Chronic diseases are defined broadly as conditions that last 1 year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both. Chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States.
Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease, which means that your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake, causing inflammation (painful swelling) in the affected parts of the body.
RA mainly attacks the joints, usually many joints at once. RA commonly affects joints in the hands, wrists, and knees. In a joint with RA, the lining of the joint becomes inflamed, causing damage to joint tissue. This tissue damage can cause long-lasting or chronic pain, unsteadiness (lack of balance), and deformity (misshapenness).
RA can also affect other tissues throughout the body and cause problems in organs such as the lungs, heart, and eyes.
Learn more about rheumatoid arthritis here.
Many chronic conditions lead to symptoms of pain and fatigue. About 50 million US adults have chronic pain, which is one of the most common reasons adults seek medical care. Chronic pain can happen for many reasons including as a result of chronic conditions (e.g. arthritis and diabetes), autoimmune disorders (e.g. lupus), past injuries, and other reasons. Chronic pain can limit quality of life. For some people with chronic pain, there may not be obvious evidence of an underlying reason. Managing chronic pain can be difficult.
Learn more about chronic pain here.
Depression & Anxiety
Depression is more than just feeling down or having a bad day. When a sad mood lasts for a long time and interferes with normal, everyday functioning, you may be depressed. Symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling sad or anxious often or all the time
- Not wanting to do activities that used to be fun
- Feeling irritable‚ easily frustrated‚ or restless
- Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Waking up too early or sleeping too much
- Eating more or less than usual or having no appetite
- Experiencing aches, pains, headaches, or stomach problems that do not improve with treatment
- Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions
- Feeling tired‚ even after sleeping well
- Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
- Thinking about suicide or hurting yourself
Learn more about depression and anxiety here.
Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy.
Most of the food you eat is broken down into sugar (also called glucose) and released into your bloodstream. When your blood sugar goes up, it signals your pancreas to release insulin. Insulin acts like a key to let the blood sugar into your body’s cells for use as energy.
If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes as well as it should. When there isn’t enough insulin or cells stop responding to insulin, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream. Over time, that can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.
There isn’t a cure yet for diabetes, but losing weight, eating healthy food, and being active can really help. Taking medicine as needed, getting diabetes self-management education and support, and keeping health care appointments can also reduce the impact of diabetes on your life.
Learn more about diabetes here.
Fibromyalgia (fi·bro·my·al·gi·a) is a condition that causes pain all over the body (also referred to as widespread pain), sleep problems, fatigue, and often emotional and mental distress. People with fibromyalgia may be more sensitive to pain than people without fibromyalgia. This is called abnormal pain perception processing. Fibromyalgia affects about 4 million US adults, about 2% of the adult population. The cause of fibromyalgia is not known, but it can be effectively treated and managed.
Learn more about fibromyalgia here.
Heart Disease & Stroke
The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease (CAD), which affects the blood flow to the heart. Decreased blood flow can cause a heart attack.
Learn more about heart disease here.
A stroke happens when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain. This causes brain tissue to become damaged or die. A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, occurs when something blocks blood supply to part of the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. In either case, parts of the brain become damaged or die. A stroke can cause lasting brain damage, long-term disability, or even death.
Learn more about stroke here.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death for Americans.1 High blood pressure is also very common. Tens of millions of adults in the United States have high blood pressure, and many do not have it under control. Learn more facts about high blood pressure.
High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, so the only way to know if you have it is to get your blood pressure measured. Talk with your health care team about how you can manage your blood pressure and lower your risk.
Learn more about high blood pressure here.
Lung diseases are some of the most common medical conditions in the world. Tens of millions of people have lung disease in the U.S. alone. Smoking, infections, and genes cause most lung diseases.
Your lungs are part of a complex system, expanding and relaxing thousands of times each day to bring in oxygen and send out carbon dioxide. Lung disease can happen when there are problems in any part of this system.
Learn more about the various types of lung disease here.
Multiple sclerosis (MS)external icon is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). In many cases, MS can cause permanent disability and even death.
It is unknown what exactly causes MS. The most common thought is that a virus or gene defect- or both- are to blame. Environmental factors may also play a role.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects women more than men. The disorder is most commonly diagnosed between ages 20 and 40, but it can be seen at any age. You are slightly more likely to develop this condition if you have a family history of MS or you live in a part of the world where MS is more common.
Learn more about multiple sclerosis here.