15 Diseases That Slowly Cripple You Over Time
Science and medicine have come a long way since the days of elixirs and bloodletting. But some diseases still baffle scientists and make it difficult for sufferers to live normal lives. These 15 diseases will slowly cripple you over time; one may make you rethink the meaning of a disability (page 10).
1. Alzheimer’s disease
Forgetfulness is a normal part of aging, but Alzheimer’s disease is not. The sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., this progressive disease lacks a cure. Early symptoms include mild memory loss, so a person may think they’re just forgetful. Over time, however, Alzheimer’s takes away all memories, causing fear, confusion, and an inability to function. Children become strangers, and even language can be lost forever.
Next: You probably never heard of this one.
2. Dupuytren disease
Most people haven’t heard of this hereditary condition that causes scar tissue to form within the palms. Over time, affected hands will tighten. Patients struggle to do normal tasks like wash their face, shake hands, or grasp properly. In advanced stages, they can’t straighten their fingers, and some people require finger amputation. Although less common, the feet, shoulders, and penis can also be affected by Dupuytren disease.
Next: This disease takes away your control.
3. Lou Gehrig’s disease
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis disrupts communication between the brain and muscles. Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, it affects voluntary movement, causing muscle weakening and twitching. Over time, the arms, legs, and body became unable to move at all. If ALS affects the muscles in the respiratory system or chest, it can be fatal.
Next: We don’t know what causes it.
4. Parkinson’s disease
People with this brain disorder have trouble controlling movements, which worsens over time. Medications can slow the onset of symptoms. Most people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s at around the age of 50. However, it can develop sooner. Actor Michael J. Fox was diagnosed at 30 years old. He’s helped put a face to Parkinson’s and raised a lot of money to find for a cure.
Next: Use a strong bug repellent for prevention.
5. Lyme disease
This condition is caused by a bite from a black-legged tick infected with bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. If caught in the first two weeks, antibiotics can treat Lyme disease. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the brain, joints, and heart.
Many people with chronic Lyme disease complain of pain and swelling in their knees. Other complications include drooping facial muscles, swelling of the brain and spinal cord, and severe headaches and neck stiffness.
Next: Women are more likely than men to have this one.
6. Multiple sclerosis
Occurring in women more than men, multiple sclerosis affects the body’s central nervous system. The extensive nerve damage from this crippling autoimmune disease can cause muscle spasms, difficulty moving limbs, bowel and bladder problems, vision loss, dizziness, slurred speech, and trouble swallowing.
Next: This disease had a low average lifespan.
7. Cystic fibrosis
This disease creates a thick phlegm-like mucous that coats the lungs and pancreas, affecting breathing and digestion. If cystic fibrosis is caught early, a treatment plan can improve the survival rate and lessen symptoms. Even with treatment, those with this disease have an average lifespan of only 37 years. Children with cystic fibrosis can often complete high school or college before it interrupts their daily lives too much.
Next: This prevalent disease can be controversial.
Many people may not consider this a “crippling” disease. However, diabetics still use the same treatments that have been around for decades. Whether a person has type 1 or type 2 diabetes, there is no cure and they share the same risks: blindness, limb amputation, severe neuropathy, cardiovascular disease, coma, multi-organ failure, and death.
Next: A common symptom looks like a mask.
This autoimmune disease affects connective tissue, causing changes in skin, blood vessels, organs, and muscles. Scleroderma occurs either on the skin or internally in the body. Once the disease starts its slow progression, tissue begins to thicken, darken, and harden. It can create a mask-like look on the face. If scleroderma reaches the internal organs, they begin to fail.
The cause of this disease is unknown, and there’s no way to prevent it. Unfortunately, the mortality rate is high for people with this diagnosis.
Next: This one deserves to be on this list.
You may wonder why schizophrenia made the list of crippling conditions. Well, this mental health condition makes it nearly impossible for a person to live a normal life. They experience hallucinations and struggle to recognize reality. In many cases, the patient can’t interact meaningfully with others. Some spend their life in monitored isolation.
Next: If this won’t make you quit, nothing will.
11. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease find it increasingly difficult to breathe due to irreversible lung damage, often caused by smoking or chemical exposure. Someone with COPD may also develop chronic bronchitis and emphysema. While drugs and treatment help slow the progression of this debilitating and deadly disease, it will continue to worsen over time.
Next: This disease starts from an injury.
12. Cerebral palsy
Caused by an injury to an immature brain often before birth or in infancy, cerebral palsy affects movement, muscle tone, and posture. Patients can have mild or severe symptoms of weakness such as floppiness, rigidity, and involuntary movements. Some also have problems hearing, seeing, and learning. Over time muscle shortening can cause additional problems and neurological symptoms.
Next: When the body attacks itself.
13. Rheumatoid arthritis
The 1.5 million Americans with rheumatoid arthritis have an autoimmune disease. The body is essentially attacking the joints. This causes pain, excessive inflammation, and eventually crippling disability. While new treatments help with flare-ups, rheumatoid arthritis will only get worse. There is no cure, but the disease collects a lot of money for research.
Next: This crippling disease is preventable.
Many doctors think poliomyelitis is cured in the U.S. due to immunization efforts. However, some fear polio could come back due to the number of people refusing immunizations. Some countries still have polio outbreaks. The disease starts with a fever, stiff neck, fatigue, headache, vomiting, and limb pain. In some cases, the patient develops irreversible paralysis. Prevention is the only cure.
Next: This disease starts with frequent falls.
15. Muscular dystrophy
All types of muscular dystrophy start with the same problem: a mutation in the genes that produce proteins. Muscles need protein to grow and heal. But those with MD lose muscle tone over time. The disease begins with frequent falling, weakness, and muscle pain and stiffness. Over time, the patient becomes crippled and has trouble breathing and swallowing.