesses, and injuries except for mental disorders.[14] This usage is also commonly seen in the psychiatric literature. Some health insurance policies also define a medical condition as any illness, injury, or disease except for psychiatric illnesses.[15]
As it is more value-neutral than terms like disease, the term medical condition is sometimes preferred by people with health issues that they do not consider deleterious. On the other hand, by emphasizing the medical nature of the condition, this term is sometimes rejected, such as by proponents of the autism rights movement.
The term medical condition is also a synonym for medical state, in which case it describes an individual patient's current state from a medical standpoint. This usage appears in statements that describe a patient as being in critical condition, for example.
Morbidity (from Latin morbidus, meaning 'sick, unhealthy') is a diseased state, disability, or poor health due to any cause.[16] The term may be used to refer to the existence of any form of disease, or to the degree that the health condition affects the patient. Among severely ill patients, the level of morbidity is often measured by ICU scoring systems. Comorbidity is the simultaneous presence of two or more medical conditions, such as schizophrenia and substance abuse.
In epidemiology and actuarial science, the term "morbidity rate" can refer to either the incidence rate, or the prevalence of a disease or medical condition. This measure of sickness is contrasted with the mortality rate of a condition, which is the proportion of people dying during a given time interval. Morbidity rates are used in actuarial professions, such as health insurance, life insurance and long-term care insurance, to determine the correct premiums to charge to customers. Morbidity rates help insurers predict the likelihood that an insured will contract or develop any number of specified diseases.
Pathosis or pathology
Pathosis (plural pathoses) is synonymous with disease. The word pathology also has this sense, in which it is commonly used by physicians in the medical literature, although some editors prefer to reserve pathology to its other senses. Sometimes a slight connotative shade causes preference for pathology or pathosis implying "some [as yet poorly analyzed] pathophysiologic process" rather than disease implying "a specific disease entity as defined by diagnostic criteria being already met". This is hard to quantify denotatively, but it explains why cognitive synonymy is not invariable.
A syndrome is the association of several medical signs, symptoms, or other characteristics that often occur together. Some syndromes, such as Down syndrome, have only one cause. Others, such as Parkinsonian syndrome, have multiple possible causes. For example, acute coronary syndrome is not a single disease itself, but rather the manifestation of any of several diseases, such as myocardial infarction secondary to coronary artery disease. In yet other syndromes, the cause is unknown. A familiar syndrome name often remains in use even after an underlying cause has been found, or when there are a number of different possible primary causes. Examples of the first-mentioned type are that Turner syndrome and DiGeorge syndrome are still often called by the "syndrome" name despite that they can also be viewed as disease entities and not solely as sets of signs and symptoms.
Predisease is a subclinical or prodromal vanguard of a disease. Prediabetes and prehypertension are common examples. The nosology or epistemology of predisease is contentious, though, because there is seldom a bright line differentiating a legitimate concern for subclinical/prodromal/premonitory status (on one hand) and conflict of interest–driven disease mongering or medicalization (on the other hand). Identifying legitimate predisease can result in useful preventive measures, such as motivating the person to get a healthy amount of physical exercise,[17] but labeling a healthy person with an unfounded notion of predisease can result in overtreatment, such as taking drugs that only help people with severe disease or paying for drug prescription instances whose benefit–cost ratio is minuscule (placing it in the waste category of CMS' "waste, fraud, and abuse" classification). One review summarizes 3 requirements for legitimacy of instances of the concept: truly high risk for progression to disease, actionability for risk reduction, and benefit that outweighs harm in any interventions taken.[18]

Types by body system

Mental illness is a broad, generic label for a category of illnesses that may include affective or emotional instability, behavioral dysregulation, cognitive dysfunction or impairment. Specific illnesses known as mental illnesses include major depression, generalized anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, to name a few. Mental illness can be of biological (e.g., anatomical, chemical, or genetic) or psychological (e.g., trauma or conflict) origin. It can impair the affected person's ability to work or study and can harm interpersonal relationships. The term insanity is used technically as a legal term.
An organic disease is one caused by a physical or physiological change to some tissue or organ of the body. The term sometimes excludes infections. It is commonly used in contrast with mental disorders. It includes emotional and behavioral disorders if they are due to changes to the physical structures or functioning of the body, such as after a stroke or a traumatic brain injury, but not if they are due to psychosocial issues.


In an infectious disease, the incubation period is the time between infection and the appearance of symptoms. The latency period is the time between infection and the ability of the disease to spread to another person, which may precede, follow, or be simultaneous with the appearance of symptoms. Some viruses also exhibit a dormant phase, called viral latency, in which the virus hides in the body in an inactive state. For example, varicella zoster virus causes chickenpox in the acute phase; after recovery from chickenpox, the virus may remain dormant in nerve cells for many years, and later cause herpes zoster (shingles).

Acute disease
An acute disease is a short-lived disease, like the common cold.
Chronic disease
A chronic disease is one that lasts for a long time, usually at least six months. During that time, it may be constantly present, or it may go into remission and periodically relapse. A chronic disease may be stable (does not get any worse) or it may be progressive (gets worse over time). Some chronic diseases can be permanently cured. Most chronic diseases can be beneficially treated, even if they cannot be permanently cured.
Clinical disease
One that has clinical consequences; in other words, the stage of the disease that produces the characteristic signs and symptoms of that disease.[19] AIDS is the clinical disease stage of HIV infection.
A cure is the end of a medical condition or a treatment that is very likely to end it, while remission refers to the disappearance, possibly temporarily, of symptoms. Complete remission is the best possible outcome for incurable diseases.
A flare-up can refer to either the recurrence of symptoms or an onset of more severe symptoms.
Progressive disease
Progressive disease is a disease whose typical natural course is the worsening of the disease until death, serious debility, or organ failure occurs. Slowly progressive diseases are also chronic diseases; many are also degenerative diseases. The opposite of progressive disease is stable disease or static disease: a medical condition that exists, but does not get better or worse.
Refractory disease
A refractory disease is a disease that resists treatment, especially an individual case that resists treatment more than is normal for the specific disease in question.
Subclinical disease
Also called silent disease, silent stage, or asymptomatic disease. This is a stage in some diseases before the symptoms are first noted.[20]
Terminal phase
If a person will die soon from a disease, regardless of whether that disease typically causes death, then the stage between the earlier disease process and active dying is the terminal phase.


Localized disease
A localized disease is one that affects only one part of the body, such as athlete's foot or an eye infection.
Disseminated disease
A disseminated disease has spread to other parts; with cancer, this is usually called metastatic disease.
Systemic disease
A systemic disease is a disease that affects the entire body, such as influenza or high blood pressure.


Diseases may be classified by cause, pathogenesis (mechanism by which the disease is caused), or by symptom(s). Alternatively, diseases may be classified according to the organ system involved, though this is often complicated since many diseases affect more than one organ.

A chief difficulty in nosology is that diseases often cannot be defined and classified clearly, especially when cause or pathogenesis are unknown. Thus diagnostic terms often only reflect a symptom or set of symptoms (syndrome).

Classical classification of human disease derives from observational correlation between pathological analysis and clinical syndromes. Today it is preferred to classify them by their cause if it is known.[21]

The most known and used classification of diseases is the World Health Organization's ICD. This is periodically updated. Currently the last publication is the ICD-10.


Only some diseases such as influenza are contagious and commonly believed infectious. The micro-organisms that cause these diseases are known as pathogens and include varieties of bacteria, viruses, protozoa and fungi. Infectious diseases can be transmitted, e.g. by hand-to-mouth contact with infectious material on surfaces, by bites of insects or other carriers of the disease, and from contaminated water or food (often via fecal contamination), etc.[22] Also, there are sexually transmitted diseases. In some cases, microorganisms that are not readily spread from person to person play a role, while other diseases can be prevented or ameliorated with appropriate nutrition or other lifestyle changes.

Some diseases, such as most (but not all) forms of cancer, heart disease, and mental disorders, are non-infectious diseases. Many non-infectious diseases have a partly or completely genetic basis (see genetic disorder) and may thus be transmitted from one generation to another.

Social determinants of health are the social conditions in which people live that determine their health. Illnesses are generally related to social, economic, political, and environmental circumstances. Social determinants of health have been recognized by several health organizations such as the Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization to greatly influence collective and personal well-being. The World Health Organization's Social Determinants Council also recognizes Social determinants of health in poverty.

When the cause of a disease is poorly understood, societies tend to mythologize the disease or use it as a metaphor or symbol of whatever that culture considers evil. For example, until the bacterial cause of tuberculosis was discovered in 1882, experts variously ascribed the disease to heredity, a sedentary lifestyle, depressed mood, and overindulgence in sex, rich food, or alcohol—all the social ills of the time.[23]

When a disease is caused by a pathogen (e.g., when the disease malaria is caused by infection by Plasmodium parasites.), the term disease may be misleadingly used even in the scientific literature in place of its causal agent, the pathogen. This language habit can cause confusion in the communication of the cause-effect principle in epidemiology, and as such it should be strongly discouraged.[24]

Types of causes

An airborne disease is any disease that is caused by pathogens and transmitted through the air.
Foodborne illness or food poisoning is any illness resulting from the consumption of food contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, toxins, viruses, prions or parasites.
Infectious diseases, also known as transmissible diseases or communicable diseases, comprise clinically evident illness (i.e., characteristic medical signs or symptoms of disease) resulting from the infection, presence and growth of pathogenic biological agents in an individual host organism. Included in this category are contagious diseases – an infection, such as influenza or the common cold, that commonly spreads from one person to another – and communicable diseases – a disease that can spread from one person to another, but does not necessarily spread through everyday contact.
A lifestyle disease is any disease that appears to increase in frequency as countries become more industrialized and people live longer, especially if the risk factors include behavioral choices like a sedentary lifestyle or a diet high in unhealthful foods such as refined carbohydrates, trans fats, or alcoholic beverages.
A non-communicable disease is a medical condition or disease that is non-transmissible. Non-communicable diseases cannot be spread directly from one person to another. Heart disease and cancer are examples of non-communicable diseases in humans.


Many diseases and disorders can be prevented through a variety of means. These include sanitation, proper nutrition, adequate exercise, vaccinations and other self-care and public health measures.


Medical therapies or treatments are efforts to cure or improve a disease or other health problem. In the medical field, therapy is synonymous with the word treatment. Among psychologists, the term may refer specifically to psychotherapy or "talk therapy". Common treatments include medications, surgery, medical devices, and self-care. Treatments may be provided by an organized health care system, or informally, by the patient or family members.

Preventive healthcare is a way to avoid an injury, sickness, or disease in the first place. A treatment or cure is applied after a medical problem has already started. A treatment attempts to improve or remove a problem, but treatments may not produce permanent cures, especially in chronic diseases. Cures are a subset of treatments that reverse diseases completely or end medical problems permanently. Many diseases that cannot be completely cured are still treatable. Pain management (also called pain medicine) is that branch of medicine employing an interdisciplinary approach to the relief of pain and improvement in the quality of life of those living with pain.[25]

Treatment for medical emergencies must be provided promptly, often through an emergency department or, in less critical situations, through an urgent care facility.


Epidemiology is the study of the factors that cause or encourage diseases. Some diseases are more common in certain geographic areas, among people with certain genetic or socioeconomic characteristics, or at different times of the year.

Epidemiology is considered a cornerstone methodology of public health research, and is highly regarded in evidence-based medicine for identifying risk factors for disease. In the study of communicable and non-communicable diseases, the work of epidemiologists ranges from outbreak investigation to study design, data collection and analysis including the development of statistical models to test hypotheses and the documentation of results for submission to peer-reviewed journals. Epidemiologists also study the interaction of diseases in a population, a condition known as a syndemic. Epidemiologists rely on a number of other scientific disciplines such as biology (to better understand disease processes), biostatistics (the current raw information available), Geographic Information Science (to store data and map disease patterns) and social science disciplines (to better understand proximate and distal risk factors). Epidemiology can help identify causes as well as guide prevention efforts.

In studying diseases, epidemiology faces the challenge of defining them. Especially for poorly understood diseases, different groups might use significantly different definitions. Without an agreed-on definition, different researchers may report different numbers of cases and characteristics of the disease.[26]

Some morbidity databases are compiled with data supplied by states and territories health authorities, at national levels[27][28] or larger scale (such as European Hospital Morbidity Database (HMDB))[29] which may contain hospital discharge data by detailed diagnosis, age and sex. The European HMDB datea was submitted by European countries to the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe.

Burdens of disease

Disease burden is the impact of a health problem in an area measured by financial cost, mortality, morbidity, or other indicators.

There are several measures used to quantify the burden imposed by diseases on people. The years of potential life lost (YPLL) is a simple estimate of the number of years that a person's life was shortened due to a disease. For example, if a person dies at the age of 65 from a disease, and would probably have lived until age 80 without that disease, then that disease has caused a loss of 15 years of potential life. YPLL measurements do not account for how disabled a person is before dying, so the measurement treats a person who dies suddenly and a person who died at the same age after decades of illness as equivalent. In 2004, the World Health Organization calculated that 932 million years of potential life were lost to premature death.[30]

The quality-adjusted life year (QALY) and disability-adjusted life year (DALY) metrics are similar, but take into account whether the person was healthy after diagnosis. In addition to the number of years lost due to premature death, these measurements add part of the years lost to being sick. Unlike YPLL, these measurements show the burden imposed on people who are very sick, but who live a normal lifespan. A disease that has high morbidity, but low mortality, has a high DALY and a low YPLL. In 2004, the World Health Organization calculated that 1.5 billion disability-adjusted life years were lost to disease and injury.[30] In the developed world, heart disease and stroke cause the most loss of life, but neuropsychiatric conditions like major depressive disorder cause the most years lost to being sick.

Disease category Percent of all YPLLs lost, worldwide[30] Percent of all DALYs lost, worldwide[30] Percent of all YPLLs lost, Europe[30] Percent of all DALYs lost, Europe[30] Percent of all YPLLs lost, US and Canada[30] Percent of all DALYs lost, US and Canada[30]
Infectious and parasitic diseases, especially lower respiratory tract infections, diarrhea, AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria 37% 26% 9% 6% 5% 3%
Neuropsychiatric conditions, e.g. depression 2% 13% 3% 19% 5% 28%
Injuries, especially motor vehicle accidents 14% 12% 18% 13% 18% 10%
Cardiovascular diseases, principally heart attacks and stroke 14% 10% 35% 23% 26% 14%
Premature birth and other perinatal deaths 11% 8% 4% 2% 3% 2%
Cancer 8% 5% 19% 11% 25% 13%

Society and culture

Charles Mellin zugeschr - Porträt eines Herrn - Gemäldegalerie Berlin
Obesity was a status symbol in Renaissance culture: "The Tuscan General Alessandro del Borro", attributed to Andrea Sacchi, 1645.[31] It is now generally regarded as a disease.

How a society responds to diseases is the subject of medical sociology.

A condition may be considered a disease in some cultures or eras but not in others. For example, obesity can represent wealth and abundance, and is a status symbol in famine-prone areas and some places hard-hit by HIV/AIDS.[32] Epilepsy is considered a sign of spiritual gifts among the Hmong people.[33]

Sickness confers the social legitimization of certain benefits, such as illness benefits, work avoidance, and being looked after by others. The person who is sick takes on a social role called the sick role. A person who responds to a dreaded disease, such as cancer, in a culturally acceptable fashion may be publicly and privately honored with higher social status.[34] In return for these benefits, the sick person is obligated to seek treatment and work to become well once more. As a comparison, consider pregnancy, which is not interpreted as a disease or sickness, even if the mother and baby may both benefit from medical care.

Most religions grant exceptions from religious duties to people who are sick. For example, one whose life would be endangered by fasting on Yom Kippur or during Ramadan is exempted from the requirement, or even forbidden from participating. People who are sick are also exempted from social duties. For example, ill health is the only socially acceptable reason for an American to refuse an invitation to the White House.[35]

The identification of a condition as a disease, rather than as simply a variation of human structure or function, can have significant social or economic implications. The controversial recognitions as diseases of repetitive stress injury (RSI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (also known as "Soldier's heart", "shell shock", and "combat fatigue") has had a number of positive and negative effects on the financial and other responsibilities of governments, corporations and institutions towards individuals, as well as on the individuals themselves. The social implication of viewing aging as a disease could be profound, though this classification is not yet widespread.

Lepers were people who were historically shunned because they had an infectious disease, and the term "leper" still evokes social stigma. Fear of disease can still be a widespread social phenomenon, though not all diseases evoke extreme social stigma.

Social standing and economic status affect health. Diseases of poverty are diseases that are associated with poverty and low social status; diseases of affluence are diseases that are associated with high social and economic status. Which diseases are associated with which states varies according to time, place, and technology. Some diseases, such as diabetes mellitus, may be associated with both poverty (poor food choices) and affluence (long lifespans and sedentary lifestyles), through different mechanisms. The term lifestyle diseases describes diseases associated with longevity and that are more common among older people. For example, cancer is far more common in societies in which most members live until they reach the age of 80 than in societies in which most members die before they reach the age of 50.

Language of disease

An illness narrative is a way of organizing a medical experience into a coherent story that illustrates the sick individual's personal experience.

People use metaphors to make sense of their experiences with disease. The metaphors move disease from an objective thing that exists to an affective experience. The most popular metaphors draw on military concepts: Disease is an enemy that must be feared, fought, battled, and routed. The patient or the healthcare provider is a warrior, rather than a passive victim or bystander. The agents of communicable diseases are invaders; non-communicable diseases constitute internal insurrection or civil war. Because the threat is urgent, perhaps a matter of life and death, unthinkably radical, even oppressive, measures are society's and the patient's moral duty as they courageously mobilize to struggle against destruction. The War on Cancer is an example of this metaphorical use of language.[36] This language is empowering to some patients, but leaves others feeling like they are failures.[37]

Another class of metaphors describes the experience of illness as a journey: The person travels to or from a place of disease, and changes himself, discovers new information, or increases his experience along the way. He may travel "on the road to recovery" or make changes to "get on the right track" or choose "pathways".[36][37] Some are explicitly immigration-themed: the patient has been exiled from the home territory of health to the land of the ill, changing identity and relationships in the process.[38] This language is more common among British healthcare professionals than the language of physical aggression.[37]

Some metaphors are disease-specific. Slavery is a common metaphor for addictions: The alcoholic is enslaved by drink, and the smoker is captive to nicotine. Some cancer patients treat the loss of their hair from chemotherapy as a metonymy or metaphor for all the losses caused by the disease.[36]

Some diseases are used as metaphors for social ills: "Cancer" is a common description for anything that is endemic and destructive in society, such as poverty, injustice, or racism. AIDS was seen as a divine judgment for moral decadence, and only by purging itself from the "pollution" of the "invader" could society become healthy again.[36] More recently, when AIDS seemed less threatening, this type of emotive language was applied to avian flu and type 2 diabetes mellitus.[39] Authors in the 19th century commonly used tuberculosis as a symbol and a metaphor for transcendence. Victims of the disease were portrayed in literature as having risen above daily life to become ephemeral objects of spiritual or artistic achievement. In the 20th century, after its cause was better understood, the same disease became the emblem of poverty, squalor, and other social problems.[38]

See also


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External links

Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease (AD), also referred to simply as Alzheimer's, is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and gradually worsens over time. It is the cause of 60–70% of cases of dementia. The most common early symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events. As the disease advances, symptoms can include problems with language, disorientation (including easily getting lost), mood swings, loss of motivation, not managing self care, and behavioural issues. As a person's condition declines, they often withdraw from family and society. Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death. Although the speed of progression can vary, the typical life expectancy following diagnosis is three to nine years.The cause of Alzheimer's disease is poorly understood. About 70% of the risk is believed to be inherited from a person's parents with many genes usually involved. Other risk factors include a history of head injuries, depression, and hypertension. The disease process is associated with plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. A probable diagnosis is based on the history of the illness and cognitive testing with medical imaging and blood tests to rule out other possible causes. Initial symptoms are often mistaken for normal ageing. Examination of brain tissue is needed for a definite diagnosis. Mental and physical exercise, and avoiding obesity may decrease the risk of AD; however, evidence to support these recommendations is weak. There are no medications or supplements that have been shown to decrease risk.No treatments stop or reverse its progression, though some may temporarily improve symptoms. Affected people increasingly rely on others for assistance, often placing a burden on the caregiver. The pressures can include social, psychological, physical, and economic elements. Exercise programs may be beneficial with respect to activities of daily living and can potentially improve outcomes. Behavioural problems or psychosis due to dementia are often treated with antipsychotics, but this is not usually recommended, as there is little benefit with an increased risk of early death.In 2015, there were approximately 29.8 million people worldwide with AD. It most often begins in people over 65 years of age, although 4–5% of cases are early-onset Alzheimer's. It affects about 6% of people 65 years and older. In 2015, dementia resulted in about 1.9 million deaths. It was first described by, and later named after, German psychiatrist and pathologist Alois Alzheimer in 1906. In developed countries, AD is one of the most financially costly diseases.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as motor neurone disease (MND) or Lou Gehrig's disease, is a specific disease that causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles. Some also use the term motor neuron disease for a group of conditions of which ALS is the most common. ALS is characterized by stiff muscles, muscle twitching, and gradually worsening weakness due to muscles decreasing in size. It may begin with weakness in the arms or legs, or with difficulty speaking or swallowing. About half of the people affected develop at least mild difficulties with thinking and behavior and most people experience pain. Most eventually lose the ability to walk, use their hands, speak, swallow, and breathe.The cause is not known in 90% to 95% of cases, but is believed to involve both genetic and environmental factors. The remaining 5–10% of cases are inherited from a person's parents. About half of these genetic cases are due to one of two specific genes. The underlying mechanism involves damage to both upper and lower motor neurons. The diagnosis is based on a person's signs and symptoms, with testing done to rule out other potential causes.No cure for ALS is known. The goal of treatment is to improve symptoms. A medication called riluzole may extend life by about two to three months. Non-invasive ventilation may result in both improved quality and length of life. Mechanical ventilation can prolong survival but does not stop disease progression. A feeding tube may help. The disease can affect people of any age, but usually starts around the age of 60 and in inherited cases around the age of 50. The average survival from onset to death is two to four years, though this can vary. About 10% survive longer than 10 years. Most die from respiratory failure. In Europe, the disease affects about two to three people per 100,000 per year. Rates in much of the world are unclear. In the United States, it is more common in white people than black people.Descriptions of the disease date back to at least 1824 by Charles Bell. In 1869, the connection between the symptoms and the underlying neurological problems was first described by Jean-Martin Charcot, who in 1874 began using the term amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It became well known in the United States in the 20th century when in 1939 it affected the baseball player Lou Gehrig and later worldwide following the 1963 diagnosis of cosmologist Stephen Hawking. The first ALS gene was discovered in 1993 while the first animal model was developed in 1994. In 2014, videos of the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral on the Internet and increased public awareness of the condition.

Cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a class of diseases that involve the heart or blood vessels. CVD includes coronary artery diseases (CAD) such as angina and myocardial infarction (commonly known as a heart attack). Other CVDs include stroke, heart failure, hypertensive heart disease, rheumatic heart disease, cardiomyopathy, heart arrhythmia, congenital heart disease, valvular heart disease, carditis, aortic aneurysms, peripheral artery disease, thromboembolic disease, and venous thrombosis.The underlying mechanisms vary depending on the disease. Coronary artery disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease involve atherosclerosis. This may be caused by high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes mellitus, lack of exercise, obesity, high blood cholesterol, poor diet, and excessive alcohol consumption, among others. High blood pressure is estimated to account for approximately 13% of CVD deaths, while tobacco accounts for 9%, diabetes 6%, lack of exercise 6% and obesity 5%. Rheumatic heart disease may follow untreated strep throat.It is estimated that up to 90% of CVD may be preventable. Prevention of CVD involves improving risk factors through: healthy eating, exercise, avoidance of tobacco smoke and limiting alcohol intake. Treating risk factors, such as high blood pressure, blood lipids and diabetes is also beneficial. Treating people who have strep throat with antibiotics can decrease the risk of rheumatic heart disease. The use of aspirin in people, who are otherwise healthy, is of unclear benefit.Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally. This is true in all areas of the world except Africa. Together CVD resulted in 17.9 million deaths (32.1%) in 2015, up from 12.3 million (25.8%) in 1990. Deaths, at a given age, from CVD are more common and have been increasing in much of the developing world, while rates have declined in most of the developed world since the 1970s. Coronary artery disease and stroke account for 80% of CVD deaths in males and 75% of CVD deaths in females. Most cardiovascular disease affects older adults. In the United States 11% of people between 20 and 40 have CVD, while 37% between 40 and 60, 71% of people between 60 and 80, and 85% of people over 80 have CVD. The average age of death from coronary artery disease in the developed world is around 80 while it is around 68 in the developing world. Diagnosis of disease typically occurs seven to ten years earlier in men as compared to women.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the leading national public health institute of the United States. The CDC is a United States federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services and is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.Its main goal is to protect public health and safety through the control and prevention of disease, injury, and disability in the US and internationally. The CDC focuses national attention on developing and applying disease control and prevention. It especially focuses its attention on infectious disease, food borne pathogens, environmental health, occupational safety and health, health promotion, injury prevention and educational activities designed to improve the health of United States citizens. In addition, the CDC researches and provides information on non-infectious diseases such as obesity and diabetes and is a founding member of the International Association of National Public Health Institutes.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a type of obstructive lung disease characterized by long-term breathing problems and poor airflow. The main symptoms include shortness of breath and cough with sputum production. COPD is a progressive disease, meaning it typically worsens over time. Eventually everyday activities, such as walking or getting dressed, become difficult. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are older terms used for different types of COPD. The term "chronic bronchitis" is still used to define a productive cough that is present for at least three months each year for two years.Tobacco smoking is the most common cause of COPD, with factors such as air pollution and genetics playing a smaller role. In the developing world, one of the common sources of air pollution is poorly vented heating and cooking fires. Long-term exposure to these irritants causes an inflammatory response in the lungs, resulting in narrowing of the small airways and breakdown of lung tissue. The diagnosis is based on poor airflow as measured by lung function tests. In contrast to asthma, the airflow reduction does not improve much with the use of a bronchodilator.Most cases of COPD can be prevented by reducing exposure to risk factors. This includes decreasing rates of smoking and improving indoor and outdoor air quality. While treatment can slow worsening, no cure is known. COPD treatments include smoking cessation, vaccinations, respiratory rehabilitation, and often inhaled bronchodilators and steroids. Some people may benefit from long-term oxygen therapy or lung transplantation. In those who have periods of acute worsening, increased use of medications and hospitalization may be needed.As of 2015, COPD affected about 174.5 million (2.4%) of the global population. It typically occurs in people over the age of 40. Males and females are affected equally commonly. In 2015, it resulted in 3.2 million deaths, up from 2.4 million deaths in 1990. More than 90% of these deaths occur in the developing world. The number of deaths is projected to increase further because of higher smoking rates in the developing world, and an aging population in many countries. It resulted in an estimated economic cost of $2.1 trillion in 2010.

Coeliac disease

Coeliac disease or celiac disease is a long-term autoimmune disorder that primarily affects the small intestine. Classic symptoms include gastrointestinal problems such as chronic diarrhoea, abdominal distention, malabsorption, loss of appetite and among children failure to grow normally. This often begins between six months and two years of age. Non-classic symptoms are more common, especially in people older than two years. There may be mild or absent gastrointestinal symptoms, a wide number of symptoms involving any part of the body or no obvious symptoms. Coeliac disease was first described in childhood; however, it may develop at any age. It is associated with other autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes mellitus type 1 and thyroiditis, among others.Coeliac disease is caused by a reaction to gluten, a group of various proteins found in wheat and in other grains such as barley and rye. Moderate quantities of oats, free of contamination with other gluten-containing grains, are usually tolerated. The occurrence of problems may depend on the variety of oat. It occurs in people who are genetically predisposed. Upon exposure to gluten, an abnormal immune response may lead to the production of several different autoantibodies that can affect a number of different organs. In the small bowel, this causes an inflammatory reaction and may produce shortening of the villi lining the small intestine (villous atrophy). This affects the absorption of nutrients, frequently leading to anaemia.Diagnosis is typically made by a combination of blood antibody tests and intestinal biopsies, helped by specific genetic testing. Making the diagnosis is not always straightforward. Frequently, the autoantibodies in the blood are negative, and many people have only minor intestinal changes with normal villi. People may have severe symptoms and be investigated for years before a diagnosis is achieved. Increasingly, the diagnosis is being made in people without symptoms, as a result of screening. Evidence regarding the effects of screening, however, is not sufficient to determine its usefulness. While the disease is caused by a permanent intolerance to wheat proteins, it is not a form of wheat allergy.The only known effective treatment is a strict lifelong gluten-free diet, which leads to recovery of the intestinal mucosa, improves symptoms and reduces risk of developing complications in most people. If untreated, it may result in cancers such as intestinal lymphoma and a slightly increased risk of early death. Rates vary between different regions of the world, from as few as 1 in 300 to as many as 1 in 40, with an average of between 1 in 100 and 1 in 170 people. It is estimated that 80% of cases remain undiagnosed, usually because of minimal or absent gastrointestinal complaints and lack of knowledge of symptoms and diagnostic criteria. Coeliac disease is slightly more common in women than in men. The term "coeliac" is from the Greek κοιλιακός (koiliakós, "abdominal") and was introduced in the 19th century in a translation of what is generally regarded as an Ancient Greek description of the disease by Aretaeus of Cappadocia.

Coronary artery disease

Coronary artery disease (CAD), also known as ischemic heart disease (IHD), involves the reduction of blood flow to the heart muscle due to build up of plaque in the arteries of the heart. It is the most common of the cardiovascular diseases. Types include stable angina, unstable angina, myocardial infarction, and sudden cardiac death. A common symptom is chest pain or discomfort which may travel into the shoulder, arm, back, neck, or jaw. Occasionally it may feel like heartburn. Usually symptoms occur with exercise or emotional stress, last less than a few minutes, and improve with rest. Shortness of breath may also occur and sometimes no symptoms are present. In many cases, the first sign is a heart attack. Other complications include heart failure or an abnormal heartbeat.Risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, lack of exercise, obesity, high blood cholesterol, poor diet, depression, and excessive alcohol. A number of tests may help with diagnoses including: electrocardiogram, cardiac stress testing, coronary computed tomographic angiography, and coronary angiogram, among others.Ways to reduce CAD risk include eating a healthy diet, regularly exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking. Medications for diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure are sometimes used. There is limited evidence for screening people who are at low risk and do not have symptoms. Treatment involves the same measures as prevention. Additional medications such as antiplatelets (including aspirin), beta blockers, or nitroglycerin may be recommended. Procedures such as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) or coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG) may be used in severe disease. In those with stable CAD it is unclear if PCI or CABG in addition to the other treatments improves life expectancy or decreases heart attack risk.In 2015, CAD affected 110 million people and resulted in 8.9 million deaths. It makes up 15.6% of all deaths, making it the most common cause of death globally. The risk of death from CAD for a given age decreased between 1980 and 2010, especially in developed countries. The number of cases of CAD for a given age also decreased between 1990 and 2010. In the United States in 2010, about 20% of those over 65 had CAD, while it was present in 7% of those 45 to 64, and 1.3% of those 18 to 45; rates were higher among men than women of a given age.

Crohn's disease

Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus. Signs and symptoms often include abdominal pain, diarrhea (which may be bloody if inflammation is severe), fever, and weight loss. Other complications may occur outside the gastrointestinal tract and include anemia, skin rashes, arthritis, inflammation of the eye, and tiredness. The skin rashes may be due to infections as well as pyoderma gangrenosum or erythema nodosum. Bowel obstruction may occur as a complication of chronic inflammation, and those with the disease are at greater risk of bowel cancer.While the cause of Crohn's disease is unknown, it is believed to be due to a combination of environmental, immune, and bacterial factors in genetically susceptible individuals. It results in a chronic inflammatory disorder, in which the body's immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract, possibly targeting microbial antigens. While Crohn's is an immune-related disease, it does not appear to be an autoimmune disease (in that the immune system is not being triggered by the body itself). The exact underlying immune problem is not clear; however, it may be an immunodeficiency state. About half of the overall risk is related to genetics with more than 70 genes having been found to be involved. Tobacco smokers are twice as likely to develop Crohn's disease as nonsmokers. It also often begins after gastroenteritis. Diagnosis is based on a number of findings including biopsy and appearance of the bowel wall, medical imaging and description of the disease. Other conditions that can present similarly include irritable bowel syndrome and Behçet's disease.There are no medications or surgical procedures that can cure Crohn's disease. Treatment options are intended to help with symptoms, maintain remission, and prevent relapse. In those newly diagnosed, a corticosteroid may be used for a brief period of time to rapidly improve symptoms alongside another medication such as either methotrexate or a thiopurine used to prevent recurrence. Stopping smoking is recommended in people with Crohn's disease. One in five people with the disease is admitted to hospital each year, and half of those with the disease will require surgery for the disease at some point over a ten-year period. While surgery should be used as little as possible, it is necessary to address some abscesses, certain bowel obstructions, and cancers. Checking for bowel cancer via colonoscopy is recommended every few years, starting eight years after the disease has begun.Crohn's disease affects about 3.2 per 1,000 people in Europe and North America. It is less common in Asia and Africa. It has historically been more common in the developed world. Rates have, however, been increasing, particularly in the developing world, since the 1970s. Inflammatory bowel disease resulted in 47,400 deaths in 2015 and those with Crohn's disease have a slightly reduced life expectancy. It tends to start in the teens and twenties, although it can occur at any age. Males and females are equally affected. The disease was named after gastroenterologist Burrill Bernard Crohn, who, in 1932, together with two other colleagues at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, described a series of patients with inflammation of the terminal ileum of the small intestine, the area most commonly affected by the illness.


Human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is a spectrum of conditions caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Following initial infection, a person may not notice any symptoms or may experience a brief period of influenza-like illness. Typically, this is followed by a prolonged period with no symptoms. As the infection progresses, it interferes more with the immune system, increasing the risk of developing common infections such as tuberculosis, as well as other opportunistic infections, and tumors that rarely affect people who have uncompromised immune systems. These late symptoms of infection are referred to as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). This stage is often also associated with unintended weight loss.HIV is spread primarily by unprotected sex (including anal and oral sex), contaminated blood transfusions, hypodermic needles, and from mother to child during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding. Some bodily fluids, such as saliva and tears, do not transmit HIV. Methods of prevention include safe sex, needle exchange programs, treating those who are infected, pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis, and male circumcision. Disease in a baby can often be prevented by giving both the mother and child antiretroviral medication. There is no cure or vaccine; however, antiretroviral treatment can slow the course of the disease and may lead to a near-normal life expectancy. Treatment is recommended as soon as the diagnosis is made. Without treatment, the average survival time after infection is 11 years.In 2016, about 36.7 million people were living with HIV and it resulted in 1 million deaths. There were 300,000 fewer new HIV cases in 2016 than in 2015. Most of those infected live in sub-Saharan Africa. From the time AIDS was identified in the early 1980s to 2017, the disease has caused an estimated 35 million deaths worldwide. HIV/AIDS is considered a pandemic—a disease outbreak which is present over a large area and is actively spreading. HIV originated in west-central Africa during the late 19th or early 20th century. AIDS was first recognized by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1981 and its cause—HIV infection—was identified in the early part of the decade.HIV/AIDS has had a large impact on society, both as an illness and as a source of discrimination. The disease also has large economic impacts. There are many misconceptions about HIV/AIDS such as the belief that it can be transmitted by casual non-sexual contact. The disease has become subject to many controversies involving religion including the Catholic Church's position not to support condom use as prevention. It has attracted international medical and political attention as well as large-scale funding since it was identified in the 1980s.

Hodgkin's lymphoma

Hodgkin's lymphoma (HL) is a type of lymphoma in which cancer originates from a specific type of white blood cells called lymphocytes. Symptoms may include fever, night sweats, and weight loss. Often there will be non-painful enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, under the arm, or in the groin. Those affected may feel tired or be itchy.About half of cases of Hodgkin's lymphoma are due to Epstein–Barr virus (EBV). Other risk factors include a family history of the condition and having HIV/AIDS. There are two major types of Hodgkin lymphoma: classical Hodgkin lymphoma and nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma. Diagnosis is by finding Hodgkin's cells such as multinucleated Reed–Sternberg cells (RS cells) in lymph nodes. The virus-positive cases are classified as a form of the Epstein-Barr virus-associated lymphoproliferative diseases.Hodgkin lymphoma may be treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and stem cell transplant. The choice of treatment often depends on how advanced the cancer has become and whether or not it has favorable features. In early disease, a cure is often possible. The percentage of people who survive five years in the United States is 86%. For those under the age of 20, rates of survival are 97%. Radiation and some chemotherapy drugs, however, increase the risk of other cancers, heart disease, or lung disease over the subsequent decades.In 2015 about 574,000 people had Hodgkin's lymphoma, and 23,900 died. In the United States, 0.2% of people are affected at some point in their life. The most common age of diagnosis is between 20 and 40 years old. It was named after the English physician Thomas Hodgkin, who first described the condition in 1832.

Huntington's disease

Huntington's disease (HD), also known as Huntington's chorea, is an inherited disorder that results in death of brain cells. The earliest symptoms are often subtle problems with mood or mental abilities. A general lack of coordination and an unsteady gait often follow. As the disease advances, uncoordinated, jerky body movements become more apparent. Physical abilities gradually worsen until coordinated movement becomes difficult and the person is unable to talk. Mental abilities generally decline into dementia. The specific symptoms vary somewhat between people. Symptoms usually begin between 30 and 50 years of age, but can start at any age. The disease may develop earlier in life in each successive generation. About eight percent of cases start before the age of 20 years and typically present with symptoms more similar to Parkinson's disease. People with HD often underestimate the degree of their problems.HD is typically inherited, although up to 10% of cases are due to a new mutation. The disease is caused by an autosomal dominant mutation in either of an individual's two copies of a gene called Huntingtin. This means a child of an affected person typically has a 50% chance of inheriting the disease. The Huntingtin gene provides the genetic information for a protein that is also called "huntingtin". Expansion of CAG (cytosine-adenine-guanine) triplet repeats in the gene coding for the Huntingtin protein results in an abnormal protein, which gradually damages cells in the brain, through mechanisms that are not fully understood. Diagnosis is by genetic testing, which can be carried out at any time, regardless of whether or not symptoms are present. This fact raises several ethical debates: the age at which an individual is considered mature enough to choose testing; whether parents have the right to have their children tested; and managing confidentiality and disclosure of test results.There is no cure for HD. Full-time care is required in the later stages of the disease. Treatments can relieve some symptoms and in some improve quality of life. The best evidence for treatment of the movement problems is with tetrabenazine. HD affects about 4 to 15 in 100,000 people of European descent. It is rare among Japanese, while the occurrence rate in Africa is unknown. The disease affects men and women equally. Complications such as pneumonia, heart disease, and physical injury from falls reduce life expectancy. Suicide is the cause of death in about 9% of cases. Death typically occurs fifteen to twenty years from when the disease was first detected.The first likely description of the disease was in 1841 by Charles Oscar Waters. The condition was described in further detail in 1872 by the physician George Huntington, after whom it is named. The genetic basis was discovered in 1993 by an international collaborative effort led by the Hereditary Disease Foundation. Research and support organizations began forming in the late 1960s to increase public awareness, to provide support for individuals and their families, and to promote research. Current research directions include determining the exact mechanism of the disease, improving animal models to aid with research, testing of medications to treat symptoms or slow the progression of the disease, and studying procedures such as stem cell therapy with the goal of repairing damage caused by the disease.

Kidney failure

Kidney failure, also known as end-stage kidney disease, is a medical condition in which the kidneys no longer function. It is divided into acute kidney failure (cases that develop rapidly) and chronic kidney failure (those that are long term). Symptoms may include leg swelling, feeling tired, vomiting, loss of appetite, or confusion. Complications of acute disease may include uremia, high blood potassium, or volume overload. Complications of chronic disease may include heart disease, high blood pressure, or anemia.Causes of acute kidney failure include low blood pressure, blockage of the urinary tract, certain medications, muscle breakdown, and hemolytic uremic syndrome. Causes of chronic kidney failure include diabetes, high blood pressure, nephrotic syndrome, and polycystic kidney disease. Diagnosis of acute disease is often based on a combination of factors such as decrease urine production or increased serum creatinine. Diagnosis of chronic disease is typically based on a glomerular filtration rate (GFR) of less than 15 or the need for renal replacement therapy. It is also equivalent to stage 5 chronic kidney disease.Treatment of acute disease typically depends on the underlying cause. Treatment of chronic disease may include hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, or a kidney transplant. Hemodialysis uses a machine to filter the blood outside the body. In peritoneal dialysis specific fluid is placed into the abdominal cavity and then drained, with this process being repeated multiple times per day. Kidney transplantation involves surgically placing a kidney from someone else and then taking immunosuppressant medication to prevent rejection. Other recommended measures from chronic disease include staying active and specific dietary changes.In the United States acute disease affects about 3 per 1,000 people a year. Chronic disease affects about 1 in 1,000 people with 3 per 10,000 people newly develop the condition each year. Acute disease is often reversible while chronic disease often is not. With appropriate treatment many with chronic disease can continue working.


Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease (HD), is a long-term infection by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae or Mycobacterium lepromatosis. Initially, a person who is infected does not have symptoms and typically remains this way for 5 to 20 years. Symptoms that develop include granulomas of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes. This may result in a lack of ability to feel pain, which can lead to the loss of parts of extremities due to repeated injuries or infection due to unnoticed wounds. Weakness and poor eyesight may also be present.Leprosy is spread between people, although extensive contact is necessary. Spread is thought to occur through a cough or contact with fluid from the nose of a person infected by leprosy. It is not spread during pregnancy to the unborn children or through sexual contact. Leprosy occurs more commonly among those living in poverty. Genetic factors also play a role in susceptibility. The two main types of disease - paucibacillary and multibacillary - differ in the number of bacteria present. A person with paucibacillary disease has five or fewer poorly pigmented numb skin patches while a person with multibacillary disease has more than five. The diagnosis is confirmed by finding acid-fast bacilli in a biopsy of the skin or by detecting the bacteria's DNA using polymerase chain reaction.Leprosy is curable with multidrug therapy. Treatment of paucibacillary leprosy is with the medications dapsone, rifampicin, and clofazimine for six months. Treatment for multibacillary are the same medication for 12 months. A number of other antibiotics may also be used. These treatments are provided free of charge by the World Health Organization. At the end of 2016, there were 173,000 leprosy cases globally, down from some 5.2 million in the 1980s. The number of new cases in 2016 was 216,000. Most new cases occur in 16 countries, with India accounting for more than half. In the past 20 years, 16 million people worldwide have been cured of leprosy. About 200 cases are reported per year in the United States.Leprosy has affected humanity for thousands of years. The disease takes its name from the Greek word λέπρᾱ (léprā), from λεπῐ́ς (lepís; "scale"), while the term "Hansen's disease" is named after the Norwegian physician Gerhard Armauer Hansen. Separating people by placing them in leper colonies still occurs in places such as India, China, and Africa. However, most colonies have closed, since leprosy is not very contagious. Social stigma has been associated with leprosy for much of history, which continues to be a barrier to self-reporting and early treatment. Some consider the word "leper" offensive, preferring the phrase "person affected with leprosy". It is classified as a neglected tropical disease. World Leprosy Day was started in 1954 to draw awareness to those affected by leprosy.

Lyme disease

Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium named Borrelia spread by ticks. The most common sign of infection is an expanding area of redness on the skin, known as erythema migrans, that appears at the site of the tick bite about a week after it occurred. The rash is typically neither itchy nor painful. Approximately 70–80% of infected people develop a rash. Other early symptoms may include fever, headache and tiredness. If untreated, symptoms may include loss of the ability to move one or both sides of the face, joint pains, severe headaches with neck stiffness, or heart palpitations, among others. Months to years later, repeated episodes of joint pain and swelling may occur. Occasionally, people develop shooting pains or tingling in their arms and legs. Despite appropriate treatment, about 10 to 20% of people develop joint pains, memory problems, and tiredness for at least six months.Lyme disease is transmitted to humans by the bites of infected ticks of the genus Ixodes. In the United States, ticks of concern are usually of the Ixodes scapularis type, and must be attached for at least 36 hours before the bacteria can spread. In Europe ticks of the Ixodes ricinus type may spread the bacteria more quickly. In North America, Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii are the cause. In Europe and Asia, the bacteria Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii are also causes of the disease. The disease does not appear to be transmissible between people, by other animals, or through food. Diagnosis is based upon a combination of symptoms, history of tick exposure, and possibly testing for specific antibodies in the blood. Blood tests are often negative in the early stages of the disease. Testing of individual ticks is not typically useful.Prevention includes efforts to prevent tick bites such as by wearing clothing to cover the arms and legs, and using DEET-based insect repellents. Using pesticides to reduce tick numbers may also be effective. Ticks can be removed using tweezers. If the removed tick was full of blood, a single dose of doxycycline may be used to prevent development of infection, but is not generally recommended since development of infection is rare. If an infection develops, a number of antibiotics are effective, including doxycycline, amoxicillin, and cefuroxime. Standard treatment usually lasts for two or three weeks. Some people develop a fever and muscle and joint pains from treatment which may last for one or two days. In those who develop persistent symptoms, long-term antibiotic therapy has not been found to be useful.Lyme disease is the most common disease spread by ticks in the Northern Hemisphere. It is estimated to affect 300,000 people a year in the United States and 65,000 people a year in Europe. Infections are most common in the spring and early summer. Lyme disease was diagnosed as a separate condition for the first time in 1975 in Old Lyme, Connecticut. It was originally mistaken for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The bacterium involved was first described in 1981 by Willy Burgdorfer. Chronic symptoms following treatment are well described and are known as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS). PTLDS is different to chronic Lyme disease; a term no longer supported by the scientific community and used in different ways by different groups. Some healthcare providers claim that PTLDS is caused by persistent infection, but this is not believed to be true because of the inability to detect infectious organisms after standard treatment. A vaccine for Lyme disease was marketed in the United States between 1998 and 2002, but was withdrawn from the market due to poor sales. Research is ongoing to develop new vaccines.

Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a demyelinating disease in which the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged. This damage disrupts the ability of parts of the nervous system to communicate, resulting in a range of signs and symptoms, including physical, mental, and sometimes psychiatric problems. Specific symptoms can include double vision, blindness in one eye, muscle weakness, trouble with sensation, or trouble with coordination. MS takes several forms, with new symptoms either occurring in isolated attacks (relapsing forms) or building up over time (progressive forms). Between attacks, symptoms may disappear completely; however, permanent neurological problems often remain, especially as the disease advances.While the cause is not clear, the underlying mechanism is thought to be either destruction by the immune system or failure of the myelin-producing cells. Proposed causes for this include genetics and environmental factors such as being triggered by a viral infection. MS is usually diagnosed based on the presenting signs and symptoms and the results of supporting medical tests.There is no known cure for multiple sclerosis. Treatments attempt to improve function after an attack and prevent new attacks. Medications used to treat MS, while modestly effective, can have side effects and be poorly tolerated. Physical therapy can help with people's ability to function. Many people pursue alternative treatments, despite a lack of evidence of benefit. The long-term outcome is difficult to predict, with good outcomes more often seen in women, those who develop the disease early in life, those with a relapsing course, and those who initially experienced few attacks. Life expectancy is on average 5 to 10 years lower than that of an unaffected population.Multiple sclerosis is the most common immune-mediated disorder affecting the central nervous system. In 2015, about 2.3 million people were affected globally with rates varying widely in different regions and among different populations. That year about 18,900 people died from MS, up from 12,000 in 1990. The disease usually begins between the ages of 20 and 50 and is twice as common in women as in men. MS was first described in 1868 by Jean-Martin Charcot. The name multiple sclerosis refers to the numerous scars (sclerae—better known as plaques or lesions) that develop on the white matter of the brain and spinal cord. A number of new treatments and diagnostic methods are under development.

Parkinson's disease

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that mainly affects the motor system. As the disease worsens, non-motor symptoms become increasingly common. The symptoms generally come on slowly over time. Early in the disease, the most obvious are shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement, and difficulty with walking. Thinking and behavioral problems may also occur. Dementia becomes common in the advanced stages of the disease. Depression and anxiety are also common, occurring in more than a third of people with PD. Other symptoms include sensory, sleep, and emotional problems. The main motor symptoms are collectively called "parkinsonism", or a "parkinsonian syndrome".The cause of Parkinson's disease is generally unknown, but believed to involve both genetic and environmental factors. Those with a family member affected are more likely to get the disease themselves. There is also an increased risk in people exposed to certain pesticides and among those who have had prior head injuries, while there is a reduced risk in tobacco smokers and those who drink coffee or tea. The motor symptoms of the disease result from the death of cells in the substantia nigra, a region of the midbrain. This results in not enough dopamine in these areas. The reason for this cell death is poorly understood, but involves the build-up of proteins into Lewy bodies in the neurons. Diagnosis of typical cases is mainly based on symptoms, with tests such as neuroimaging being used to rule out other diseases.There is no cure for Parkinson's disease, with treatment directed at improving symptoms. Initial treatment is typically with the antiparkinson medication levodopa (L-DOPA), with dopamine agonists being used once levodopa becomes less effective. As the disease progresses and neurons continue to be lost, these medications become less effective while at the same time they produce a complication marked by involuntary writhing movements. Diet and some forms of rehabilitation have shown some effectiveness at improving symptoms. Surgery to place microelectrodes for deep brain stimulation has been used to reduce motor symptoms in severe cases where drugs are ineffective. Evidence for treatments for the non-movement-related symptoms of PD, such as sleep disturbances and emotional problems, is less strong.In 2015, PD affected 6.2 million people and resulted in about 117,400 deaths globally. Parkinson's disease typically occurs in people over the age of 60, of which about one percent are affected. Males are more often affected than females at a ratio of around 3:2. When it is seen in people before the age of 50, it is called early-onset PD. The average life expectancy following diagnosis is between 7 and 14 years. The disease is named after the English doctor James Parkinson, who published the first detailed description in An Essay on the Shaking Palsy, in 1817. Public awareness campaigns include World Parkinson's Day (on the birthday of James Parkinson, 11 April) and the use of a red tulip as the symbol of the disease. People with Parkinson's who have increased the public's awareness of the condition include actor Michael J. Fox, Olympic cyclist Davis Phinney, and professional boxer Muhammad Ali.

Sexually transmitted infection

Sexually transmitted infections (STI), also referred to as sexually transmitted diseases (STD), are infections that are commonly spread by sexual activity, especially vaginal intercourse, anal sex and oral sex. Many times STIs initially do not cause symptoms. This results in a greater risk of passing the disease on to others. Symptoms and signs of disease may include vaginal discharge, penile discharge, ulcers on or around the genitals, and pelvic pain. STIs can be transmitted to an infant before or during childbirth and may result in poor outcomes for the baby. Some STIs may cause problems with the ability to get pregnant.More than 30 different bacteria, viruses, and parasites can be transmitted through sexual activity. Bacterial STIs include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Viral STIs include genital herpes, HIV/AIDS, and genital warts. Parasitic STIs include trichomoniasis. While usually spread by sex, some STIs can be spread by non-sexual contact with donor tissue, blood, breastfeeding, or during childbirth. STI diagnostic tests are usually easily available in the developed world, but this is often not the case in the developing world.The most effective way of preventing STIs is by not having sex. Some vaccinations may also decrease the risk of certain infections including hepatitis B and some types of HPV. Safer sex practices such as use of condoms, having a smaller number of sexual partners, and being in a relationship where each person only has sex with the other also decreases the risk. Circumcision in males may be effective to prevent some infections. During school, comprehensive sex education may also be useful. Most STIs are treatable or curable. Of the most common infections, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis are curable, while herpes, hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS, and HPV are treatable but not curable. Resistance to certain antibiotics is developing among some organisms such as gonorrhea.In 2015, about 1.1 billion people had STIs other than HIV/AIDS. About 500 million were infected with either syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia or trichomoniasis. At least an additional 530 million people have genital herpes and 290 million women have human papillomavirus. STIs other than HIV resulted in 108,000 deaths in 2015. In the United States there were 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections in 2010. Historical documentation of STIs date back to at least the Ebers papyrus around 1550 BC and the Old Testament. There is often shame and stigma associated with these infections. The term sexually transmitted infection is generally preferred over sexually transmitted disease or venereal disease, as it includes those who do not have symptomatic disease.


Smallpox was an infectious disease caused by one of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The last naturally occurring case was diagnosed in October 1977 and the World Health Organization (WHO) certified the global eradication of the disease in 1980. The risk of death following contracting the disease was about 30%, with higher rates among babies. Often those who survived had extensive scarring of their skin and some were left blind.The initial symptoms of the disease included fever and vomiting. This was followed by formation of sores in the mouth and a skin rash. Over a number of days the skin rash turned into characteristic fluid filled bumps with a dent in the center. The bumps then scabbed over and fell off leaving scars. The disease used to spread between people or via contaminated objects. Prevention was by the smallpox vaccine. Once the disease had developed certain antiviral medication may have helped.The origin of smallpox is unknown. The earliest evidence of the disease dates back to the 3rd century BCE in Egyptian mummies. The disease historically occurred in outbreaks. In 18th-century Europe it is estimated 400,000 people per year died from the disease, and one-third of the cases resulted in blindness. These deaths included those of four reigning monarchs and a queen consort. Smallpox is estimated to have killed up to 300 million people in the 20th century and around 500 million people in the last 100 years of its existence. As recently as 1967, 15 million cases occurred a year.Edward Jenner discovered in 1798 that vaccination could prevent smallpox. In 1967, the WHO intensified efforts to eliminate the disease. Smallpox is one of two infectious diseases to have been eradicated, the other being rinderpest in 2011. The term "smallpox" was first used in Britain in the 15th century to distinguish the disease from syphilis, which was then known as the "great pox". Other historical names for the disease include pox, speckled monster, and red plague.


Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease usually caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria. Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections do not have symptoms, in which case it is known as latent tuberculosis. About 10% of latent infections progress to active disease which, if left untreated, kills about half of those affected. The classic symptoms of active TB are a chronic cough with blood-containing sputum, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. It was historically called "consumption" due to the weight loss. Infection of other organs can cause a wide range of symptoms.Tuberculosis is spread through the air when people who have active TB in their lungs cough, spit, speak, or sneeze. People with latent TB do not spread the disease. Active infection occurs more often in people with HIV/AIDS and in those who smoke. Diagnosis of active TB is based on chest X-rays, as well as microscopic examination and culture of body fluids. Diagnosis of latent TB relies on the tuberculin skin test (TST) or blood tests.Prevention of TB involves screening those at high risk, early detection and treatment of cases, and vaccination with the bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine. Those at high risk include household, workplace, and social contacts of people with active TB. Treatment requires the use of multiple antibiotics over a long period of time. Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem with increasing rates of multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB).Presently, one-quarter of the world's population is thought to be infected with TB. New infections occur in about 1% of the population each year. In 2017, there were more than 10 million cases of active TB which resulted in 1.6 million deaths. This makes it the number one cause of death from an infectious disease. More than 95% of deaths occurred in developing countries, and more than 50% in India, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Philippines. The number of new cases each year has decreased since 2000. About 80% of people in many Asian and African countries test positive while 5–10% of people in the United States population test positive by the tuberculin test. Tuberculosis has been present in humans since ancient times.

Principles of pathology
Anatomical pathology
Clinical pathology

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