Regular doctor visits are crucial, even if you haven’t experienced any obvious symptoms or pressing concerns. This is because a silent disease may be present that can go unnoticed.
A silent disease is a medical condition that does not exhibit noticeable symptoms in its early stages, earning it the moniker of “silent killer.” Early detection and prevention are key, so it’s important to be aware of these diseases.
In this article, we will explore five of the most common silent diseases: hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, sleep apnea, and depression. You’ll learn about their causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
Do you want to learn more? Let’s get started!
1. Understanding Hypertension: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Hypertension, also known as High Blood Pressure (HBP), is a condition in which the force of blood against the walls of the arteries is too high. A normal blood pressure reading, according to the American Heart Organization is less than 120 Hg (upper reading) and less than 80 hg (lower reading).
Get to know more about blood pressure reading by clicking here.
Even though Hypertension can happen without showing any signs, It can be caused by various factors, including genetics, age, and unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and obesity. Some other factors like a family history of hypertension, ethnicity – African Americans are at a higher risk than other ethnic groups- or other underlying health conditions may increase the risk of developing this disease.
Hypertension can lead to serious health complications if left untreated, including heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and heart failure. It can also cause damage to the blood vessels in the eyes, leading to vision loss.
Hypertension: symptoms and signs
Due to its silent nature, hypertension is known to go undetected by most patients. For this reason, it is essential that blood pressure is measured regularly. When symptoms show up,
The World Health Organization (WHO) says some people may experience:
- Irregular heart rhythms
- Vision changes
- Buzzing in the ears
In severe cases of hypertension, symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, confusion, anxiety, chest pain, and muscle tremors may also appear.
How to diagnose and treat Hypertension?
The best way to diagnose Hypertension is by a blood pressure test that is performed using a pressure cuff (sphygmomanometer). The cuff is placed around the upper arm and inflated manually or electronically. The cuff compresses the brachial artery to temporarily stop blood flow. Finally, as the air in the cuff is slowly released, the measurement is taken.
Learn more about The blood pressure test.
If you’re diagnosed with Hypertension, your doctor may recommend that you monitor your blood pressure at home and at your regular health care appointments. Treatment options include lifestyle changes such as:
- Eating a healthy diet low in salt and saturated fat.
- Exercising regularly
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Quitting smoking
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Reducing stress
In terms of medication, there are several classes of drugs commonly used to treat hypertension, such as diuretics, which help the body eliminate excess water and salt, or beta-blockers, which slow the heart rate and reduce the workload of the heart. Rarely, is surgery recommended to treat hypertension. Unless the blood vessels are in danger, it is no common way out.
Get the full list of prescribed medication for Hypertension here.
Diabetes is a chronic disease characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. According to the International Diabetes Foundation, it occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin, or when the body cannot use insulin properly.
Diabetes can develop in different ways. The three main types are type 1, type 2, and gestational.
- Type 1 diabetes: The body produces very little or no insulin, which implies daily insulin injections to maintain blood glucose levels under control.
- Type 2 diabetes: This is the most common type of diabetes in adults. Insulin is not properly utilized by the body. Patients require oral drugs or insulin to maintain healthy blood glucose levels.
- Gestational diabetes: This type of diabetes consists of an elevated blood glucose level during pregnancy and leads to complications for both mother and child.
As for the causes of diabetes, each type has an explanation. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) says Type 1 Diabetes can be caused by genes or environmental factors. Type 2 Diabetes can be triggered by lifestyle factors and genes. And as for gestational diabetes, doctors attribute it to the hormonal changes or metabolic disorders experienced by the mother during pregnancy.
Diabetes: Symptoms and signs
Symptoms of Diabetes can appear quickly or very slowly. Type 1 diabetes is a fast one, Type 2 diabetes may develop over the course of several years or show no signs at all. However, The NIDDK also enlists some common symptoms of this disease:
- More thirst and urination
- Increased hunger
- Blurred vision
- Numbness/ tingling in the feet or hands
- Sores that do not heal
- Unexplained weight loss
Since Type 2 diabetes is the most common type accounting for around 90% of all diabetes cases. You are at a higher risk if you are age 35 or older. It can also happen to children and teens, but the risk increases as people get older. Some other risk factors are:
- Being overweight or obese
- Having a family history of diabetes
- Having a sedentary lifestyle
- Having prediabetes or Gestational diabetes
How to diagnose and treat Diabetes?
Diagnosis of diabetes typically involves a combination of laboratory tests and physical exams. The following tests may be used to diagnose diabetes:
- Fasting blood sugar test: Also called Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) test, it measures the amount of glucose in the blood after you have fasted for at least 8 hours.
- Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT): Measures the body’s response to glucose after a person has fasted and then consumed a sugary drink. This method helps doctors detect type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and gestational diabetes.
- A1C test: This test measures the average blood sugar level over the past two to three months. A reading of 7% or higher on two separate tests indicates diabetes. The higher the percentage is, the higher your average blood glucose levels are.
Treatment of diabetes depends on the type and severity of the disease. The main goal of treatment is to keep blood sugar levels within limits to prevent complications. Treatment of type 1 diabetes includes insulin therapy. People with type 1 diabetes need insulin because their pancreas cannot produce it independently. Insulin is also prescribed for type 2 diabetes. However, in individuals with type 2 diabetes, glucose levels can be controlled by making lifestyle changes, such as eating healthy foods, limiting calories, and being physically active.
Learn more about Diabetes treatment options.
Osteoporosis is a condition where bones become fragile and are more likely to break. It is categorized as a Silent disease because it often progresses without any symptoms until a fracture occurs. Osteoporosis means “porous bone according to the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation (BHOF), and can affect women, men and even young people.
Women are at a higher risk because of the hormone changes that happen during menopause. These changes directly affect bone density. Some other risk factors for women are:
- Having an early menopause
- Having absent periods for more than six months
- Had a hysterectomy (removal of the womb)
As far as men, the picture is a bit blurry. However, risk factors for Osteoporosis also include a family history of osteoporosis, prolonged use of high-dose steroids, an overactive thyroid gland or long periods of inactivity.
Osteoporosis: Symptoms and signs
Some people with osteoporosis may not have any symptoms until they experience a fracture, which is often the first sign of the disease. Some other people may experience symptoms caused by other conditions. In addition to bone fractures, symptoms and signs of osteoporosis can include:
- Back pain
- Loss of height over time
- A stooped posture
- Fractures occur more easily than expected. These fractures can occur in the wrist, spine, hip, and other bones
- Loss of bone density and mass
Find out more about Osteoporosis’s symptoms.
How to diagnose and treat osteoporosis?
Diagnosis of osteoporosis typically involves a combination of a physical examination, medical history, and screening tests. These are specially performed in women with high-risk conditions. The best way to diagnose Osteoporosis is by measuring bone density by DXA at the hip and spine.
Doctors will also perform physical exams to check for loss of height and weight, muscle strength, and changes in posture, and observe the way you walk. If the diagnosis is positive for the disease, the goal of the treatment will be to slow down or stop bone loss, thereby preventing fractures. Treatments for Osteoporosis mostly include
- Healthy nutrition: consuming lots of Calcium and vitamin D.
- Lifestyle changes: avoid smoking, and alcohol and visit the doctor for regular checkups.
- Exercise: physical therapy is highly recommended.
- Medications: Bisphosphonates and raloxifene are some of the medically approved drug therapies for Osteoporosis.
It’s important to note that according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), there’s a large variety of treatment options nowadays, and the type of treatment prescribed will depend on the individual risk profile.
4. Sleep Apnea
Sleep Apnea is a disorder in which a person’s breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep. These lapses may cause the person to wake up periodically; however, sleepers may not wake up at all and remain unaware that their breathing during the night is abnormal. When left untreated, Sleep Apnea can adversely affect the quality of sleep and possibly lead to serious health consequences.
Learn more about Sleep Apnea in this video.
There are several types of Sleep Apnea. The two most common types are classified according to the cause of sleep interruptions. As The Sleep Foundation states, these are Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Central Sleep Apnea.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): The most common type of Sleep Apnea affecting 10% to 30% of adults. It occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat collablock prevent air from passing normally. This may cause snoring.
- Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): This type occurs when the communication between the brain and the muscles that control breathing is interrupted, causing shallower breathing and temporary pauses.
Who’s at risk of Sleep Apnea? The main risk factors for OSA are age, sex, body weight, and some anatomical features of the head and neck area. As for CSA, having other medical problems, such as an infection or injury affecting the brain stem, heart or kidney failure, stroke, or excess growth hormone production, are considered risk factors.
Sleep Apnea: Symptoms and signs
The most prominent symptom of Sleep Apnea is abnormal nighttime breathing. Each type has its own symptoms and signs. The Sleep Foundations explains these are:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Loud snoring
- Morning headaches
- Need to get up from bed to urinate
- Dry mouth
- Irritability, and lack of concentration
CSA symptoms include slowing down, speeding up or most importantly, pausing of breathing.
How to diagnose and treat Sleep Apnea?
Diagnosis of sleep apnea typically involves a sleep study, which can be done in a sleep centre or at home. The most common sleep study is a polysomnogram (PSG), which records various body functions during sleep, including brain activity, eye movement, muscle activity, heart rate, and breathing.
Treatments also depend on the type of Sleep Apnea you are diagnosed with. Various methods are used to help reduce breathing disruptions and improve sleep, including:
- Positive Airway Pressure (PAP): This is the most common treatment for sleep apnea. It involves wearing a mask over the nose or mouth that delivers a continuous flow of air to help keep the airway open.
- Mouthpieces: These are devices worn in the mouth during sleep to help keep the airway open.
- Lifestyle changes: Losing weight, avoiding alcohol, and sleeping on your side can help reduce symptoms of Sleep Apnea.
- Surgery: Surgery may be recommended in some cases, such as to remove excess tissue from the throat or repair structural abnormalities that are blocking the airway.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 3.8% of the global population suffers from this mental disease. Depression is a mental health disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities that a person normally enjoys. This isn’t like mood swings and short-lived emotions. There is much suffering involved, as well as poor performance at work, school, and home. And at its worst, it can lead to suicide.
The causes of depression are not fully understood, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Some potential causes and risk factors for depression include Life events such as childhood adversity, loss, and unemployment, or preexisting conditions like cardiovascular disease or cancer.
Watch and learn more about Depression
Depression: Symptoms and signs
Depressive episodes include a complex range of symptoms and feelings. They can vary from person to person. However, the most common symptoms or mood patterns according to the WHO are:
- Feeling sad, irritable, empty
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
- Changes in appetite and weight (either loss or gain)
- Changes in sleep patterns (insomnia or excessive sleeping)
- Low energy and fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- Increased irritability or agitation
It is important to note that depression can present as a single episode, recurrent episodes, or bipolar disorder when depressive episodes alternate with periods of manic symptoms.
How to diagnose and treat Depression?
Diagnosis of Depression typically involves a comprehensive evaluation by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. Depending on the severity and pattern of depressive episodes over time, professionals may offer psychological treatments such as behavioural activation, cognitive-behavioural therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, or antidepressant medication.
Treatment options for depression include:
- Medication: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). Note that this is not the first line of treatment for mild depression. Especially for children.
- Therapy: Talking with a therapist helps individuals understand and work through their mental health.
- Face-to-face groups: individual or group face-to-face psychological treatments delivered by professionals and supervised lay therapists.
- Lifestyle changes: Making changes to diet, exercise, and sleep habits, as well as reducing stress, can help alleviate symptoms of depression.
Get to know Key Facts on Depression by clicking here.
It’s important to point out that regular check-ups and monitoring are crucial to ensure the treatment is working and make any necessary adjustments. Treatment should be tailored to an individual’s needs and should be provided by a qualified healthcare professional. It’s also important to remember that recovery from depression is possible, and with the right treatment and support, individuals can improve their mood and lead fulfilling lives.
So? Did you learn something new? Now you’re informed about symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for some of the most common hidden illnesses, keep in mind early detection is the key to preventing them from getting worse.
For example, in the case of Hypertension, early detection and treatment can help prevent damage to the heart and blood vessels, which can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Similarly, early detection and management of Diabetes can help prevent or delay the development of complications such as nerve damage, kidney disease, and blindness.
What to do next? Watch for any unusual behaviour in your mental and physical health; if you haven’t seen a doctor lately, it’s time to get checked out. Preventive care makes all the difference. At Da Vinci Health, we provide you with the best care, with the knowledge of top professionals and cutting-edge technology. Visit our website and find out about our medical services; anytime is a good time to take care of your health. Visit us! We’ll be happy to help you all the way.