Information about human health is important for making people aware of how to stay well, how to recognize signs of illness, and how best to get care and make informed decisions about treatment. Information is power, and although it may be unsettling to read about all the possible health conditions people can suffer from, it also allows for proactive steps that can prevent and treat illness.
Some people are more susceptible to certain health conditions because of gender, age, genetics, lifestyle habits, and other factors. All people are vulnerable to complications and side effects that can arise from prescription medications and medical devices used to treat these conditions. Know what health conditions you may be vulnerable to and you can take steps to prevent them and avoid the need to use treatments and drugs that may cause harm.
Mental Health and Behavioral Conditions
Anyone may be susceptible to developing mental illness or behavioral health conditions. Mental illnesses include all conditions that are categorized as psychiatric disorders, ranging from multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia to anxiety and bipolar disorders. By far, the most common types of mental illnesses are mood disorders, mostly major depression and anxiety disorders. Both can be treated with medications, but antidepressants in particular come with serious risks. Risks include an increase in suicidal thoughts for young people.
Behavioral conditions are most often seen in childhood. As a child develops, behavioral abnormalities may become obvious and could be diagnosed as a behavioral disorder such as an autism spectrum disorder. The most common behavior disorder of childhood is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. ADHD is treated with stimulant medications like Ritalin and Adderall. These can be habit forming and cause weight loss, tremors, nervousness, and in rare cases aggression, mania, paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations.
Conditions by Gender
Men and women are vulnerable to different health conditions, although also have many in common, like heart disease. Men, as they age, experience drops in testosterone, which can cause fatigue, muscle loss, and sexual dysfunction. They may also experience low testosterone caused by an underlying condition. Testosterone supplements can treat this, but there are risks, including blood clots, heart attack and stroke. Men may also take risks with medications used to treat hair loss, like Propecia.
Women experience their own hormonal changes, at several different times during their lives. During and after pregnancy, depression can be a serious problem due to these and other changes. Although antidepressants can help, many may put the child at risk of being born with birth defects. Celexa, Effexor, and others have been linked to heart defects and others. After having children, women may also struggle with pelvic organ prolapse, caused by a weakening of muscle that holds organs in place. Surgery to correct this may be done, but certain medical devices like bladder slings and transvaginal mesh have caused more harm than good in some women.
Heart and Blood Vessel Diseases
Heart and blood vessel diseases are health conditions that affect everyone. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Americans, and many cases of it are preventable. Things like obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and smoking are risk factors and changing to healthy lifestyle habits could prevent thousands of cases of heart attack, stroke, and other conditions every year.
Instead of preventing heart disease, many people end up needing medications to lower blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol, or prevent blood clots from forming and causing a heart attack or stroke. These medications are not always safe. For example, Lipitor, used to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease, has been connected to liver damage, type 2 diabetes, and serious muscle damage.
Blood thinners are used to prevent blood clots that can migrate to the heart, lungs, or brain and cause a heart attack, pulmonary embolism, or stroke. All of these are potentially fatal, so being able to prevent clots from forming is important. Unfortunately, these blood thinners cause problems as well. Drugs like Eliquis and Pradaxa can be potentially life-saving, but may also cause deadly excessive bleeding because of how they affect blood’s ability to clot. Some of the newer drugs are supposed to be less likely to cause bleeding, but some of the manufacturers have been caught exaggerating and making claims about their drugs that are not necessarily true.
Type 2 Diabetes, Kidneys, and the Pancreas
Another largely preventable disease that is on the rise in the U.S. is type 2 diabetes. This is a condition characterized by high blood sugar levels and it is most commonly a result of an unhealthy lifestyle. A poor diet, lack of exercise, and being overweight or obese are the leading risk factors. Complications from diabetes include heart disease, kidney damage, nerve damage, and vision loss.
Many people with this condition will end up taking medication to control blood sugar, but these cause other problems too. Many type 2 diabetes drugs have been shown to increase the risks of pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, and bladder cancer. Some may even cause damage to the kidneys or increase the risk of experiencing urinary tract infections.
All people are vulnerable to infections, from the ordinary cold virus or the seasonal flu to more serious infections like blood infections that occur after surgical procedures. Some medications even cause infections as side effects or make patients more vulnerable to infections. Type 2 diabetes drugs, for instance may cause infections in people. These include genital fungal infections and urinary tract infections. Jardiance has been connected to several cases of life-threatening blood infections and serious kidney infections.
Bacterial infections, which are not uncommon in hospitals and in people who have had surgery, are treated with antibiotic medications. These are drugs that target and kill bacterial cells or slow their growth so the infection cannot spread. One class of antibiotics, called fluoroquinolones, have been seen to put patients at risk of serious side effects, including aneurisms, tendinitis, and severe nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy.
Neurological conditions are those that affect the nervous system. This includes the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. There are many types of neurological conditions that may be genetic or that may have no known cause. They include degenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, infections like meningitis, and developmental conditions like spina bifida.
One of the most common of all neurological conditions are seizures disorders, sometimes grouped together under the category of epilepsy. Seizures occur when nerve cells in the brain send out a burst of excessive activity. They can be severe and cause violent spasms, or they can be milder and result only in strange sensations.
Seizure disorders are treated with anticonvulsant drugs, like Depakote. These are drugs that both treat and prevent seizures, but they also cause side effects. Depakote has such serious potential side effects that it carries three black box warnings. These warn patients of the risks of birth defects, liver failure, and pancreatitis.
All people are affected by a variety of health conditions. Even the healthiest people with the best lifestyle habits may face certain health problems. Having a better understanding of what some of these are, how they manifest, what the symptoms are, and how they are treated, can help people make better health care and lifestyle choices. It is also important to understand how the medications and devices used to treat health conditions can impact a person and even cause serious complications or side effects.