Shannon Christian

In this weekly blog, staff reporter Shannon Christian writes about the myths of healthcare and how it impacts students.

Dr. Germ: chronic illness and its lasting effects

Where are you feeling pain right now? 

For many people, the answer is simple, nowhere. Some might add that they have a headache from not drinking enough water, or that they’re a bit sore from working out the previous day. For others however, pain is more complex, and is a constant in their life. 

Chronic pain and chronic illness refer to the notion that certain people do not recover from illness or have conditions where their symptoms are persistent, meaning that they can experience pain on a daily or weekly basis. Common chronic conditions include: coronary artery disease, diabetes, arthritis, and cancer diseases. These conditions last longer than a year, and usually require some sort of ongoing medical care such as daily medication intake, or a management device such as a pacemaker

Chronic illness can be difficult to manage, conditions such as chronic kidney disease require great amounts of maintenance on both the sides of the provider, and on the side of the patient affected. For chronic kidney disease, such as for kidney failure, dialysis is required to filter wastes from the patients blood, which takes 3-5 hours, and is performed 3 times a week. This may seem excessive to those who don’t receive regular treatment, but this is required to sustain the life of the patient with an affected kidney, and if it is not performed, it could be fatal. 

A large part of the challenge for those with chronic illnesses is that many do not understand what they are going through, and are not receptive to what their daily life consists of. Many chronic illnesses are not apparent based on one’s appearance such as heart conditions or diabetes, which could lead many to not know when someone is ill. While this helps in allowing the affected person to not feel treated as though they are “sick”, this can place pressure on them in the sense that since their illness is not visible, they have to appear and act healthy, people expecting functionality from them that they may not be able to do. 

Since people affected by chronic illness may experience more pain than the average person, they may feel the need to take extra rest, or need extra days at home instead of working. Many may not be able to empathize with this, as they might be able to bounce back from illness, but chronic illness prevents that bounce back from happening in patients

Chronic illness is prevalent in the world, and a serious reality for many, meaning that they are not in as healthy of a condition as they appear, and may need to take it slower some days more than others. Those without constant pain should attempt to support those with chronic illness, and understand that their lives could look and feel vastly different from one’s own. 

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