These Health Conditions Can Start as Early as Your 20s

You hear it all the time from doctors — you have to take good care of your health when you’re young to stay in good shape as you age. Still, a lot of us in our 20s and 30s aren’t too worried about developing any diseases. We figure now’s the time to live it up at the bar and eat all the junk we want.

Well, there’s some bad news for the younger generations: There are a surprising number of ailments that actually tend to develop in young adults. And some of these conditions won’t even show negative consequences until much later. Don’t think you’re invincible just because you’re young — here are 10 health conditions that can develop when you’re in your 20s.

1. Multiple sclerosis

Man visiting the doctor for a check-up

Multiple sclerosis can hit you in your 20s. | iStock.com

You’ve probably heard of this rare disease before, but you may not realize that it typically develops during your 20s. Timothy Coetzee, chief research officer for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society tells Men’s Health multiple sclerosis affects your central nervous system, which involves your brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. This disease causes your immune system to attack the fatty substance that protects the nerves in your central nervous system, which can lead to a variety of symptoms. The scariest part about MS is that no two cases are alike.

Though the disease presents itself differently in every case, Coetzee explains in the story that it’s common for people with MS to experience blurry vision, extreme fatigue, numbness in the limbs, and difficulty walking. While there’s not yet a cure for this disease, the symptoms can be better managed when it’s caught early.

2. Bipolar disorder

worried young man sits on the edge of a bed

Bipolar disorder is a serious problem for young adults. | iStock.com

This mental health disorder typically affects those who hover around 25 years old, though it can also affect children or people in their late 40s or 50s. According to Valley Behavioral Health System, bipolar disorder is a health condition that heavily affects mood. Those who’ve been diagnosed experience episodes of mania, where they may feel euphoric and particularly goal-oriented, followed by periods of depression, where they’ll feel intense sorrow.

The cause of bipolar disorder isn’t known, though researchers think genetics play a big role. Experiencing major life changes or childhood trauma can also make a difference. There are several types, so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis.

3. Lupus

woman wearing jeans and jacket on the beach

Lupus primarily affects women, particularly young women. | iStock.com/Marc_Espolet

According to Dr. Axe, lupus is an autoimmune disease that typically affects around 1.5 million people in the U.S. and up to 5 million people around the world. Most patients who have lupus are women (about 90%, in fact), and many of them are quite young. For this reason, women in their 20s really shouldn’t blow off regular visits to the doctor.

The symptoms for lupus vary, but symptoms may include rashes, mood changes, exhaustion, and headaches. It’s tough for doctors to correctly diagnose lupus as well, because the symptoms are so closely related to a few other diseases. It’s a serious condition, but thanks to modern medicine, it can be managed.

4. Alzheimer’s disease

brain and label to indicate Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer’s may begin earlier in age than originally thought. | iStock.com

Though this disease is associated with the elderly, new research is finding Alzheimer’s can start developing in the early 20s. According to research published in 2015, the plaque buildup associated with this disease may start in early adulthood. If you’re in your 20s and have a family history of Alzheimer’s, don’t panic — there are things you can do to minimize your risk. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, staying physically active and maintaining a healthy diet could help with prevention.

5. Psoriasis

Man moisturizing his face

Psoriasis can hit people in their 20s and then again later in life. | iStock.com

Psoriasis, an autoimmune disease characterized by scaly patches on the skin that’s often associated with diabetes and heart disease, can strike at any time during your life, but Cleveland Clinic says it typically comes in two stages. The first stage often shows up during your 20s and the second stage occurs during your 50s. Both genetics and the immune system play a role in developing this disease, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation, and the patches may be painful, itchy, or feel as though they’re burning.

There’s also not a one-size-fits-all psoriasis diagnosis, so figuring out which one you have is key for treatment. Sometimes over-the-counter remedies are all you need. In more severe cases, doctors may prescribe a combination of oral and topical medications.

6. Acne

young woman with clear complexion in the bathroom

Acne can hit you way beyond your teen years. | iStock.com

You may associate breakouts and oily skin with your teen years, but not everyone grows out of it. In fact, acne may first develop for some adults during their 20s. This is especially true for women. Dermatologist Michael Lin tells Bustle women who develop acne in their 20s and 30s do so because of hormonal changes. Acne during teenage years, on the other hand, is often the result of overactive oil glands and clogged pores. 

7. Fibromyalgia

woman massaging her painful neck

Fibromyalgia affects many women in their 20s. | iStock.com/SIphotography

Fibromyalgia diagnosis is tricky —  Prevention says it’s even sometimes called an invisible illness. Though it affects roughly 6 million Americans, there isn’t a clear medical cause. Those who have it experience widespread pain in their muscles and joints and feel easily fatigued by everyday tasks. Even seemingly simple activities, like driving a car or watching a movie, can cause pain. While many people associate the disease with the elderly, it can develop much earlier in life.

In the same story, Dr. Beth Hodges says she treats plenty of women in their 20s and some young men. Since there’s no one-size-fits-all medication to treat chronic pain, it’s really important for people with fibromyalgia to maintain contact with their physicians. 

8. Crohn’s disease

female holding her belly due to a Stomach Ache

Crohn’s disease can have a major effect on someone in their 20s. | iStock.com

Crohn’s disease usually develops during your 20s, says Healthline. Those who have the autoimmune disease experience inflammation in their GI tract that’s caused from healthy cells attacking themselves. Cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain are all common symptoms in the early stages, and as the disease progresses, the risk of developing colon cancer and malnutrition rises.

Those who have a family history of Crohn’s disease are more likely to develop it. Diet and exercise also come into play, as high-fat diets and obesity increase your risk. If any of the above symptoms sound familiar, talk to your doctor.

9. Rheumatoid arthritis

A man with arthritis who is experiencing pain from swollen joints because of inflammation

Arthritis doesn’t just occur in those over 30. | iStock.com

According to WebMD, rheumatoid arthritis can occur in both men and women in their 20s — and it’s not as uncommon as you may think. In the story, Cynthia Crowson, a researcher at Mayo Clinic, says the risk of developing it during your 20s is one in 714 for women and one in 2,778 for men.

Of course, there are other risk factors to consider. If other people in your family have any autoimmune diseases, then you’re more likely to develop this or any other autoimmune condition. And if rheumatoid arthritis runs in your family, smoking can increase your risk. There’s no cure, but anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids may help. 

10. Schizophrenia

sad woman grasping her head

Schizophrenia can develop in your 20s. | iStock.com

Schizophrenic episodes can be quite scary, and they typically begin among adults who are in their 20s. PsychCentral says schizophrenic behaviors usually start for in their early 20s, whereas women are more commonly affected in their late 20s. While some people may experience an abrupt personality change or sudden delusions, most others gradually show symptoms. And many people who are experiencing delusions typically aren’t aware of their strange behaviors, making the mental illness all the more troubling.

In general, schizophrenia is diagnosed among those who have delusions, hallucinations, and are incoherent when speaking. These individual may also have difficulty expressing emotions and appear agitated or disorganized. Schizophrenia doesn’t appear the same exact way in every case, and it’s actually a pretty rare diagnosis. With that said, it can cause serious disruption and rifts in close relationships if left undiagnosed.

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