Top 5 Conditions That People Don’t Talk About Enough

It’s no shocker nowadays to talk about diseases like cancer, heart
disease, or diabetes—serious diseases that people have to deal with for
life and are no picnic to treat. It’s wonderful that we’re able to bring
these topics out into the open and make treatments for them widely
available, improving the quality of life of the people who have them.

Yet
there are still less serious but no less valid diseases that many
people have that we sweep under the rug. At times we don’t accept them
as real disorders, downplay the experience of having these disorders, or
even shame the person because their condition alters them in ways we
can’t understand.

And when we don’t talk about certain
conditions, we worsen the impact they have on the people who have to
live with these ailments, and negatively affects medical science because
there’s less focus placed on finding improvements to them.

Read on to know more about five common conditions that we don’t talk about enough.
 
Psoriasis

Psoriasis
is an autoimmune condition that causes skin cell production to speed
up, causing immature skin cells to appear on the surface of the skin in
the form of patches of silver scales.

The extent of psoriasis
can range from small flakes to covering majority of your skin’s surface,
most commonly showing up on the elbows, knees, and scalp. The patches
can become red and inflamed, and can sometimes crack and bleed.

Episodes
of psoriasis occurs in cycles: there’s a flare-up of symptoms for days
up to weeks, then you go into a period of remission where there are no
active symptoms, only to return when triggered by conditions such as
stress, or other illness.

Psoriasis is not contagious; not even when you touch a psoriatic person’s lesions.

Prevalence:
Psoriasis is the most prevalent autoimmune disease: 7.5 million
Americans (or 2% of the American population) have been diagnosed with
psoriasis.

What you can do: There is currently no cure for
psoriasis. Treatment focuses on relieving pain and slowing the growth of
skin cells to stop the scaling. Your doctor can give you topical
treatments for your skin, medications to control the immune system, and
UV light therapy.

As for living with psoriasis, it’s important
to recognize and control your triggers. Stress is a common and
preventable trigger. You can manage stress through breathing exercises,
meditation, art or sports, and verbalizing to a support system.
 
Nail fungus

Onychomycosis
is, simply, a fungal infection of the nail. Less simply, a nail fungus
is caused usually by a type of fungus called a dermatophyte, which eats
keratin (the dead, hard tissue that nails and hair are made out of). Symptoms of nail fungus
range from relatively mild to severely uncomfortable. Sometimes, the
fungus causes the nails to become thickened, brittle, and yellowed. The
area around and beneath the nail can also become uncomfortable or even
painful.

Fungal infections are often obtained from places like
communal showers or swimming pools, but they are not highly contagious.
Elderly and diabetic people are susceptible to nail fungus, because the
integrity of their nails are already compromised. Athletes are also at
risk for nail fungus, due to their constant use of tight, sweaty shoes
and socks and trauma to the toenails when running.

Prevalence:
Nail fungus affects 5% of the population, and is responsible for about
30% of all skin infections. Men are more prone to get nail fungus than
women, and toenail fungus is more common than fingernail fungus.

What
you can do: Fungi thrive happily in warm, moist, dark
environments—which is why they’re so drawn to feet perpetually enclosed
in socks and shoes. Make sure to practice proper foot care by washing
shoes and socks very well and drying your toes thoroughly. Sprinkle
baking soda in your shoes to soak up sweat and moisture after use.

Despite
the many available treatments, nail fungi are cumbersome and slow to
treat. Your doctor can prescribe oral and topical antifungal medications
for you. Home remedies such as apple cider vinegar soaks are also
effective in killing the fungi by making your fingers or toes more
acidic.
 
Cold sores

Cold sores are
small blisters or sores that appear around the lips and mouth. These are
caused by a strain of the herpes simplex virus called HSV-I (not the
same strain as genital herpes). They appear as small, painful, red
blisters around the lips and mouth. Sometimes they burst and leak fluid
before scabbing over. Cold sores heal on their own after a few days or
weeks, but in the meantime may look unsightly and hurt like the devil.

Even
when cold sores heal, they are bound to recur because the immune system
cannot completely eliminate the virus once it has entered the body.
Common triggers for recurrences include getting colds or the flu (hence
their other name, fever blisters), stress, hormonal changes like during
menstruation, and exposure to the sun.

Cold sores are contagious and can be spread from person to person by kissing or contact with the sores.

Prevalence:
Over 50% of adults in the United States are afflicted with oral herpes.

What
you can do: The herpes simplex virus stays in your body for life
Treatment is focused on treating and preventing the development of cold
sores. This includes avoiding triggers—stress management, upping vitamin
C intake to prevent getting sick, applying sunscreen when stepping out,
using lip balm to prevent drying and chapping of the lips.

During
flare-ups, wash hands often and don’t touch your sore! These will
prevent spreading the virus to other parts of the body, especially your
eyes or your genitals.
 
Depression

Depression
is a common and serious disorder of the brain that causes feelings of
sadness and negatively affects a person’s ability to function normally.
It differs from unhappiness or grief in that unhappiness and grief are
normal responses to a loss or a calamitous situation, while depression
is a clinical disorder that causes feelings of sadness without reason.
This is due to an alteration in brain chemistry, which can be affected
by factors such as genetics and environment.

Depression is
diagnosed according to criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). A major depressive episode includes
the following symptoms: depressed mood, loss of interest and pleasure in
previously enjoyed activities, significant weight or appetite change,
sleep problems, a change in the speed of muscle movement (either
speeding up or slowing down), fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or
self-loathing, decreased ability to concentrate, and recurrent thoughts
of death or suicide.

In addition, in order to be classified as
depression, the symptoms must be at least two weeks long, must
significantly impact normal functioning in social or professional
aspects of life, and not be caused by drugs, another mental disorder, or
grief.

Prevalence:
6.7% of adults are estimated to
suffer from depression; 16.6% of people will experience depression at
any point in their lives. Depression affects more men than women, and
onset is usually during the teens to 20s.

What you can do:
The
first step is to seek help. Your psychiatrist will conduct a thorough
interview and physical evaluation to rule out other medical conditions
that may cause feelings of sadness. The psychiatrist will explore your
medical and family history, environment, and other factors to determine
the best course of action.

You may be given medications like
antidepressants to correct the imbalance in your brain chemistry.
Depression is a real disorder, as real as everything else on this list,
and cannot be wished or thought away. Antidepressants are not addictive,
and are designed for long-term use as they take about two to three
months for their full effects to be seen.

Depression is one of
the most treatable mental disorders, and nearly 90% of people experience
relief from symptoms and respond positively to treatment.
 
Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids
(casually known as piles) are swollen veins in your anus or rectum
caused by constant increased pressure in your rectum.

There are
two kinds. Internal hemorrhoids are located inside the rectum. They are
rarely felt, as there are less nerves that feel pain inside your colon
but passing stool could bump against the hemorrhoid and cause it to
bleed from within.

External hemorrhoids are visible as little
pink lumps in the skin around your anus. As they are exposed to the
outside environment, it’s more common for external hemorrhoids to feel
itchy and uncomfortable. They are prone to bleeding as well.

Hemorrhoids
often befall people who strain during bowel movements—like those with
chronic diarrhea and constipation—and those who sit for too long on the
toilet (yes, you, the one reading this while they take a poop, that
means you!). They can also occur during times of significant weight
gain—like during pregnancy or obesity—or if you engage in frequent anal
intercourse.

Prevalence:
Around 10.4 million Americans
have hemorrhoids. An estimated half of the population will get them by
the time they hit 50, but only a very small percentage seeks medical
attention.

What you can do:
To relieve pain, soak your
anus in warm water for 10-15 minutes a day. Topical cream and
suppository treatments are available over the counter. For particularly
bothersome hemorrhoids, or hemorrhoids that prolapse or sag
significantly, medical treatments such as ligation or injection therapy
can be done by your doctor to shrink the hemorrhoid.

Note:
Never
assume bloody stools are automatically caused by hemorrhoids! Blood in
the stool can be a sign of more serious bleeding higher up in your
intestines, and is often a symptom of other diseases, such as colon
cancer. 




Start talking!

These
conditions are more common than you know, even if they’re not usually
talked about. These conditions often come with a stigma—many people out
there don’t feel comfortable saying that they have a hemorrhoid or a
nail fungus. The appearance of psoriasis and cold sores could be
difficult to explain. And for sure, the discussion around depression and
mental illness has vast room for improvement.

With the help of
open dialogue and education, there’s hope that we can one day foster
awareness and acceptance of those who live with these conditions. That
will bring us a huge step closer to giving them a better quality of life
and who knows, maybe even someday, a cure.

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