Schizophrenia and 9 Other Diseases That Are Incurable

Every day, researchers and medical professionals make amazing advancements toward finding effective treatments for numerous diseases. We’ve never been better off than we are now, and for much of the world, the days of dying from scurvy and simple bacterial infections are long gone. While many ailments that would have killed us 100 years ago are no longer a threat, there’s still a long road ahead of us when it comes to curing other ailments. Here are 10 diseases medical professionals still have not found a cure for.

1.  Alzheimer’s disease

elderly couple drinking coffee together

Older couple drinking coffee together | iStock.com

Though we’ve all heard of this disease, the Alzheimer’s Association says there’s still no cure. It’s the most common form of dementia, the organization mentions, which is the catch-all term for having difficulties with memory, thinking, or reasoning that are serious enough to interfere with day-to-day living.

The biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s is age, though this disease doesn’t necessarily only appear in those 65 and older. In fact, early-onset cases have been documented in those in their 40s. On average, those with Alzheimer’s live about eight years after their symptoms start to affect them negatively.

There may not be a cure, but there are certainly treatments to consider. Some medications may be given to temporarily aid in confusion and memory loss, and the depression and anxiety from Alzheimer’s can also be treated. 

2. Diabetes

close-up of a man checking his blood sugar

Man with diabetes checks his blood sugar | iStock.com

To understand the threat of diabetes, it’s important to know what role insulin plays. This hormone comes from the pancreas and helps your cells use glucose, a type of sugar, for energy. Without regulated insulin, your blood sugar can rise to unsafe levels and put you at risk for other diseases.

The American Diabetes Association says children and young adults are most often diagnosed with type 1, a condition where body does not produce any insulin. In type 2 diabetes, which makes up 95% of all cases, the body develops insulin resistance, which results in high blood sugar. Though there’s no cure for either, those with type 2 can help control their blood glucose by eating right and exercising.

3. HIV/AIDS

a doctor holding a tablet

Doctor ready to give a diagnosis | iStock.com

AIDS is one of the most widely recognized sexually transmitted diseases, but many don’t fully understand the difference between this and the HIV virus. AIDS.gov says the latter is what you first contract through either sexual or blood contact with someone else who has the virus. HIV then attacks the immune system and, if left untreated, you become more susceptible to infections later in life. This virus can be so destructive, in fact, that it can weaken the body to the point where many diseases or infections becomes nearly impossible to fend off.

AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, is the final and most advanced stage of HIV. Not everyone who has HIV reaches this stage, but if it progresses to this point, you become susceptible to infections most people don’t need to worry about. This makes strains of bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens potentially deadly.

There’s no cure for HIV or AIDS, but medications can be taken to boost immunity and halt the virus’s progression.

4. Parkinson’s disease

doctor talking to a male patient in an exam room

Doctor talking to a patient | iStock.com

Parkinson’s disease itself fatal by itself, but its effects are often serious and can cause life-threatening complications down the line. The National Parkinson Foundation explains this disease affects the way your brain produces dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps our nervous system, motor skills, and brain all function well. If you have an insufficient amount of dopamine, you’re less able to regulate your movements, behaviors, and emotions.

Noticeable symptoms occur when between 60% and 80% of the cells that produce dopamine are so damaged that very little of this neurotransmitter is being released, the organization explains. In the beginning stages, you may have slight tremors or a change in posture, but it’s nothing that seems too serious. Eventually, though, these symptoms progress until day-to-day activities cannot be completed without assistance. There’s currently no cure or even standard treatment for Parkinson’s — each person is treated based on their specific symptoms, though medication and surgical therapy is typical.

5. Multiple sclerosis

woman massaging her painful neck

Woman feeling pain in her neck | iStock.com/SIphotography

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding multiple sclerosis, which makes it all the more difficult for those who’ve been diagnosed. The disease causes your immune system to attack your central nervous system, says the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. There’s not a single cause of the disease, though doctors believe there are several factors that play a role: the immune system, genetics, exposure to other viruses, and environment.

Symptoms vary from person to person, and they can also fluctuate over time. It’s common for those with MS to have difficulty walking, a general feeling of stiffness, problems with vision, chronic pain, and dizziness. When it comes to managing the disease, medications, therapies, and rehabilitation are useful for most who are diagnosed. Even still, treatment is an ongoing process that is specifically catered toward what the individual needs.

6. Lupus

woman sleeping at her laptop

Woman sleeping at her laptop | iStock.com

Though more people are becoming aware of lupus, a cure has not been found. The Lupus Foundation of America explains it’s is a chronic disease where the immune system produces antibodies that attack healthy cells and tissue, which then causes inflammation, pain, and damage. Lupus affects a wide variety of organs, which means many different symptoms are associated with the disease and no two cases look exactly the same. Typically, extreme fatigue, headaches, swelling in the feet and legs, and chest pain are common. These symptoms look a lot like those of other diseases, so it can be quite difficult to diagnose.

Each patient’s treatment plan looks different, but doctors generally try to reduce inflammation, halt the immune system from overreacting, and minimize any damage to the organs. While lupus can range from mild to severe, most people can live a long, healthy life with proper treatment.

7. Polio

young children eating at McDonald's

Thanks to childhood vaccinations, this disease is no longer common | Kristian Dowling/Getty Images

Thanks to vaccines, no one worries too much about polio anymore, but it’s still worth noting some countries still struggle with it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains this disease starts with the poliovirus, which can cause lifelong paralysis or death. Prior to the vaccines, polio caused more than 15,000 cases of paralysis per year in the states. Risk is now generally low, but travelers from other countries who have the disease can still potentially bring it into the U.S. This is why getting vaccinated is still extremely important.

What’s scary about polio is that many adults and children with it never even know they have the disease, says Mayo Clinic. Nonparalytic polio doesn’t lead to paralysis and just causes mild, flu-like symptoms. In rarer cases, though, the infection can lead to paralysis. The disease is incredibly contagious, and those who have it can unknowingly spread it to others, which can obviously lead to some serious outbreaks.

8. Asthma

an asthma inhaler dispensing a dose of medication

An inhaler for asthma | Getty Images

The majority of people with asthma are able to manage it with treatment, but still there is no cure. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology explains this condition involves chronically inflamed airways. Asthma limits the air passage and makes it difficult to breathe. Coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest are all common symptoms.

There are many forms of this disease, and different factors can trigger the inflammation. Exercise-induced asthma, for example, causes airway constriction during physical activity, while occupational asthma is caused from inhaling fumes or harmful gases on the job. If you have asthma, your doctor will likely prescribe an inhaler or another medication to control symptoms.

9. Schizophrenia

man looking stressed

An upset man | iStock.com

The causes of schizophrenia aren’t known and, while there’s no cure, there are several treatments available. This disease affects how a person reacts, thinks, and feels, says the National Institute of Mental Health. And though uncommon, the effects can be severe. Some people have hallucinations, others have a difficult time connecting with their emotions, and still others have trouble with their memory. Scientists tend to think there are specific genes that can increase the risk of developing this disease, but no one gene causes the illness all on its own. Additionally, malnutrition at birth and exposure to viruses could be risk factors.

The therapies available for those with schizophrenia focus on treating the symptoms of the disease. Mayo Clinic highlights those available, including a few classes of antipsychotics as well as psychosocial interventions.

10. Cancer

A doctor goes over a patient''s x-ray screening for colon cancer

A doctor goes over a patient’s X-ray screening for colon cancer | American Cancer Society/Getty Images

The second leading cause of death in the U.S. is cancer and, unfortunately, rates continue to rise. The American Cancer Society explains the disease begins when unhealthy cells start to grow out of control until there are more of these cells than normal cells. It can start anywhere in the body — in your internal organs, the skin, or even the blood. Cancerous cells can also start one place and travel to another, causing an even more dire situation.

Though there isn’t a cure, there are effective treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery that have helped many live long, full lives. While the exact cause of cancer is unknown, avoiding carcinogens can help. And, of course, living and active and healthy lifestyle can help minimize risk.