Chronic conditions are illnesses that often develop slowly, and last a long time. Common chronic conditions include diabetes, heart disease, cancer, sleep apnea, arthritis and multiple sclerosis (MS). Many chronic conditions have symptoms that worsen over time, and most have no cure. Different chronic conditions can share symptoms in common — chest pain can indicate several different conditions, for example. On the other hand, even individuals living with the same chronic condition can experience very different symptoms and severity. Some chronic conditions are preventable, and some have no known cause. For all chronic conditions, securing an early diagnosis is crucial for maintaining the best quality of life moving forward. In addition to treatment, a healthy diet and smoke-free lifestyle are highly recommended to most individuals living with chronic conditions.
Diabetes is a chronic condition in which the body cannot make enough insulin, or cannot process its own insulin properly. In order to function healthily, the body requires insulin to turn glucose into energy — otherwise high levels of glucose damage the body, causing conditions like heart disease and kidney disease.
Over nine million Canadians are affected by diabetes, but with proper treatment, individuals living with diabetes can live long and healthy lives. There are three types of diabetes.
- Type 1 diabetes commonly affects children and adolescents, and cannot be prevented.
- Type 2 diabetes is the most common (comprising 90% of diabetes cases), generally affects adults, and can be prevented or delayed through a healthy lifestyle.
- Gestational diabetes is a rare, temporary form of diabetes, affecting pregnant women. Though it is temporary, gestational diabetes increases the likelihood that both mother and child will develop diabetes in the future.
Symptoms of diabetes include changes in weight, unusually frequent urges to urinate, fatigue, sexual impotence, blurry vision, dizziness, and tingling or numbness in hands or feet. If you have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor or find the nearest MCI clinic to you. If you are over 40, it is advisable to periodically get checked for diabetes.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of diabetes, find your nearest MCI clinic and book an appointment today.
Heart diseases are a group of chronic conditions that affect different functions of the heart, all with different causes. Common heart diseases include coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, and cardiac arrest (heart attack.) Some heart disease, like coronary artery disease or cardiac arrest, affect the flow of blood to the heart through blockage and damage.
Coronary heart disease is caused by a buildup of fatty and scar tissues which eventually block the flow of blood to the heart, and can cause cardiac arrest. Some heart disease, like arrhythmia, affect the ‘electrical’ system that regulates the beating aspect of the heart: arrhythmia is characterized by irregular heartbeat or heart palpitations, can be caused by factors of an unhealthy lifestyle.
Many kinds of heart disease share symptoms, which include chest, jaw, arms, back, throat or neck pain (which can range from a feeling of ‘fullness’ in your chest to sharp pains in your limbs), dizziness, irregular heartbeat, excessive sweating, fatigue, headaches, nausea and vomiting. Especially if you have a history of heart disease or diabetes, it is crucial to dial 9/11 if you any of these symptoms for longer than half an hour. The primary symptom of cardiac arrest is significant chest pains that do not go away after 30 minutes.
Heart disease can often be prevented by living a healthy, active lifestyle, quitting smoking, maintaining healthy levels of blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, and eating a healthy diet of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, and limited saturated and trans fats.
If you are experiencing symptoms of cardiac arrest, visit your nearest emergency room immediately. If you are experiencing any symptoms of heart disease, book an appointment with an MCI cardiologist (a doctor referral is required.)
Epilepsy is a chronic neurological (brain) condition which causes frequent and recurrent seizures. The frequency and severity of epileptic seizures vary from person to person, and sometimes other issues can be present. There are two kinds of epileptic seizures: primary generalized seizures, which affect the entire brain, and partial seizures, which only affect part of the brain.
Epilepsy is diagnosed when an individual suffers two or more unprovoked seizures, which means that a seizure due to low blood pressure, for example, would not indicate epilepsy. Other conditions associated with epilepsy, like mood disorders, insomnia, learning disorders and unexplained falls or injuries could be related to epilepsy medicine, the seizures themselves, associated neurological factors or even emotional complications of the disease. The cause of epilepsy is largely unknown, though people with family histories of epilepsy or previous brain injuries might be more at risk.
If you or a loved one has experienced any of these symptoms, book an appointment with an MCI neurologist (a doctor referral is required.)
Sleep apnea is a chronic condition in which breathing either pauses or becomes shallow during sleep. Sleep apnea can develop into serious conditions including obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and heart disease. Sleep apnea interrupts deep, restorative sleep, limiting the sleeper to light sleep throughout the night, causing fatigue during the day.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type, and involves the softening of throat tissues that block the airways, causing the sleeper to snore. Central sleep apnea arises when the brain fails to signal the brain to breathe, which rarely causes the sleeper to snore but does cause them to wake up. Symptoms can, but do not always, include snoring.
It’s often hard to notice symptoms of sleep apnea on your own, but chronic fatigue as a result of shallow and interrupted sleep is a key symptom. Individuals more at risk have family histories of sleep apnea; other risk factors include being overweight, male, over the age of 65, and a smoker. Quitting smoking and losing weight can help ease sleep apnea, and can sometimes relieve the symptoms altogether.
Consult your doctor or book an appointment with a SleepWell clinic to discuss potential symptoms of sleep apnea.
Obesity is a chronic condition in which an individual gains enough weight to harm their health. Obesity places individuals at risk of several chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. According to the Body Mass Index (BMI), an obese individual is considered to have BMI of 30 or higher. While obesity can be caused by a number of complex factors, an unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, and insufficient sleep are three main contributors.
According to some studies, a family history of obesity might put some children at risk of obesity. Individuals eating a healthy diet of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, and limited saturated and trans fats, sleeping an adequate number of hours every night and living an active lifestyle are much less at risk of becoming obese. Some scientists consider obesity an epidemic, and more and more North Americans are becoming obese, and childhood obesity is increasing rapidly as well.
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological (brain) condition in which brain changes causes confusion and memory loss, and is eventually fatal. Alzheimer’s disease is degenerative, which means it starts with faint symptoms and worsens over time.
There are some risk factors, including a family history of Alzheimer’s, including sleep disorders, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and previous head injuries, and advanced age (65+). Less than 5% of cases are early-onset, beginning between the ages of 30 and 60. Alzheimer’s disease is more common in women.
Mild symptoms include memory loss (forgetting events and appointments, repeating conversation, getting lost or frequently confused), poor decision making ability and inability to manage everyday tasks like finances, and changes in moods. Moderate symptoms include forgetting friends and family, and everyday functions like bladder control. Steps can be taken to improve quality of life and plan for change, which can be found here.
If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s, book an appointment with your nearest MCI clinic physician today.
Alcoholism is a chronic condition in which a person’s alcohol consumption disrupts their everyday life. Sometimes it is hard to tell whether occasional or casual drinking has verged into a problem.
Signs of alcoholism can include feelings of shame about alcohol use, drinking to impairment in dangerous situations (such as before driving), repeatedly neglecting responsibilities or harming relationships because of drinking, and using alcohol to relax. Other signs include increased tolerance (needing more and more alcohol to feel drunk) and withdrawal symptoms, like shakiness, nausea, headaches and dizziness.
Alcoholism can harm the entire body and cause conditions like liver disease and several different kinds of cancer. The social costs can be high as well, from harming marriages to traumatizing children or loved ones. Even if someone isn’t sure they are an alcoholic, or feel they could quit drinking anytime, symptoms or warning signs of alcoholism are best discussed as soon as possible with your MCI doctor or a health professional.
Take the first step towards recovery: find your nearest MCI clinic and book an appointment today.
Arthritis is a chronic condition characterized as recurring pain in the joints including the neck, back, hands, wrists, knees, and ankles. There are over 100 different types of arthritis, ranging from moderately painful conditions like tendinitis to severely painful conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, which occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the body.
Arthritis can affect people of all ages and walks of life. Arthritis can be caused by a range of factors, including a family history of arthritis, and as complications from injuries or infections. Symptoms of many kinds of arthritis include joint pain and stiffness or swelling of the joints. If left untreated, arthritis could worsen and greatly affect quality of life. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the outlook and treatment options.
If you have recurring joint pain consult your doctor, or book an appointment at the MCI clinic nearest you.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic neurological (brain) condition affecting the brainstem. MS affects a wide range of areas of the body, including mobility, vision, and memory. Since initial MS symptoms vary from person to person, it is often difficult to establish a diagnosis right away.
Symptoms of all kinds of MS may include but are not limited to dizziness and fatigue, headaches, depression, body tremors or spasms, constipation, fever, difficulty with physical coordination, speaking, swallowing, walking, and with memory, dry mouth, numbness and heat sensitivity. Moods and the expression of emotions may also be affected, possibly developing into symptoms of bipolar disorder. There are four types of MS:
- Individuals with Primary Progressive MS (PPMS) experience a long period of disability, with symptoms worsening over time. Typically PPMS affects individuals over the age of 40.
- Relapsing Remitting MS (RRMS) is identified by a pattern of attacks, in which either current symptoms worsen, or new symptoms appear. A ‘recovery’ usually follows each attack, in which the individual usually recovers to pre-attack state. These ‘recovery’ periods can last for a long time.
- Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS) begins with a pattern similar to RRMS, with attacks and recoveries, but eventually begins to follow the pattern of PPMS, getting steadily worse over time. Typically, RRMS can develop into SPMS.
- Progressive Relapsing MS (PRMS) is the rarest form of MS, combining illness patterns from all three previous kinds of MS. Individuals with PRMS experience periodic ‘attacks’ and rarely experience recovery periods afterwards. They tend to experience a long period of disability, as symptoms worsen over time.
While no cure exists for MS, a number of medications are available, which your doctor will discuss with you. To best accompany treatment, ongoing rehabilitation treatment and a healthy lifestyle with a diet emphasizing whole grains, lean meats, and fruits and vegetables, is recommended.
Your MCI health professional can help develop a comprehensive treatment plan for MS management. Find a clinic near you today.