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D: Conditions & Diseases

 

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Dandruff
Dehydration
Dementia
Depression
Dermatitis
Dermatomyositis

Dermatophytosis
Diabetes
Diabetic Retinopathy
Diarrhea
Difficulty Swallowing
Diphtheria
Diverticulosis
Dizziness
Down Syndrome
Dry Eyes
Dyslexia

Dandruff
Other names: Seborrhea, seborrheic dermatitis

Dandruff is characterized by dry, flaky skin on the scalp. Dandruff is caused by a skin condition called seborrheic dermatitis, and it affects millions of people

Anyone can develop dandruff at any time, and the cause is not known. Most cases of dandruff do not require a physician’s diagnosis unless they are severe. Most people who experience milder cases find that using a shampoo medicated with selenium sulfide, tar, salicylic acid or ketoconazole is effective in treating dandruff. Over-the-counter cortisone creams also will help by reducing inflammation.

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)

Dehydration

Dehydration is excessive loss of water from the body. Dehydration may occur due to vomiting, diarrhea, high fever, exposure to heat, strenuous exercise, certain medications, inadequate consumption of fluids and fluid imbalance due to underlying conditions or diseases. Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Thirst
  • Weakness
  • Decreased urination
  • Nausea
  • Cracked lips
  • Weight loss
  • Chills
  • Cramps
  • Confusion
  • Shakiness
  • Dry skin

To replace fluids, drink a small amount of clear liquid every 15 to 30 minutes, avoid alcoholic or caffeinated beverages since they are diuretics and cause fluid loss. If you cannot sufficiently replace the fluids and your condition does not improve, contact your physician. Dehydration is often overcome with isotonic sports drinks, such as Gatorade®. The World Health Organization developed a simple solution to treat dehydration among people in remote areas that may be prepared at home. It consists of 3/4 teaspoon table salt, 1 teaspoon baking power, 4 tablespoons sugar, 1 cup orange juice and 1 quart water.

Diagnosis of dehydration may involve a physical exam, review of symptoms and medical history and possible blood, urine or stool samples. Treatment strives to replace lost fluids in the body as well as electrolytes. If an underlying disease or condition is identified as the cause, your physician also will recommend appropriate 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)

Dementia
Dementia is the gradual deterioration of memory and mental capacity. A person with dementia is usually awake and alert but finds that she can’t concentrate or remember things as well as she once did. Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells that may result from an injury or a related disease such as Alzheimer’s.

Dementia occurs most often among those 65 years of age or older or in those who have sustained an injury or disease that affects brain function. While dementia occurs most frequently among the elderly, it is not a normal part of the aging process. In some cases, a family history of dementia may be present.

Dementia may be very frustrating to the sufferer early on when she is aware of the changes that are occurring. Symptoms of dementia include:

  • Memory loss
  • Impulsive, possibly uncharacteristic behavior
  • A decline in the ability to perform daily activities
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Poor hygiene

Dementia is diagnosed by studying the patient’s medical history and by conducting a physical and neurological exam. In some cases, dementia may be caused by an underlying condition, such as a vitamin deficiency, and may be reversed. In other cases, treatment may have to be limited to improving the patient’s quality of life as much as possible by establishing a regular schedule, constant supervision and support. Physicians may prescribe medication for their patients who experience depression or hallucinations.

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)

Depression
Depression is a word often used to describe feeling down, but it is a serious medical condition that can dramatically interfere with one’s ability to function. In fact, depression is the leading cause of disability in the US. The condition can have a devastating effect on families, friendships and performance at work or school.

An estimated 19 million people in the US experience depression each year. Clinical depression can be both mental and physical. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is associated with hormonal abnormalities that can lead to changes in tissues. Depression may be caused by a number of factors, such as genetics; psychological and social factors, including low self-esteem and excessive worry; and dramatic changes or significant loss. Symptoms of depression include:

  • Sadness
  • Loss of interest in normal hobbies and activities
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in weight and appetite
  • Feelings of worthlessness

A diagnosis of major depression may include a physical exam and diagnostic tests to ensure that depression is not caused by another condition, such as a thyroid problem. A diagnosis of major depression requires that symptoms interfere with normal function for at least two weeks and several episodes of depression occur over several months. A milder form of depression called dysthymic depression is diagnosed when a person experiences mild depression for at least two years with at least two other symptoms of depression. Many of those diagnosed with dysthymic depression will eventually develop major depression. Manic-depression occurs much less frequently than other forms of depression and involves alternating episodes of depression and manic episodes in which those affected experience feelings of euphoria.

Treatment of depression usually involves prescription medications that affect the chemical levels in the brain. Treatment of severe cases of depression may require a combination of medication, psychotherapy or, in very severe cases, electroconvulsive therapy. More than 80 percent of those with depression show improvement when they receive appropriate 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)

Dermatitis
Dermatitis is an allergic reaction that causes inflammation of the skin and an itchy rash. Several types of dermatitis exist that have different characteristics, but all usually have symptoms that occur within 48 hours.

The most common causes of dermatitis include poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. Chemicals, such as chlorine, cleaners, detergents, glues and perfumes, also can cause the condition. Burns and sunburns may make skin more sensitive and increase the risk of developing dermatitis. The characteristics of the rash may vary.

Dermatitis is diagnosed based on the appearance of the rash and its location. For instance, contact dermatitis may occur on any part of the body but is most often found on the hands, feet and groin. Seborrheic dermatitis appears on the scalp, eyelids, face, ears, underarms, breasts and groin. The physician may scrape off a sample of the affected skin and examine it under a microscope as part of the diagnosis.

Treatment includes avoiding the cause of the irritation and using prescription and over-the-counter creams to reduce inflammation and irritation. In some cases, oral antihistamines or antibiotics may be recommended.

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)

Dermatomyositis
Dermatomyositis is a connective tissue disorder that causes inflammation of the skin and muscles. This disorder affects both adults and children and can make normal daily functions a chore.

Dermatomyositis usually begins as a rash and is followed by muscle weakness. Those affected may find it challenging to rise from a sitting position, climb stairs, carry groceries, reach items overhead and, in some instances, even swallow. Symptoms of dermatomyositis include:

  • Blue-purple rash
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Low-grade fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Itching
  • Calcium deposits under skin

Dermatomyositis is diagnosed based on a physical exam and blood tests. Your physician may also order a electromyography, which records muscle response to nervous stimulation.

Dermatomyositis is usually treated with a steroid drug, such as prednisone.

Immunosuppressants may be prescribed as an alternative to prednisone. Physical therapy may be required to prevent loss of muscle function.

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)

Dermatophytosis
Other names: Ringworm, tinea, dermatophytid

Dermatophytosis is a common group of fungal infections that affect the skin, hair and nails and are usually classified based on where on the body the infection occurs. For instance, tinea capitis is dermatophytosis of the scalp and tinea pedis is dermatophytosis of the feet, which also is commonly known as athlete’s foot.

Several different fungi may cause dermatophytosis. It is spread by direct contact with the infected person or direct contact with infected items, such as towels and shoes. The severity of the infection varies from mild to severe. Symptoms include:

  • Itching in the affected area
  • A ring-shaped rash

Diagnosis of dermatophytosis requires ruling out other possible causes of the symptoms, such as eczema or psoriasis. A sample of skin scraped from a sore may also help confirm a case of dermatophytosis.

Treatment usually requires keeping the skin clean and dry and using either topical or oral antifungal medications. Onychomycosis, a nail fungus, may require oral treatment because the fungus is deep in the nail, which topical solutions cannot penetrate.

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)

Diabetes
Other names: Diabetes mellitus, Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes

Diabetes develops when your body doesn’t make enough insulin to convert blood sugar into energy or is not able to appropriately use the insulin your body is producing. In those with diabetes, glucose levels build up in blood or urine. This elevated glucose level can seriously affect other parts of the body if left untreated.

An estimated 17 million people in the US – 6 percent of the population – have diabetes and the number continues to increase. More than 400,000 deaths are attributed to the disease each year, making diabetes the sixth leading cause of death in the US. Symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Excessive urination
  • Increased thirst and hunger
  • Blurred vision
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
  • Slow-healing skin sores

Diabetes can be either Type 1, which is juvenile-onset diabetes and caused by a damaged pancreas, or Type 2, which is the more common adult-onset form of diabetes caused by the body not being able to use insulin correctly. Type 2 diabetes occurs most often among those 45 years of age or older, and 80 percent are significantly overweight. Another form of Type 2 diabetes is gestational diabetes, which develops during pregnancy and usually goes away after pregnancy. However, gestational diabetes puts a woman at greater risk of developing a more permanent case later.

Diabetes is diagnosed based on symptoms and a blood test conducted after fasting. Treatment may vary based on the type of diabetes. In most cases, your physician will discuss ways to control the amount of glucose in your blood. This may be accomplished through a specific diet, exercise and oral or injected insulin medication.

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)

Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes and the leading cause of blindness in people between the ages of 40 and 60 in the US. This condition affects blood flow to the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back wall of the eye.

Two types of diabetic retinopathy have been identified—background retinopathy and proliferative retinopathy. Background retinopathy is not sight threatening but may be an indication of future complications and should be monitored. The condition does not worsen in approximately 60 percent of those diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, which causes changes in blood vessels in the retina and may cause hemorrhage or restricted blood supply.

Proliferative retinopathy occurs when the blood supply to the retina is obstructed. As a result, the eye tries to produce new vessels on the retina that may burst and leak into the fluid in the eye’s main chamber. If the fluid in the eye’s main chamber is cloudy, light cannot pass through it and vision becomes distorted or blocked. This condition may lead to retinal detachment and other eye diseases such as glaucoma. Symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Moving spots or floaters

Treatment is not necessary for background retinopathy. Treatment for proliferative retinopathy usually involves laser treatment that deters the development of new vessels on the retina. This procedure cannot be performed if the liquid in the center of the eye is cloudy. If this is the case, surgically removing and replacing this fluid must occur first.

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)

Diarrhea
Diarrhea occurs when a person has bowel movements that are looser or more frequent than normal. This occurs when the colon is hyperactive. Most people will have a few bouts of diarrhea each year.

In most cases, diarrhea occurs a few times in one day and goes away in a day or two without any treatment necessary. Acute diarrhea lasts several weeks, and chronic diarrhea lasts more than five months. Symptoms of diarrhea include:

  • Loose stool
  • Dehydration
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry eyes
  • Infrequent urination
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Vomiting

Since diarrhea may be caused by a bacterial or viral infection, is important that those with the condition wash their hands frequently to avoid spreading this condition to others. Over-the-counter medications may help stop the diarrhea. It also is important to drink plenty of fluid and eat starchy foods that are easier to digest.

If you are experiencing acute or chronic diarrhea, see your physician. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which may cause kidney failure, neurological damage and other conditions. Diarrhea may also be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition, such as intestinal 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)

Difficulty Swallowing
Other name: Dysphagia

Difficulty swallowing is usually caused by one of two problems – a dysfunction in the way the esophagus muscles are functioning or a narrowing of the esophagus. A less common cause of swallowing problems is esophageal cancer.

The most common problem with swallowing is caused by the narrowing of the esophagus due to inflammation from gastrointestinal esophageal reflux disease (GERD). As the esophagus gets narrower, solid food may become trapped. Most people wait for the food to pass through, but some try to induce vomiting to clear the obstruction. In extreme cases, a doctor may have to insert a scope into the esophagus to remove the food.

When the problem isn’t related to GERD, it may be caused by achalasia, a condition that affects the esophagus muscles.

To diagnose the cause, your physician will review your medical history, go over your symptoms and conduct a physical exam and an upper gastrointestinal (GI) series. Once a diagnosis has been made, an appropriate treatment plan will be developed.

If a narrowing esophagus is the problem, your physician may recommend a procedure to stretch the esophagus back to an appropriate size. If a muscle condition is suspected, further tests may be required to validate the diagnosis. Medications are available to help relieve the symptoms related to this condition.

Thyroid disease or a goiter (enlarged thyroid) can cause difficulty swallowing.

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)

Diphtheria
Diphtheria is a bacterial disease that affects the tonsils, throat, nose and skin. It may lead to respiratory problems, heart failure, paralysis and even death.

Diphtheria is transmitted when a healthy person breathes in an infected droplet that was expelled into the air when an infected person coughed or sneezed. You also may contract the disease by handling items such as a glass or tissues that were used by an infected person.

A vaccine will prevent you from contracting diphtheria. Most people get the first dose as a child in a combined vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis called DTP. Adults should get boosters every 10 years in a combination vaccine for diphtheria and tetanus. Symptoms of diphtheria, which appear two to four days after exposure, include:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Painful, red skin sores

Diagnosis is usually based on a review of the symptoms and physical exam as well as diagnostic tests, such as a throat culture. Diphtheria is a serious disease and should be treated promptly. Treatment typically requires hospitalization and diphtheria antitoxin. Antibiotics also are part of normal treatment for diphtheria.

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)

Diverticulosis
Other names: Diverticulitis, diverticular disease

Diverticulosis is the name given to a condition characterized by small sacs that protrude through weak places in the colon. Nearly half of the US population between the ages of 60 and 80 have diverticulosis and the percentage is even higher among those 80 years of age or older.

Diverticulitis, which affects 10 to 25 percent of those with diverticulosis, occurs when the small sacs become infected or inflamed. Most physicians believe the cause of this condition is due to a diet low in fruits, vegetables and grains because it was first observed in the 1900s when processed foods became a larger part of the American diet.

The exact cause of the infection or inflammation is not known, but some think it may begin when stool or bacteria become trapped in the protruding sacs. Many people with this condition have no symptoms and are diagnosed while being tested for other ailments. Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Tenderness on the left side of the abdomen
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chills
  • Cramping
  • Constipation

Diagnosis of diverticulosis and diverticulitis is based on a physical examination and tests such as a digital rectal exam, CT scan or X-rays. Treatment includes a high-fiber diet and mild pain medications. Severe cases may require hospitalization or surgery. Most people will experience a full recovery.

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)

Dizziness
Almost everyone experiences an episode of dizziness, which is the sensation of spinning or losing balance. An estimated two million people visit the doctor each year with complaints of dizziness or balance-related disorders.

Dizziness may come and go quickly without any known cause. However, it also may be a symptom of a more serious condition, such as an inner ear disturbance, tumor, infection, low blood pressure or brain injury.

Dizziness is usually diagnosed by a review of your medical history and symptoms, a physical exam and diagnostic tests. Treatment is based on the cause of the dizziness. For instance, if an infection is the cause, your physician may recommend bed rest and antibiotics. If your doctor suspects the dizziness is due to an inner ear disturbance, medication may be prescribed to affect the system in your inner ear that is responsible for maintaining balance. In extreme cases, surgery may be required.

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)

Down Syndrome
Other names: Trisomy 21

Down syndrome occurs when a person is born with an extra or irregular chromosome in some or all cells. These chromosomal abnormalities may result in mental retardation and the development of distinct physical characteristics.

Down syndrome is a life-long condition that occurs in approximately 1 out of every 750 births. The risk for Down syndrome increases with the age of the mother. Symptoms of Down syndrome include:

  • Flattened facial features
  • Small ears and mouth
  • Broad hands and feet
  • Poor muscle tone, which improves later in life
  • Eyes that slant upward
  • Mental retardation
  • Congenital heart disease

Tests are available to screen for Down syndrome during pregnancy. A blood test known as the triple screen can identify levels of certain chemicals in a woman’s blood that may indicate the fetus is at risk for Down syndrome. Others tests that may aid in the diagnosis are chorionic villus sampling, fetal ultrasound and amniocentesis.

There is no treatment or cure for Down syndrome at this time. Strategies such as occupational therapy, speech therapy and physical therapy may help those with Down syndrome live more productive lives. Most people with Down syndrome live into their 50s or 60s, and the goal of therapy is to help them become as independent as possible.

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)

Dry Eyes
Other names: Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, keratitis sicca

Dry eyes result when there is a decline in the quality or quantity of tears that are produced. Dry eyes may lead to cornea damage and loss of vision. Many factors, such as stress, wind, sunlight, age, some medications and eyelid abnormalities, affect the effectiveness of the tears that coat the eyes. Dry eyes may also be caused by long-term contact lens use and conditions such as diabetes and laser eye surgery.

An estimated 10 million Americans suffer from dry eyes. Most of these cases are due to the normal aging process. More women than men suffer from this condition, and those with allergies or who wear contact lenses are at increased risk.

Symptoms of dry eyes include:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Decreased vision
  • A feeling of something in the eye
  • An inability to cry or excessive tears

In most cases, diagnosis of dry eyes is based on patient history. A patient must have exhibited symptoms of dry eyes for three months or more to be diagnosed with this condition.

Treatment usually includes the use of eye drops and ointments that provide temporary relief to stop or reverse any damage to the eye. The cause of dry eyes also may help determine additional treatment options such as hormone therapy, antibiotics and tiny plugs that may be placed in the ducts that drain tears from the eyes.

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)

Dyslexia
Other name: Developmental reading disorder

Dyslexia is a difference in brain function that affects a child’s ability to read, process graphic symbols, rhyme or break down sounds, which are important skills in learning to read. Typically, this developmental disorder is not obvious until a child is well into his or her school years. An estimated 20 percent of the population has some dyslexia, but the severity varies from person to person.

Most children with dyslexia have normal or above-average intelligence. Dyslexia is not caused by or related to vision problems and is not related to a child’s ability to think. With dyslexia some children have difficulty processing specific types of information. Dyslexia tends to appear as a developmental writing or mathematical disorder, both of which involve processing symbols to convey thoughts. Inattentiveness may also be a problem among children with dyslexia, because processing some forms of information is more difficult, so they may become tired sooner than others.

Diagnosis of dyslexia involves tests to rule out other factors such as reading disabilities, cultural and educational issues, emotional problems, mental retardation and other possible underlying causes. Dyslexia may be genetic, caused by damage to the brain when the child was a fetus or infant, or by a complication due to premature birth. Pregnant women should avoid the use of alcohol, tobacco and unnecessary medications.

Treatment varies but usually includes special tutoring using modified teaching methods to meet the needs of each child. Psychological counseling and positive reinforcement may be helpful with self-esteem and other issues. Usually, children improve dramatically with appropriate instruction, but reading difficulties may persist.

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)