Chronic Disease Treatment
Chronic diseases encompass a wide range of conditions that are persistent and have long-lasting effects on a patient. The term chronic, as opposed to acute, means that a certain disease has signs and/or symptoms that last more than 3 months. The term “chronic diseases” is sometimes referred to as “non-communicable diseases (NCD)”, although this only means that their cause is not infectious.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there are four main types of NCDs:
- Cardiovascular diseases (stroke, heart attack, heart failure, cerebrovascular disease)
- Chronic respiratory diseases (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma)
- Diabetes mellitus
Other examples of chronic health conditions:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Osteoarthritis and related osteoarticular diseases
- Neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease)
- Mental illness
- Autoimmune diseases (Crohn’s disease, coeliac disease)
- Chronic hepatitis
Chronic diseases (CD) share some similarities and common risk factors:
- The main focus while approaching chronic diseases is their prevention, in particular early detection by undergoing screening tests. Public education is also effective in reducing mortality rates and increase awareness on health issues. This is especially important with cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and obesity.
- CD may have a significant impact on a person’s lifestyle and/or quality of life, with larger socio-economic consequences because of their complex and costly treatment.
- They cannot be prevented with vaccines or treated permanently.
- Because of their long-term effects on a person’s health, patients have diminished mental and/or physical capacity, or may acquire a certain degree of disability (e.g., arthritis and related conditions).
- CDs are associated with decreased productivity at work, with some patients being unable to work because of their condition (e.g., stroke, diabetes).
Risk factors play an important part in the development of chronic diseases. A risk factor is something that increases the likelihood of getting a disease.
- Non-modifiable or background risk factors cannot be changed, and can only be controlled or have their effect reduced by making changes in a patient’s lifestyle. For example, cardiovascular diseases become increasingly common with advance age, and men are at greater risk of CVD than pre-menopausal women, while women past the menopause share a similar risk. These factors become important when assessing a patient’s health, and can improve early detection of CD:
- Family history.
- Modifiable or behavioral-risk factors can be diminished or eliminated completely, reducing the chance of getting a chronic disease significantly. For example, smoking is one of the main risk factors for CVD, but within 15 years of quitting, the risk returns to that of a non-smoker. High intake of saturated fat and low intake of fruit are related to increased risk of CVD, while adequate consumption of vegetables and fruit decreases that same risk. When approaching a patient with CD, these factors are as important as the treatment itself.
- Tobacco use;
- Physical inactivity;
- Unhealthy diet;
- Excessive alcohol use;
- Cultural and environmental factors:
- Climate pollution.