Medical Mystery: Common Diseases With Mysterious Causes

There’s usually an explanation behind common illnesses. If you got a cold, it’s most likely because you stayed out in the snow or got drenched in the rain. If you contracted something more serious, like COVID-19, it’s definitely because you had close contact with an infected person.

But some diseases can manifest without a clear cause. As such, there are no known cures for them either. Thankfully, treatments are available, so patients can at least control their symptoms. Still, it’s scary to think that you might get a disease with no exact causes. There are risk factors, though, so they’re preventable as much as they are mysterious.

That said, here are the common diseases that can baffle doctors and patients:

1. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS affects between 3% and 9% of Americans. It is more common in women than men. Some cases of IBS have minor symptoms, while some can get so bad it would disrupt your everyday activities.

Also known as spastic colon, irritable colon, mucous colitis, or spastic colitis, IBS causes episodes of both constipation and diarrhea. Other symptoms include abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, and gas. Luckily, the symptoms aren’t always persistent. But some people experience them continuously.

IBS is hard to diagnose because its symptoms could also be due to lactose intolerance, celiac disease, bacterial infection, or parasites. Hence, doctors may perform a colonoscopy before confirming if you indeed have IBS. You’d also need to provide a stool sample to rule out a bacterial infection and a blood test to rule out celiac disease.

Treatment for IBS doesn’t always require medication. Home remedies and diet and lifestyle changes are often enough. Medication is given only to those with severe and persistent symptoms.

2. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

CFS is characterized by extreme fatigue that doesn’t go away even after a long, restful sleep. It’s sometimes called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID).

Because of its mysterious causes, CFS used to be a controversial disease. But it is now widely accepted as a medical condition. As such, tried-and-tested treatments for chronic fatigue are now available.

When diagnosing CFS, doctors won’t order tests. They’d simply analyze your symptoms and rule out other illnesses with similar symptoms. When determining the cause, researchers consider viruses, a weakened immune system, stress, and hormonal imbalances. It’s also possible for you to be genetically predisposed to the disease. Basically, if you have a family history of CFS, your chances of developing one are high.

As with IBS, diet and lifestyle changes can also help manage CFS symptoms. Limiting your caffeine intake and having a consistent sleep schedule are two effective remedies. If CFS gives you chronic pain, you may also talk to your doctor about alternative treatments like tai chi and yoga.

3. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. But the cause of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis itself isn’t clear yet. All experts know is that it’s an autoimmune disease.

Possible risk factors include genes, hormones, excessive iodine in the body, and radiation exposure. The symptoms start off mild or may take years to develop. An enlarged thyroid is often the first sign of the disease. The thyroid is located near the base of your neck, its shape resembling a butterfly. If it’s enlarged, it will protrude from your neck, causing a condition called goiter.

Coupled with lifestyle and dietary changes, hormone therapy and medication are among the treatments for this disease. As usual, a healthy diet and sleep schedule are included in the essential changes.

4. Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia. It affects the memories of adults aged 65 and up. But contrary to popular belief, not all senior adults will develop this condition.

Also, Alzheimer’s can affect younger adults. Ten percent of its cases are, in fact, found in adults under 65. But in everyone affected, plaques and tangles in the brain are found. Another common symptom is the severed connection between the neurons in the brain.

Over time, Alzheimer’s gets worse until the affected person loses almost all of their memories. This makes it hard for them to live independently because they’ll also forget how to take care of themselves. For that reason, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the US. Some sources even say it’s the third, following heart disease and cancer.

Treatment can only delay progression, not stop the symptoms altogether. Preventative measures, like regularly exercising your body and mind, may help avoid it in the first place, although it’s not guaranteed.

Preventing any disease all boils down to a healthy lifestyle. So refrain from abusing your youth and/or strong immune system. Nothing feels worse than learning these things the hard way and only realizing your mistakes when it’s too late. Hence, let’s make good health cool again, moving forward.

Sudarsan Chakraborty
Sudarsan Chakraborty
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