ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
ADHD is one of the most common childhood mental disorders, and is one that can continue into adulthood. It is characterized by trouble focusing, paying attention, and over-activity. Three sub types include predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, predominantly inattentive (less likely to act out/have difficulties getting along with children), and a combination of the two. Symptoms of these subtypes include struggling to follow instructions, fidgeting in their seats, nonstop talking, blurting inappropriate comments, and others. One effective and popular treatment used for ADHD are the various medications available, such as Adderall and Ritalin. However, another option is psychotherapy.
ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)
ALS is a neurodegenerative that has an affect on nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The word "amyotrophic" itself means "no muscle nourishment, "lateral" refers to where it is located, and "sclerosis" is the hardening/scarring of the affected part. There are two types of ALS; familial and sporadic. Familial accounts for only about 5-10% of all U.S. cases, being that it's inherited and families with it normally have a 50% chance of passing it onto their offspring. The rest of these cases are due to sporadic ALS, accounting for 90-95%. The word "sporadic" means "irregular or scattered", applying to the fact that it can affect anyone, anywhere. Currently, money is being put towards ALS research, but there is no cure yet. However, there is a FDA approved drug, riluzole, that has the ability to slow down the progression in some people.
Amputation, by definition, is "the loss of a body part." However, there are many reasons as to why a person will have a body part removed. Usually, these reasons are credited to traumatic or surgical amputation. With traumatic amputation, the limb can be lost due to violence or an accident (commonly seen in veterans of war). With surgical amputation, limbs might be lost due to illnesses such a diabetes or cancer. After a surgical amputation, a person will start physical therapy to keep the muscles in the body strong, but also to function without the presence of the limb. Some people choose to move to a prosthesis after this stage (manmade limb meant to recreate the sensation of the lost limb. Besides these options, the road to recovery after the loss of a limb is still long and difficult. Amputees are often more prone to depression, but can experience more comfort meeting fellow amputees.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that usually develops during childhood but can affect people of all ages. A person with asthma will experience coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. This occurs because the person's airways (tubes that carry air in/out of your lungs) have become swollen and sensitive. They react strongly to certain substances which causes the muscles to tighten. Asthma doesn't have a cure, but can be controlled through medicine and awareness of its triggers (NHLBI, NIH).
Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in the U.S., being that 50 million Americans have it (1 in 5 adults). According to arthritis.org, (the Arthritis Foundation) there are 42 types of specific arthritis, but over 100 types with related conditions. Although more prevalent in adults, arthritis can easily affect children as well. Four major categories for arthritis include: Degenerative (Osteoarthritis, most common), Inflammatory (Rheumatoid arthritis), Infectious (bacteria, fungus, or virus infects the joint), and Metabolic (Uric acid buildup results in sharp pains). Degenerative arthritis is caused by cartilage between joints wearing away so that bone rubs against bone and causes pain/swelling. Inflammatory arthritis occurs when naturally inflamed joints are attacked, which can cause joint erosion and damage of internal organs. Treatment options to live with arthritis include a healthy lifestyle (balanced diet, good amount of sleep, exercise), arthritis medications, and joint surgery.
There is no known cause or cure of autism, but can be diagnosed if the following signs show in a child: no babbling/pointing by age 1, excessive lining up of toys or objects, no response to name, etc. ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is made up of a range of neurological disorders including: Asperger Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Autistic Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified. However, Autistic disorder is the most commonly known type of ASD. "Autistic children have difficulties with social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors or narrow, obsessive interests" (icare4autism).
Bipolar Disorder, or manic depression, is a brain disorder that results in erratic behavior and shifts in mood and activity levels. It is thought to be caused by multiple things, not just one factor. Genetic history is just one of many possible reasons why someone may have/develop bipolar disorder. The symptoms of bipolar disorder tend to be very severe, involving two extreme types of "mood episodes": overly excited (mania) or extremely sad (depression). These symptoms can result in two extremes. With mania, people might believe they're on top of the world, that they can do anything. Depression, on the other hand, can lead to poor school/job performance or even attempted suicide. Overall, bipolar disorder is an illness that can affect everyone in that person's life, seeing as it normally develops in the late teens, early 20's. It can't be cured, but can be treated with careful and close care, the right medications, and psychotherapy.
Blindness is inherited genetically, can develop over time, or can be caused by an accident (injury/trauma to the eye). There are several eye diseases that are catalysts to a person's blindness such as: cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. There are three situations that people categorize as "blind". Visually impaired people have difficulties reading or using their peripheral vision. People who are "legally blind" are classified as people that can only see 20 degrees into their peripheral vision, rather than the norm of 90 degrees. However, blindness in general is characterized as having difficulty seeing certain things and being in need of a special aid in order to see things in the absence of light. Blindness can be treated by various eye surgeries and adapted to by using a white cane, but can't ultimately be "cured".
Burns occur when a person's skin is exposed to chemicals, electricity, heat, or radiation. Thermal (heat) burns can come from scalding liquids, hot metal, and many other things. Radiation burns usually happen because of overexposure to X-rays. For a chemical burn, anything from strong acids to detergent/solvents. Electrical burns, in turn, will occur as a result of electrical currents. There are, with respect, three classifications for the severity of burns. First degree burns are defined as those that cause damage to the epidermis (thin outer layer of skin). Second degree burns penetrate the epidermis but then only partially damage the dermis (thicker layer under the epidermis). Third degree burns are classified by burns that completely damage both the epidermis and dermis. When bones/tendons/muscles are also burned, it's a fourth degree burn. Treatment for a first degree burn can be as simple as using aloe gel, but more severe burns will require visiting a specialized center to get proper treatment for the specific case. The effects of burns can be both emotional and physical; many people have reduced physical abilities, are more prone to infection (skin has decreased ability to fight), and the emotional aspect can be equally devastating. Along with the physical aspect, victims can experience depression and/or trauma from the memory of the burns.
Cerebral palsy is usually a congenital (in utero) neurological disorder, but can also develop if there are complications during birth (ex. lack of oxygen). Cerebral palsy, mostly viewed as an "umbrella term" for general loss of control over motor functions, can also cause physical impairment. A person will most likely have trouble controlling his/her limbs and muscles, making them stiff or contract in ways that will make them tremble or shake. The symptoms that a person shows depend on their case. In extreme cases, a person could become paralyzed. In others, a person will experience slight spasms but require very little assistance. Cerebral palsy can't be cured, being that it's caused by permanent brain damage.
Cleft foot is a rare congenital anomaly in which the foot doesn't develop normally during fetal development. This can cause the baby to have missing toes, a V-shaped cleft, or other abnormalities. If a child has a cleft foot, often the function of the foot can be improved with reconstructive surgery. However, it is also possible that after time, deformities solved with surgery may reappear. Although the effects of cleft foot can be severe, it is rather rare - 1 in 1 million children develop it.
Cystic Fibrosis is an inherited condition where a mutated gene produces a thick mucus in the respiratory, digestive, and reproductive systems. It can only develop if the child receives one copy of the gene from each parent and if he/she only inherits one gene, he/she will become a carrier of the condition. The mucus produced clogs tubes that carry air in/out of your lungs and tubes that carry digestive enzymes, affecting your digestive systems. Some symptoms include wheezing, intestinal blockages, lung infections, breathlessness, and consistent coughing. There isn't a cure to cystic fibrosis, but it can be treated by various medications, surgical procedures, physical therapy, or counseling/training.
Deaf/ Hard of Hearing
Hearing loss is a condition that occurs with increasing age, injuries/disorders, or due to genetics. After about age 20, our hearing begins to diminish, beginning with the inability to detect higher frequencies. Some injuries/disorders include exposure to loud noises (which makes up more than 25% of people affected by hearing loss), prenatal exposure to diseases (ex. rubella, influenza), trauma, or other diseases (ex. meningitis, mumps). Deafness can occur because of a genetic mutation (ex. Trisomy 13 S) or because the gene was passed down from their parents. However, not all deafness is permanent. Temporary hearing loss can be caused by various drugs, ear wax, foreign objects stuck in a person's ear, or ear infections. Although deafness is a lifelong condition in most cases, people can get hearing aids to help amplify sound. Also, medicine has improved to the point where people can get a cochlear implant (an electronic device that does the work of the damaged cochlea in the ear and sends sound signals to the brain).
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe various diseases associated with loss of memory and ability, the most common being Alzheimer's Disease (accounts for 60-80% of cases) out of over 100 types of dementia. Symptoms of dementia normally include impairment in memory, communication/language, visual perception, plus others. Most dementias are progressive, however, meaning that they start out slow and gradually get worse. Dementia in its entirety is caused by damage to brain cells, impairing their ability to communicate, and therefore affecting the person's ability to function/communicate. Although there is no cure for dementias to stop or slow progression, there are medications available that can attempt to improve symptoms.
Down Syndrome is a very common genetic disorder where a person receives a full or extra copy of chromosome 21, which alters their development process. About half of children that develop down syndrome are also born with some type of heart defect. There are three types of down syndrome, including: trisomy 21, translocation, and mosaicism. Children that develop down syndrome will sometimes have a low muscle tone (appear to be "floppy" and have loose joints), an upward/outward slant to the eyes, broad hands with short fingers, and a palm with a single crease across it. The life expectancy for people with down syndrome has increased from 25 to 60 since 1983, which is due to advancements in medicine and clinical treatments (mostly more effective heart surgeries).
Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is a genetic condition that, with time, weakens and degenerates the muscles of a person. DMD is caused by the absence of the protein dystrophin, the protein that helps to keep muscle cells intact. Without the protein, the cells become fragile and can damage easily. It usually begins with the hips and shoulder muscles, gradually moving toward the arms and legs. The muscle weakness associated with DMD can begin as early as age 3, where symptoms begin to show. Now, thanks to advancements in medicine, people that live with duchenne muscular dystrophy have a longer life expectancy (30-50 years old), allowing them to lead normal and successful lives.
Dwarfism is a short stature that occurs because of a genetic or medical condition, usually defined as an adult that is 4 feet 11 inches or less. In general, it is divided into two broad categories; disproportionate (not all body parts are the same size) and proportionate (all body parts are the same size) dwarfism. A few symptoms of dwarfism from either category include shorter arms/legs, short finger, vision/hearing problems, or other abnormalities. Although achondroplasia can be genetic (parent passes on the mutated copy of the gene), most occurrences are due to random genetic mutations. Some treatment options to live with dwarfism include a healthy diet/activities, enforcing good posture, and supportive car seats.
Epilepsy is a nervous system disorder that disrupts the nerve cell activity in the brain, resulting in seizures and periods of time where the person exhibits unusual behaviors. Seizure disorders generally appear in 1 out of every 26 people, but only about 10 percent experience a single unprovoked seizure. However, in order to be diagnosed with epilepsy, a person must experience at least two unprovoked seizures. During a seizure, some people might twitch their arms and legs, while with less extreme cases, a person might just stare blankly into space. Although some cases of epilepsy are less extreme/dangerous, they can still pose harm. Even mild cases require treatment. In general, treatments with medication and/or surgery can control seizures for about 80 percent of people who have epilepsy. Epilepsy isn't necessarily a lifelong condition because people can outgrow it with age.
Fibrodyplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP)
FOP is a disorder in which the connective and muscle tissues are replaced by bone, constraining movement. This process is generally noticeable in children, beginning in the neck and shoulders, moving down the body and into limbs. Due to the loss of mobility, joints are affected and can also include trouble with eating and breathing. If someone with FOP experiences trauma of any kind, the muscles are prone to inflammation/swelling and an increase in the rate of ossification (hardening of tissue) to the injured area. In general, FOP is a rather rare disorder, only affecting 1 in every 2 million people. The gene related to FOP is the ACVR1 gene, and is inherited through autosomal dominant pattern, meaning only one copy of the affected gene is necessary to reflect the condition. If diagnosed in the neonatal period, the progression of the disorder can be slowed and surgical procedures can be used to minimize oral pain in result of the disorder. However, "the disease is sometimes referred to as “stone man syndrome” because affected individuals are slowly imprisoned by second skeletons."
An intellectual disability (also referred to as mental retardation) is usually diagnosed before the age of 18 (ex. having an IQ lower than 70), as the signs can show before or shortly after birth. This condition is generally described as lacking skills necessary for living life and possessing a below average capacity to function intellectually. A disability such as this can be caused by trauma before/after birth, malnutrition, infections, unexplained reasons, etc. Intellectual disability affects about 1-3% of the population, but only about 25% of the cases have specific reasons for occurring. Some symptoms include slow development of motor functions, lack of curiosity, having problems keeping up in school, etc. Treatment for children with intellectual disabilities can begin as early as infancy, with special education/training to help develop a child's life to his/her full potential.
Learning disabilities are two words that describe a variety of neurologically based disorders that prevent kids from learning and understanding material in a classroom environment at a normal pace. These conditions include: dyscalculia, ADHD, dyslexia, auditory processing disorder (APD), dysgraphia, etc. These are usually diagnosed during the school years because learning disabilities affect a child's ability to process, which, if lacking, becomes evident during school. However, people that have learning disabilities aren't necessarily unintelligent. In general, people with learning disabilities have average or above intelligence. Some refer to this as having "hidden disabilities" because there is such a large gap between an individual's potential and performance. Although these conditions are lifelong challenges, success in school and life is very possible with the right care and assistance.
Neural Tube Defects
Neural tube defects are a series of birth defects to the brain, spine, or spinal cord that occur about a month into pregnancy. Health care providers are able to diagnose neural tube defects prenatally by testing amniotic fluid and blood for levels of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP). Also, ultrasounds can help detect neural tube defects. The two most common include spina bifida and anencephaly. Spina bifida occurs when the spinal column of the fetus doesn't close completely during formation, which results in some paralysis of the legs. Anencephaly is when most of the skull and brain don't develop, which results in a stillborn baby or one that dies soon after birth. There isn't a cure for neural tube defects, but treatment can aid patients in preventing it from getting worse and having more complications.
Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that affects the way a person perceives reality. Symptoms usually start between the ages of 16-30 (although children may show symptoms as well) and fall into three categories: positive, negative, and cognitive. Positive symptoms fall under psychotic behaviors noticed in normally healthy people, such as hallucinations and delusions. Negative symptoms then are classified by reduced speaking or pleasure in everyday life. Cognitive symptoms are categorized by trouble focusing/paying attention or poor executive functioning (inability to make decisions appropriately). Although some people have relatives with schizophrenia, there doesn't seem to be an exact gene that causes the disorder. The causes are virtually unknown. Treatment methods for schizophrenia include anti psychotic medications, psycho social treatments, and family support; just a few things that can help a person live with the disorder.
Sickle Cell Disease
Sickle Cell Disease describes a series of red blood cell disorders that are inherited. The abnormal hemoglobin genes are passed down from parents to their children (one from each parent). Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout a person’s body. In sickle cell disease, the abnormal hemoglobin is commonly labeled as hemoglobin S. The person’s red blood cells form a stiff, crescent shape that prevents oxygen from reaching tissue and get stuck in blood vessels. This can cause attacks of sudden and severe pain to the person. On a more dramatic level, the poor oxygen delivery can lead to organ damage over time. Today, in the USA, a person with sickle cell disease has a life expectancy of 40-60 years, a huge improvement of the expectancy of 14 years in 1973.
Tourette’s Syndrome is a neurological disorder in which an individual performs repetitive or involuntary vocalizations or movements (tics). Symptoms often show between the ages of 3 and 9, affecting males 3-4 times more than females. It can be a chronic condition that improves with time, as the worst tic symptoms often show in a person’s early teens and improve into adulthood. There are two types of symptoms: simple tics or complex tics. Simple tics include mild expressions of head/shoulder jerking, eye blinking, sniffing or grunting sounds. Complex tics consist of: hopping, jumping, and saying words or phrases. Some of the most dramatic complex tics, (which aren’t nearly as common), include coprolalia (swearing) and echolalia (repeating words/phrases of other people). The majority of people with TS don’t require medicine to suppress their tics, but neuroleptics are available to those who decide to use it. Although TS is generally a lifelong condition, it is not degenerative (one that worsens over time) and some people can actually become symptom-free or will no longer be in need of medication to suppress their tics.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Brain Injuries are typically caused by a mechanical external force causing dysfunction (violent blow or sudden jolt to the head/body). However, they can also occur because of an object penetrating the skull, such as a bullet or a shattered piece of skull. There are many symptoms that come with brain injuries and will show immediately, but some may not appear until days or weeks after the traumatic event. Mild symptoms include nausea, vomiting, memory/concentration problems, fatigue, and sensitivity to light/sound. Moderate to severe symptoms include loss of consciousness (possibly long periods of time such as a coma), slurred speech, convulsions/seizures, loss of coordination, and persistent headache. For infants and young children, trauma is evident in loss of interest in favorite toys, change in eating/nursing habits, and a sad or depressed mood. In terms of treatment, the severity of the injury determines the necessary treatment direction. For more severe injuries, immediate emergency care, surgery, and rehabilitation are most likely necessary. Although danger is sometimes ubiquitous, there are a myriad of ways to prevent these injuries from happening such as wearing seat belts in a car, helmets while riding bikes or skateboards, and installing safety measures inside one's home.