Resources for the World’s Most Common Diseases

A disease, which can be caused by either external factors or internal dysfunctions, is broadly defined as a medical condition that impairs normal bodily functions. Every year millions of people die from a wide array of diseases, from genetic disorders to epidemics. In 2005 the World Health Organization estimated that globally, about 58 million people die from a disease, with 60 percent dying from either a cardiovascular or communicable disease. There are four major types of disease: pathogenic or infectious, deficiency, hereditary, and physiological diseases. They can also be categorized as either communicable or non-communicable diseases.

Due to this wide range of diseases, people adopt a variety of preventive methods. Diseases caused by environmental factors, such as waterborne diseases, can be prevented by improving overall health and sanitation standards. Infectious or pathogenic diseases, such as HIV, can be properly prevented through public health measures like practicing safe sex. Treatments of diseases also vary, depending on the disease type and the patients’ circumstances. Types of treatments may include short to long-term medications and surgeries, as well as self-care methods like regular exercise and a healthy diet.

The following is a list of the most common diseases, some of which can either be prevented through self-care measures or treated successfully.

Pathogenic Diseases

  • AIDS, otherwise known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, is the last stage of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). A fatal disease, AIDS eventually destroys the immune system, leaving infected patients helpless to common diseases. Symptoms can include chills, rashes, fevers, sweats, swollen lymph glands and weight loss. Although there is still no cure for AIDS, antiviral therapy has been highly successful in repressing the replication of the HIV virus in the body.
  • Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholera. The symptoms for cholera are dry skin, abdominal cramps, excessive thirst, vomiting and rapid pulses. Successful treatments include antibiotics, such as tetracycline or doxycycline and oral rehydration solutions (which can also be administered intravenously).
  • Hepatitus B is currently the most common infectious disease in the world, with over 2 billion people infected with the disease. Hepatitis B is an inflammation of the liver, with symptoms that include jaundice, nausea, fatigue and vomiting. Although there are no cures for Hepatitis B, it is not a fatal disease. Those infected can take care of the condition through healthy lifestyle choices like maintaining a balanced diet and getting enough rest.

Deficiency Diseases

  • Anemia is most often caused by iron deficiency. Common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath and poor concentration. Treatments include taking iron orally (such as iron vitamin pills) or for more serious cases of anemia, blood transfusions.
  • Scurvy is caused by a vitamin C deficiency. Symptoms include appetite loss, diarrhea, rapid breathing, weight gain, swelling and fever. Scurvy is frequently treated by providing patients with vitamin C, which can be administered orally or through injections.

Hereditary Diseases

  • Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease of the secretory glands that most often affects the lungs, pancreas and liver. Common symptoms include failure to gain weight normally, delayed growth, fatigue, coughing caused by increased mucus in the lungs, stomach pains, nausea and loss of appetite. Treatments can include high concentrations of salt solutions, lung transplants, inhaled medicines to help open the airways and DNA-based enzyme therapy.
  • Down syndrome (Trisomy 21) is a genetic disease caused by extra genetic material, as a baby inherits an extra chromosome 21, for a total of 47 chromosomes rather than the normal 46. Symptoms include decreased muscle tone at birth, a flattened nose, small ears and mouth and separated joints between the bones of the skull. There are no treatments for Down syndrome, as it is best for those diagnosed with the disease to pursue healthy lifestyle choices in order to best deal with the genetic defect.
  • Hemophilia A is a hereditary disorder that affects the body’s ability to control blood clotting, which in the most serious of cases can cause hemophiliacs to bleed to death. The most common symptoms include easy bruising, blood in the urine, nosebleeds and spontaneous bleeding. Treatments usually involve replacing missing blood clotting factors or proteins such as Factor VIII.

Physiological Diseases

  • Asthma causes the swelling and narrowing of airways to the lungs, which makes it difficult to breathe. Symptoms include shortness of breath that gets worse with vigorous activity, exercise, coughing, or wheezing. Treatments usually include inhaled corticosteroids (which prevents the swelling of airways), leukotriene inhibitors and air inhalers.
  • Diabetes is a chronic disease caused by a lack of insulin, which leads to high levels of sugar in the blood. Common symptoms include fatigue, excessive thrust, blurry vision and frequent urination. Although there is no cure for diabetes, precautionary measures such as healthy diets, medicine, and regular exercise frequently allow diabetics to lead normal lives.
  • Glaucoma is an eye disease that affects the optic nerve and if untreated, can lead to permanent vision damage and blindness. Symptoms include a slow loss of peripheral vision, swollen and red eyes, severe pain in the eye, cloudiness in the front of the eye, tearing and sensitivity to light. Treatment leads to the lessening of eye pressure and includes laser therapy, eye drops and medicine given orally or through an intravenous therapy.

Philanthropy and Health Campaigns in Medicine

Numerous medical and philanthropic efforts have increased knowledge on some of the most common global diseases, while raising millions of dollars in medical research. Some of the most noteworthy campaigns include:

  • Treatment Action Campaign, a South African non-profit organization founded by activist Zackie Achmat, works towards having a national health care system that provides equal access to HIV prevention medicine and treatment services for all people.