Teens Young Women Middle Life Mature Women Reference Library
     
E: Conditions & Diseases

 

Please click on a topic below to learn more.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


Eczema
Emphysema
Encephalitis
Endocarditis
Endometriosis
Epilepsy
Esophageal Cancer
Essential Tremor

Eczema
Other names: Dermatitis, atopic dermatitis

Eczema is inflammation of the skin that may be caused by a number of factors but is usually due to an allergic reaction. Eczema may occur at any age but is most common among infants. Symptoms include:

  • Dry skin
  • Itching skin
  • Flaking skin
  • Itchy blisters

Eczema is diagnosed through a physical exam and possibly a skin biopsy or patch test. No cure exists for eczema, but a number of treatments are available to relieve symptoms. Keeping skin moisturized helps. Your physician may prescribe a cream that contains a steroid to reduce inflammation and itch. In some cases antibiotics or oral antihistamines may also be prescribed. If irritants are known, avoid coming into contact with them.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Emphysema
Emphysema is a life-long respiratory disease in which small air sacs in the lungs, called alveoli, become damaged. This deterioration makes breathing difficult and ultimately destroys lung tissue.

Emphysema is the fourth most common cause of death in the US and the most common cause of death from a respiratory disease. An estimated 1.8 million Americans have the disease, which is most often caused by smoking. Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Heavy cough
  • Barrel-shaped chest
  • Morning headaches

Diagnosis of emphysema includes a number of pulmonary function tests, including a chest X-ray, ECG and blood tests. A spirometry test, which is a method of measuring air flow and lung capacity, may also be ordered by the physician.

No cure exists for emphysema, so treatment strives to slow the progression of the disease, relieve symptoms and prevent complications. Removal of the irritant is key, which means avoiding smoking. Medications such as bronchodilators, which relax bronchial muscles and widen airways, are used to make breathing easier. Controlled coughing techniques may be taught to help remove excess mucus from the lungs. Drinking lots of fluids will help prevent thick mucus. Oxygen therapy also helps keep blood oxygen within normal levels. Moderate exercise can help improve breathing.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Encephalitis
Encephalitis is a rare condition characterized by swelling of the brain usually caused by a viral infection. Any number of viruses such as flu, chicken pox or mononucleosis can cause encephalitis. In the US, it is most often caused by the herpes simplex virus. Viruses that are spread by bites from mosquitoes or ticks may also cause encephalitis.

Encephalitis is a potentially life-threatening disease. Most people recover in a few weeks, but some experience permanent problems, such as seizures, memory loss or personality changes. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Stiff neck and back
  • Drowsiness
  • Seizures

Removing a sample of spinal fluid with a spinal tap and testing the sample for viruses that cause encephalitis, as well as a high white blood count, may diagnose encephalitis. The physician may also order other diagnostic tests, such as an MRI, EEG or blood tests.

Most cases of encephalitis are initially treated in the intensive care unit. Treatment methods vary based on the cause of the condition.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Endocarditis
Endocarditis is an inflammation of the heart chambers or heart valves. It may be caused by a bacterial infections from a number of organisms, but is most often the result of bacteria entering the bloodstream through a minor cut, or during a medical or dental procedure. Those with a defective or artificial heart valve also are at risk of developing endocarditis.

If left untreated, the infection may damage or destroy the affected heart value and the infection may spread to other parts of the body. Symptoms of endocarditis include:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Chills or sweating

Your physician may recommend that you receive a series of blood tests to determine the cause of the infection and an echocardiogram so that your heart’s valves can be evaluated. If you are diagnosed with endocarditis, your physician probably will prescribe antibiotics to cure the infection and may require that you be hospitalized while the antibiotics are administered. If the condition is severe, surgery may be required.

If you have been affe ted by endocarditis, you’ll probably be asked to carry a card that in emergency situations will identify you as being at risk of developing endocarditis. You also should alert your physician at the first sign of any infection and notify your dentist that you need antibiotics prior to a dental procedure.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a common gynecologic condition affecting about 10 percent of women of childbearing age. It occurs when endometrial tissue found normally in the uterus is found elsewhere in the body—such as in the ovaries, around the fallopian tubes, bladder or ligaments behind the uterus.

The cause of endometriosis is not known, but those with a mother or sister who has had the condition are at a higher risk of developing it than others. Other factors that increase the likelihood of developing endometriosis include having an abnormally shaped uterus, having a first child after the age of 30 and having periods that last longer than a week.

The type or severity of symptoms relating to endometriosis do not indicate the severity of the condition. Women with severe cases of endometriosis may exhibit no symptoms, and women with only a mild case may have severe symptoms. Symptoms include:

  • Menstrual cramps
  • Heavy or irregular periods
  • Painful intercourse
  • Painful bowel movements and urination
  • Lower back pain
  • Infertility
  • Spotting between periods

Endometriosis is usually diagnosed with a pelvic exam and through a laparoscopic procedure. Your physician may also order an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI as well as blood tests.

Treatment of endometriosis varies based on symptoms, age, the extent of the disease and whether you plan to have children. The only permanent cure for endometriosis is to remove the uterus. Other forms of treatment are designed to manage symptoms. For instance, over-the-counter or prescription-strength medications may be prescribed to relieve pain and slow the progression of endometriosis.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Epilepsy
Other name: Seizure disorder

Epilepsy is a brain disorder characterized by abnormal electrical signals in the brain that cause repeated episodes of seizures. The severity of the seizure may vary from a loss of consciousness and convulsions to a mere period of confusion.

In most cases, epilepsy is diagnosed early in life but some cases may develop as late as the mid 20s. Epileptic seizures may be triggered by a number of things from flashing lights to lack of sleep. Epilepsy and the related seizures can affect a person’s independence since one cannot predict when a seizure may occur. Several different types of epileptic seizures have been identified, including petit mal seizures and grand mal seizures. Symptoms include:

  • Jerking or twitching
  • Partial to total loss of consciousness
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Seeing illusions
  • Hearing sounds that aren’t present
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Fluttering or rapidly blinking eyelids

Epilepsy is diagnosed based on symptoms during a seizure and the results of diagnostic tests, such as ECG and blood tests. Treatment should never involve restraints. In fact, a person having a seizure may need clothing loosened. Hard and sharp objects should be removed from the area. If the seizure causes the person to bite his or her tongue, a soft, folded cloth may be placed between the person’s tongue and teeth. Turning the head to the side may help with breathing.

Anti-seizure medications are prescribed for those with epilepsy. More than one medication may be required, and patients must see their physicians regularly to monitor the amount of drugs in the bloodstream and check for possible side effects. Surgery may be required for patients whose seizures cannot be controlled with medication or for those who experience serious side effects due to medication. Often symptoms can be controlled and epilepsy can be carefully managed with the proper medications and treatment.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Esophageal Cancer
Other names: Cancer of the esophagus

Esophageal cancer is a fairly uncommon malignant tumor of the esophagus, the tube in which food passes from the mouth to the stomach. This type of cancer most often occurs among men 50 years of age or older. Symptoms, which rarely show up until late in the disease, include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing
  • Chest or back pain
  • Hoarseness
  • Heartburn
  • Vomiting blood

Risk factors, which do not cause the disease but are common factors among those diagnosed with esophageal cancer, include:

  • Alcohol and tobacco use
  • Plummer-Vinson syndrome
  • Longstanding acid reflux/Barrett’s esophagus
  • Food additives such as nitrates

Treatment depends on the severity of the disease but usually includes surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and a stint to keep the esophagus open. Surgery alone is only effective for patients in the early stages of the disease.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Essential Tremor
Other name: Idiopathic tremor

An estimated 5 million people in the US suffer from an involuntary trembling caused by abnormalities in the brain that are not related to a disease or any other underlying condition. An essential tremor occurs most often in the hands and head during purposeful movements such as holding a glass, buttoning a shirt or writing. However, it also may affect the voice, eyelids and other muscles.

Approximately 50 percent of those who suffer from essential tremors have a family history of the disorder. The cause of essential tremors among those without a family history is not known. Essential tremors develop gradually, and their severity varies from person to person. Factors that may worsen the condition include stress, fatigue and extreme weather conditions.

Diagnosis is based on symptoms, a physical examination and an evaluation of family history. Blood and urine tests may also help physicians rule out other possible causes.

Physicians may treat essential tremors with a variety of prescription medications. Some surgical treatments are also available.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)