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A disease is a particular abnormal condition, a disorder of a structure or function, that affects part or all of an organism. The study of disease is called pathology which includes the causal study of etiology. Disease is often construed as a medical condition associated with specific symptoms and signs. It may be caused by external factors such as pathogens, or it may be caused by internal dysfunctions particularly of the immune system such as an immunodeficiency, or a hypersensitivity including allergies and autoimmunity.
In humans, disease is often used more broadly to refer to any condition that causes pain, dysfunction, distress, social problems, or death to the person afflicted, or similar problems for those in contact with the person. In this broader sense, it sometimes includes injuries, disabilities, disorders, syndromes, infections, isolated symptoms, deviant behaviors, and atypical variations of structure and function, while in other contexts and for other purposes these may be considered distinguishable categories. Diseases can affect people not only physically, but also emotionally, as contracting and living with a disease can alter the affected person's perspective on life.
Death due to disease is called death by natural causes. There are four main types of disease: infectious diseases, deficiency diseases, genetic diseases (both hereditary and non-hereditary), and physiological diseases. Diseases can also be classified as communicable and non-communicable. The deadliest diseases in humans are coronary artery disease (blood flow obstruction), followed by cerebrovascular disease and lower respiratory infections.
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|Infectious and parasitic diseases, especially lower respiratory tract infections, diarrhea, AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria
Neuropsychiatric conditions, e.g. depression
Injuries, especially motor vehicle accidents
Cardiovascular diseases, principally heart attacks and stroke
Premature birth and other perinatal deaths
- The term disease broadly refers to any condition that impairs the normal functioning of the body. For this reason, diseases are associated with dysfunctioning of the body's normal homeostatic processes. The term disease has both a count sense (a disease, two diseases, many diseases) and a noncount sense (not much disease, less disease, a lot of disease). Commonly, the term is used to refer specifically to infectious diseases, which are clinically evident diseases that result from the presence of pathogenic microbial agents, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, multicellular organisms, and aberrant proteins known as prions. An infection that does not and will not produce clinically evident impairment of normal functioning, such as the presence of the normal bacteria and yeasts in the gut, or of a passenger virus, is not considered a disease. By contrast, an infection that is asymptomatic during its incubation period, but expected to produce symptoms later, is usually considered a disease. Non-infectious diseases are all other diseases, including most forms of cancer, heart disease, and genetic disease.
- Acquired disease
- disease that began at some point during one's lifetime, as opposed to disease that was already present at birth, which is congenital disease. "Acquired" sounds like it could mean "caught via contagion", but it simply means acquired sometime after birth. It also sounds like it could imply secondary disease, but acquired disease can be primary disease.
- Acute disease
- disease of a short-term nature (acute); the term sometimes also connotes a fulminant nature
- Chronic disease
- disease that is a long-term issue (chronic)
- disease that is present at birth. It is often, genetic and can be inherited. It can also be the result of a vertically transmitted infection from the mother such as HIV/AIDS.
- disease that is caused by genetic mutation. It is often inherited, but some mutations are random and de novo.
- Hereditary or inherited disease
- a type of genetic disease caused by mutation that is hereditary (and can run in families)
- Idiopathic disease
- disease whose cause is unknown. As medical science has advanced, many diseases whose causes were formerly complete mysteries have been somewhat explained (for example, when it was realized that autoimmunity is the cause of some forms of diabetes mellitus type 1, even if we do not yet understand every molecular detail involved) or even extensively explained (for example, when it was realized that gastric ulcers are often associated with Helicobacter pylori infection).
- Incurable disease
- disease that cannot be cured
- Primary disease
- disease that came about as a root cause of illness, as opposed to secondary disease, which is a sequela of another disease
- Secondary disease
- disease that is a sequela or complication of some other disease or underlying cause (root cause). Bacterial infections can be either primary (healthy but then bacteria arrived) or secondary to a viral infection or burn, which predisposed by creating an open wound or weakened immunity (bacteria would not have gotten established otherwise).
- Terminal disease
- disease with death as an inevitable result
Illness is generally used as a synonym for disease. However, this term is occasionally used to refer specifically to the patient's personal experience of his or her disease. In this model, it is possible for a person to have a disease without being ill (to have an objectively definable, but asymptomatic, medical condition, such as a subclinical infection), and to be ill without being diseased (such as when a person perceives a normal experience as a medical condition, or medicalizes a non-disease situation in his or her life – for example, a person who feels unwell as a result of embarrassment, and who interprets those feelings as sickness rather than normal emotions). Symptoms of illness are often not directly the result of infection, but a collection of evolved responses—sickness behavior by the body—that helps clear infection. Such aspects of illness can include lethargy, depression, loss of appetite, sleepiness, hyperalgesia, and inability to concentrate.
- In medicine, a disorder is a functional abnormality or disturbance. Medical disorders can be categorized into mental disorders, physical disorders, genetic disorders, emotional and behavioral disorders, and functional disorders. The term disorder is often considered more value-neutral and less stigmatizing than the terms disease or illness, and therefore is a preferred terminology in some circumstances. In mental health, the term mental disorder is used as a way of acknowledging the complex interaction of biological, social, and psychological factors in psychiatric conditions. However, the term disorder is also used in many other areas of medicine, primarily to identify physical disorders that are not caused by infectious organisms, such as metabolic disorders.
- Medical condition
- A medical condition is a broad term that includes all diseases, lesions, disorders, or nonpathologic condition that normally receives medical treatment, such as pregnancy or childbirth. While the term medical condition generally includes mental illnesses, in some contexts the term is used specifically to denote any illness, injury, or disease except for mental illnesses. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the widely used psychiatric manual that defines all mental disorders, uses the term general medical condition to refer to all diseases, illnesses, and injuries except for mental disorders. This usage is also commonly seen in the psychiatric literature. Some health insurance policies also define a medical condition as any illness, injury, or disease except for psychiatric illnesses.
- As it is more value-neutral than terms like disease, the term medical condition is sometimes preferred by people with health issues that they do not consider deleterious. On the other hand, by emphasizing the medical nature of the condition, this term is sometimes rejected, such as by proponents of the autism rights movement.
- The term medical condition is also a synonym for medical state, in which case it describes an individual patient's current state from a medical standpoint. This usage appears in statements that describe a patient as being in critical condition, for example.
Morbidity (from Latin morbidus, meaning "sick, unhealthy") is a diseased state, disability, or poor health due to any cause. The term may be used to refer to the existence of any form of disease, or to the degree that the health condition affects the patient. Among severely ill patients, the level of morbidity is often measured by ICU scoring systems. Comorbidity is the simultaneous presence of two or more medical conditions, such as schizophrenia and substance abuse.
- In epidemiology and actuarial science, the term "morbidity rate" can refer to either the incidence rate, or the prevalence of a disease or medical condition. This measure of sickness is contrasted with the mortality rate of a condition, which is the proportion of people dying during a given time interval.
- A syndrome is the association of several medical signs, symptoms, and or other characteristics that often occur together. Some syndromes, such as Down syndrome, have only one cause; for these, the names "syndrome" and "disease" can be synonymous. For example, Charcot–Marie–Tooth syndrome is also called Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease. Others, such as Parkinsonian syndrome, have multiple possible causes. For example, acute coronary syndrome is not a disease but rather the manifestation of any of several diseases, such as myocardial infarction secondary to coronary artery disease. In yet other syndromes, the cause is unknown. A familiar syndrome name often remains in use even after an underlying cause has been found, or when there are a number of different possible primary causes.
Predisease is a subclinical or prodromal vanguard of a disease state. Prediabetes and prehypertension are common examples. The nosology or epistemology of predisease is contentious, though, because there is seldom a bright line differentiating a legitimate concern for subclinical/prodromal/premonitory status (on one hand) and conflict of interest–driven disease mongering or medicalization (on the other hand). Identifying legitimate predisease can result in useful preventive measures, such as motivating the person to get a healthy amount of physical exercise, but labeling a healthy person with an unfounded notion of predisease can result in overtreatment, such as taking drugs that only help people with severe disease or paying for drug prescription instances whose benefit–cost ratio is minuscule (placing it in the waste category of CMS' "waste, fraud, and abuse" classification).
Mental illness is a broad, generic label for a category of illnesses that may include affective or emotional instability, behavioral dysregulation, cognitive dysfunction or impairment. Specific illnesses known as mental illnesses include major depression, generalized anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, to name a few. Mental illness can be of biological (e.g., anatomical, chemical, or genetic) or psychological (e.g., trauma or conflict) origin. It can impair the affected person's ability to work or study and can harm interpersonal relationships. The term insanity is used technically as a legal term.
- An organic disease is one caused by a physical or physiological change to some tissue or organ of the body. The term sometimes excludes infections. It is commonly used in contrast with mental disorders. It includes emotional and behavioral disorders if they are due to changes to the physical structures or functioning of the body, such as after a stroke or a traumatic brain injury, but not if they are due to psychosocial issues.
- Acute disease
- An acute disease is a short-lived disease, like the common cold.
- Chronic disease
- A chronic disease is one that lasts for a long time, usually at least six months. During that time, it may be constantly present, or it may go into remission and periodically relapse. A chronic disease may be stable (does not get any worse) or it may be progressive (gets worse over time). Some chronic diseases can be permanently cured. Most chronic diseases can be beneficially treated, even if they cannot be permanently cured.
- A flare-up can refer to either the recurrence of symptoms or an onset of more severe symptoms.
- Refractory disease
- A refractory disease is a disease that resists treatment, especially an individual case that resists treatment more than is normal for the specific disease in question.
- Progressive disease
Progressive disease is a disease whose typical natural course is the worsening of the disease until death, serious debility, or organ failure occurs. Slowly progressive diseases are also chronic diseases; many are also degenerative diseases. The opposite of progressive disease is stable disease or static disease: a medical condition that exists, but does not get better or worse.
- A cure is the end of a medical condition or a treatment that is very likely to end it, while remission refers to the disappearance, possibly temporarily, of symptoms. Complete remission is the best possible outcome for incurable diseases.
- Clinical disease
- One that has clinical consequences, i.e., the stage of the disease that produces the characteristic signs and symptoms of that disease.AIDS is the clinical disease stage of HIV infection.
- Subclinical disease
- Also called silent disease, silent stage, or asymptomatic disease. This is a stage in some diseases before the symptoms are first noted.
- Terminal phase
- If a person will die soon from a disease, regardless of whether that disease typically causes death, then the stage between the earlier disease process and active dying is the terminal phase.
- Localized disease
- A localized disease is one that affects only one part of the body, such as athlete's foot or an eye infection.
- Disseminated disease
- A disseminated disease has spread to other parts; with cancer, this is usually called metastatic disease.
- Systemic disease
- A systemic disease is a disease that affects the entire body, such as influenza or high blood pressure.
- An airborne disease is any disease that is caused by pathogens and transmitted through the air.
Infectious diseases, also known as transmissible diseases or communicable diseases, comprise clinically evident illness (i.e., characteristic medical signs and/or symptoms of disease) resulting from the infection, presence and growth of pathogenic biological agents in an individual host organism. Included in this category are contagious diseases – an infection, such as influenza or the common cold, that commonly spreads from one person to another – and communicable diseases – an disease that can spread from one person to another, but does not necessarily spread through everyday contact.
- A non-communicable disease is a medical condition or disease that is non-transmissible. Non-communicable diseases cannot be spread directly from one person to another. Heart disease and cancer are examples of non-communicable diseases in humans.
Foodborne illness or food poisoning is any illness resulting from the consumption of food contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, toxins, viruses, prions or parasites.
- A lifestyle disease is any disease that appears to increase in frequency as countries become more industrialized and people live longer, especially if the risk factors include behavioral choices like a sedentary lifestyle or a diet high in unhealthful foods such as refined carbohydrates, trans fats, or alcoholic beverages.
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