Health

10 Silent Killer Diseases You Must Know

8.      Chagas Chagas is a disease caused by a parasite known as Trypanosoma cruzi, which is transmitted to humans and animals by insect bites. It’s mainly… Elizabeth Lilian - April 4, 2017

8.      Chagas

Chagas is a disease caused by a parasite known as Trypanosoma cruzi, which is transmitted to humans and animals by insect bites. It’s mainly found in America, specifically Latin America. According to the World Health Organization, over 6 million people worldwide are infected with this parasite. The infection is curable if treatment is initiated quickly, but if left untreated it can cause cardiac problems, as well as digestive and neurological issues.

Chagas disease is known as a silent killer because both phases of this disease can be free of symptoms, and life-threatening. The first phase of Chagas is the acute phase, which occurs during the first weeks and months of infection. This phase can be unnoticed because if symptoms do occur they are usually mild and can be easily dismissed. These symptoms include fatigue, headaches, rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Physical symptoms can include mild swelling of the liver and spleen, swollen glands, and swelling where the bite occurred.

The next phase is the chronic phase, wherein the infection can remain dormant for decades. This is the phase in which cardiovascular and/or intestinal problems can occur, which can be potentially fatal. If you believe you’re infected with Chagas disease, it’s important to visit your healthcare professional as soon as possible. Chagas disease can be transmitted by consumption of contaminated food, so it’s important to practice proper hygiene methods.

Two avenues of treatment are available to treat Chagas. These are anti-parasitic treatment, which involves medication to kill the parasite, and symptomatic treatment, which focuses on the intestinal and cardiovascular problems that can occur during the chronic phase. There are no vaccines available currently to prevent Chagas disease, so those at risk should use bed netting, protective clothing and insect repellent to avoid infection.

9.      Hepatitis

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, and the word ‘hepatitis’ is derived from Ancient Greek, with hepar meaning liver and itis meaning inflammation. There are different forms of hepatitis including hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. Hepatitis is usually caused by a viral infection but can be brought on by things like toxic substances such as drugs and alcohol, and the most common types are A, B and C. Types B and C are particularly dangerous, as they most commonly cause cirrhosis of the liver and certain types of cancer.

The cause of hepatitis depends on the type. Hepatitis A is caused by contaminated food or water, hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted disease, hepatitis C is spread through direct contact with the blood of a person infected with disease, hepatitis D can affect those already infected with hepatitis B, and hepatitis E is caused by contaminated drinking water. Hepatitis is either acute, which lasts under six months, or chronic, which can last much longer.

Often, hepatitis has no symptoms at all, but if they are experienced they can include flu-like symptoms, nausea, fever, dark urine, swelling, painful joints, jaundice and lethargy. Hepatitis is diagnosed by physical examination, liver biopsy, ultrasound, blood test, and testing of liver functions. Treatment will vary depending on the cause and type of hepatitis. Hepatitis A doesn’t usually require specific treatment aside from bed rest followed by vaccination, and hepatitis B usually requires no specific form of treatment but is generally treated with antiviral medication.

Hepatitis C is usually treated using a combination of antiviral medication, and if cirrhosis of the liver occurs as a result of the disease, a liver transplant may be required. Hepatitis D is treated with a specific type of medication called alpha interferon, though patients often experience hepatitis D again, even after treatment. Currently, there is no specific treatment for hepatitis E, but it generally resolves itself.

10. Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the tissues of the cervix. It’s also known as uterine cancer, and there are two main types. Squamous cell carcinoma, which starts in the squamous cells that line the outer surface of the cervical neck, and adenocarcinoma, which develops from the glandular cells. A third, much rarer form of cervical cancer is known as neuroendocrine, which tends to be much more aggressive.

The risk factors of being diagnosed with cervical cancer stems from the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, which is present in the majority of all cervical cancers. Other risk factors include age, smoking, weakened immune system, many sexual partners, early sexual activity and sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis. When cervical cancer is in the early stages, it often produces no noticeable symptoms. As it advances, symptoms can include vaginal bleeding after intercourse, heavy discharge that may be bloody or watery, and pelvic pain during intercourse.

The earlier cervical cancer is detected, the more successful the outcome. Cervical cancer screenings consist mainly of Pap tests, wherein cells are brushed from the cervix and examined in a laboratory for any abnormal cells. An abnormal Pap test result doesn’t always lead to a diagnosis of cervical cancer, but abnormal cells can increase risk, and treatment is necessary. If you are diagnosed with cervical cancer, treatment depends on things such as which stage the cancer is at and any other health issues you may have.

To avoid suffering from silent diseases, it’s important to lead a life that is as healthy as possible. This includes eating a diet rich in essential vitamins and minerals, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol, getting adequate exercise, practicing safe sex, and visiting your doctor for regular medical check-ups.

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