20 Diseases You Thought Were Communicable But Aren’t
Let’s be honest. The term ‘disease’ scares the living daylights out of us. But sometimes, we take a call on the severity of a disease without being qualified to do so. Such misconceptions, more often than not, cause the affected people to be stigmatized, preventing them from recovering psychologically. And even if you are not one of those who stigmatize people, your misconception about something that you have, yourself, caught may lead you to draw random and false inferences. Before we delve deeper into which diseases are communicable and which ones are not, let’s establish the difference between the two.
Communicable diseases are those that spread from one person to another by some form of contact. It can spread through air, water, vectors, exchange of saliva as well as through blood transfusion. Communicable diseases do not necessarily require direct physical contact to spread. Let’s give you an example.
Imagine you’re sitting inside an airplane, probably taking a flight back home from somewhere. The person sitting right beside you has a terrible cold, and at some point he decides to sneeze without covering his face. Now this will infect the air around the two of you, and you run a very high chance of acquiring the cold as well.
Most of the diseases caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi are communicable. Typical examples of communicable diseases are influenza, measles, malaria, tuberculosis and rabies.
Unlike communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases, also called chronic diseases, do not spread through direct or indirect contact. You cannot get them from a fellow passenger or a colleague. They are caused by either genetic or environmental factors. And yet, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) kill roughly thirty eight million people every year, according WHO.
Along with several heart and lung diseases, many skin conditions, too, are non-communicable. Following is a list of twenty diseases that you thought were communicable but in reality are not:
Cancer is characterized by uncontrollable multiplication of cells disrupting the normal functioning of other cells. Cancer can affect anyone, of any age, in any part of the body. It is an essentially incurable disease but it does not spread from person to person, though genetic susceptibility might be carried down through generations.
No, drinking water from your diabetic friend will not expose you to diabetes. It is a result of the body’s inability to produce or use insulin effectively and remains limited to the body of the person concerned only.
Alzheimer’s or senile dementia is a disease characterized by progressive loss of memory. It mostly affects older people though in some cases middle aged adults can be affected, too. Though it is not communicable, people with a history of the disease in their family are always genetically vulnerable to it. Hence it is best if they practice memory enhancing exercises from a young age as a preventive measure.
Skin conditions are often believed to be contagious, but not all of them spread from person to person. Psoriasis is one such hereditary skin condition where cells build up to form scaly, itchy patches. Psoriasis is incurable but can be subdued using steroids.
5. Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia is a condition where the blood cells shrink into abnormal sickle shapes. They cannot carry oxygen effectively and often create blockages in arteries. Sickle cell anemia is not communicable but is transferred from parents to children.
In this chronic ailment the person experiences widespread pain in several parts of the body at the same time, for no apparent reason. The cause for this is still not known but is believed to be genetic. It is an incurable disease that can be subdued with prolonged treatment.
7. Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is an umbrella term for a malignant skin condition. These are never communicable and are usually caused by UVA and UVB rays of the sun. Just like any other kind of cancer, skin cancer, too, needs regular sessions of chemotherapy.
Albinism is a disease marked by complete or partial absence of skin pigment in hair, skin and sometimes eyes. As a result, albinism leads to vision defects and makes the person vulnerable to sunburns and skin cancer. Albinism is a disease linked with the recessive genes and cannot be spread.
Cold, influenza, and fever are fast spreading communicable diseases. But, asthma, which is often closely associated with these, is not. Asthma is a condition of the bronchi where they become inflamed, constricted and produce extra mucus, making it very difficult for the person to breathe. Given the pollution nowadays, asthma is quite common and requires prolonged treatment.
Another inflammatory disease that is often linked with cold and consequently often thought to be communicable is sinusitis. Here, the sinuses get choked with contaminated mucus causing congestion, headache and facial pain. Sinusitis is curable but can keep coming back, so proper treatment is required.
Sun freckles are tiny deposits of melanin caused by over exposure of sensitive skin to sun. Because freckles are not so common in India, people often mistake these for contagious skin ailments. But freckles are not a disease, let alone communicable.
Eczema or Atopic Dermatitis is a condition where parts of the skin swell up and start to itch. The itching causes the skin to turn red and that’s why eczema usually looks like red rashes all over the affected area. Hands, face, inside of elbow and back of the knee are particularly susceptible to this condition, though reason for that is not really known. In fact, the reason for eczema itself is not known as such, but it is definitely not communicable. People who develop eczema have to take good care of their skin even after symptoms subside. Treatment usually includes medication, light therapy, staying away from things that irritate the skin and long term skin care.
13. Contact Dermatitis
Contact Dermatitis is another skin condition that involves rashes but this one is caused by certain substances that the body treats as allergens. This can differ from people to people. Some may develop contact dermatitis from soap, while some from metal, and so on. This particular condition is not too complicated. Once the offending substance is identified and avoided, contact dermatitis usually clears up within a month or two. In some serious cases, contact dermatitis may require light medication during treatment.
Hives or Urticaria is a fairly common allergic reaction caused by chemicals in food or skin care products, and insect bites. On contact with these chemicals that the body considers to be harmful, the immune system releases a chemical called histamine as a protective measure. But, sometimes this backfires and the combined effect manifests in the form of red itchy rashes that appear in hives. Hives are often painful but regular use of aloe vera gel helps a great deal. In some extreme cases, the hives may manifest inwards along the alimentary canal or respiratory passage, making it difficult to eat or breathe. These cases require immediate medical attention.
Often considered contagious, vitiligo is where blotches of skin lose the natural pigment. There’s no declared cause of vitiligo, other than genetic vulnerability which is triggered off by some auto-immune disease. The disease does not have a cure as such, but in no way is it communicable or contagious.
16. Bullous Pemphigoid
Bullous Pemphigoid is another autoimmune disease that looks very much like hives from outside. The only difference being, hives causes swellings and in bullous pemphigoid there are full blown blisters or bullae in the affected area. Eventually these blisters erupt causing pain and discomfort to the person suffering from it. Again, bullous pemphigoid does not have a permanent cure but can be treated on short term basis through steroids.
Osteoporosis or brittle bone syndrome typically occurs after thirty in most adults. Due to loss in bone density the bones become brittle and run the risk of breaking at the mildest of shocks. In extreme cases of osteoporosis, even a sudden sneeze can break bones in the body. Since this disease is a lifestyle linked one, the only way to treat it is through proper intake of calcium.
Osteogenesis, though very similar to osteoporosis in the sense that it too causes brittle bones, is a genetic disorder. This too has no permanent cure and people suffering from it have to watch their diet all their lives.
Haemophilia, also known as the Queen’s Disease as it had affected Queen Victoria and her descendants, is a genetic condition where blood does not clot easily. This creates extreme complications during injury or surgeries as the person runs the risk of bleeding to death. There is no known cure for haemophilia either, but clotting factors are externally injected when situations arise. Just like all other genetic diseases, haemophilia is non-communicable.
20. Malignant Melanoma
Malignant Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer that develop from melanin producing cells – melanocytes. When existing moles start changing shape or colour, or just become bigger, consider it as a warning sign. Melanoma, obviously has to be treated through surgeries and chemotherapy.
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