Most of the leading causes of death in the U.S. are ones you hear about all the time: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Ones that aren’t so lethal are a lot less familiar. While deadly diseases certainly deserve the attention they get, there are plenty of other diseases out there that affect a lot more people than you realize. And just because they’re less likely to claim your life doesn’t mean they’re a walk in the park. Ready to learn more? Check out these seven surprisingly common diseases.
1. Periodontal disease
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, affects 47.2% of people who are age 30 or older. You can recognize it in its early stage by red, swollen, or bleeding gums, otherwise known as gingivitis. Other warning signs include pain when chewing from sensitive or loose teeth, and bad breath that won’t go away. Eventually, the plaque buildup can harden into tartar, and the disease can continue to spread below the gum line. Risk increases with age, so you’ll want to be sure you’re getting regular teeth cleanings to prevent developing gum disease.
2. Diarrheal disease
According to the World Health Organization, 1.7 billion cases of diarrheal disease occur globally each year. Around 760,000 children die from it annually, making it the second most common cause of death for kids younger than the age of five. Those who have it often experience three or more liquid stools per day. It can be the result of bacteria and infection in the intestines, which can be caused by ingesting contaminated food or water and can also be passed from one person to another. Some of the best ways to prevent you or your child from contracting a diarrheal disease are to only drink water you know to be safe and to practice proper food and personal hygiene.
3. Chronic kidney disease
According to the National Kidney Foundation, 26 million adults in the U.S. have chronic kidney disease. Risk is higher for those with diabetes and high blood pressure, but it can also be caused by repeated urinary infections, kidney stones, and lupus. Symptoms may include increased fatigue, dry and itchy skin, swollen feet and ankles, and puffy eyes. This disease not only disrupts the kidney’s ability to function over time, but it can also lead to weak bones, an increased risk of heart and blood vessel disease, and an increased risk of kidney failure. Speaking with a doctor is the best way to figure out what treatment is best for you.
4. Lyme disease
If you’ve ever been warned about ticks, it’s because they can cause Lyme disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 300,000 people in the U.S. are affected each year. They also mention those who are infected are likely to experience headache, fatigue, fever, and skin rashes. Left untreated, Lyme disease can spread to the nervous system, heart, and joints. Ticks are normally found in grassy or wooded areas, so it’s important to protect yourself with insect repellent and to dress accordingly when spending time outside. If you do get a bite, remove the tick as soon as possible and head to a doctor if you start to notice symptoms.
5. Gastroesophageal reflux disease
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a digestive disorder that causes persistent heartburn. WebMD says over 15 million adults in the U.S. have heartburn every day. Over 60 million experience it once a month. Certain food and drinks like chocolate, coffee, or alcohol can trigger reflux, and the pain can last for up to two hours. Antacids or standing upright can help to ease the burning, but you’ll want to see a doctor to make sure it’s not a symptom of something more severe.
6. Ulcerative colitis
The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America says 1.6 million Americans are affected by inflammatory bowel diseases each year, with ulcerative colitis as one of the most widespread. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation in the lining of the colon. The organ also develops ulcers, thus the name. The foundation says inflammation occurs because the immune system doesn’t function normally, causing the body to mistake food and necessary bacteria as harmful substances. This is the reason why your body constantly feels the need to empty out your system.
7. Basal cell carcinoma
Sunscreen is necessary for a reason: It helps protect you from developing skin cancer like basal cell carcinoma. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, totaling more than 4 million cases in the U.S. every year, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. It usually causes open sores, shiny bumps, or red patches on the skin. Luckily, it very rarely spreads, but it needs to be treated right away to avoid worsening. There are various treatments for this cancer, so you’ll want to speak with your dermatologist to discuss the best option for you. If you haven’t been protecting yourself from sun exposure, this should be reason enough to start.