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What Are the Different Types of Systemic Disease?

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  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 31 March 2014
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A systemic disease is an illness that affects several parts of the body or the complete system. Treatment for systemic disease is considered long-term and generally focuses on controlling symptoms and preventing secondary conditions and complications. Systemic diseases can affect individuals of any age, background, or ethnicity. Complications can occur if systemic diseases are left untreated, therefore, open dialogue with a healthcare professional, treatment compliance, and regular checkups are essential.

Hypertension and diabetes are common systemic diseases that affect millions of people worldwide. Both conditions can be controlled with the aid of medication, dietary and lifestyle changes including exercise and weight loss. Compliance with a prescribed treatment regimen is essential to alleviate the risk of complications such as stroke, congestive heart failure, and kidney issues.

Atherosclerosis is another form of systemic disease that is closely related to instances of hypertension and diabetes. When fatty material, or plaque, accumulates in the arteries it hardens over time blocking blood flow. Pieces of plaque can break off and travel via the bloodstream to the heart or brain causing heart attack or stroke. Medications and dietary changes are necessary to prevent further plaque accumulation, and, in some cases, surgery is required to remove extensive plaque buildup.

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Oral manifestations of systemic diseases include those that afflict the gastrointestingal tract, blood, and skin. GI tract problems that are considered systemic include Chron's disease. Anemias, or diseases of the blood, are characterized by persistent fatigue, a pale or gray pallor, and a depressed resistance to infection. Skin conditions such as psoriasis are associated with skin inflammation and lesions. Such chronic conditions require not only long-term medical treatment, but lifestyle changes and preventative measures to lessen the risk of the developing secondary conditions.

Autoimmune disease, another type of systemic disorder, is caused by the body's immune system confusing healthy elements with damaged or diseased ones. The confused signals result in the immune system erroneously attacking the healthy substances causing inflammation and pain. Though there no cures associated with systemic autoimmune diseases, management of symptoms is possible with the appropriate treatment regimen.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, long-term disorder that causes the body's immune system to attack the joints and connective tissues. Symptoms of the disease include a limited range of motion, swollen glands, and widespread pain. A diagnosis is confirmed via a number of tests including a complete blood count (CBC), x-rays, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the affected area. Rheumatoid arthritis requires a life-long plan of treatment that includes a combination of exercise, medications, physical therapy, and, in severe cases, surgery to correct joint damage.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an inflammatory, systemic disease that affects the joints, skin, and, potentially, numerous organs. Commonly found among African Americans, general symptoms of this disease include muscle aches, joint swelling and pain, and sensitivity to sunlight. The severity and type of symptoms experienced vary with each case.

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SteamLouis
Post 5

Autoimmune disease must be the most difficult type of systemic disease to treat and manage. As far as I know, there are no cures for autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The best that can be done is treat the symptoms. Sometimes, doctors use immunosuppressant drugs to reduce the activity of the immune system, but this also makes an individual more prone to infections. So it's a double edged sword.

Treatment of systemic diseases that are not related to the immune system are easier.

discographer
Post 3

@SarahGen-- Diabetes is a metabolic disorder but it is also a systemic disease because it affects many different systems in the body. For example, uncontrolled diabetes will cause complications in organs like the liver and kidneys and systems like the central nervous system.

At the very basic level, high blood sugar levels damage veins leading to poor blood circulation. Eventually this shows up as high blood pressure and loss of sensation in the legs and feet.

The same can be said about high blood pressure. High blood pressure affects the organs and systems of the body in different ways as well.

SarahGen
Post 2

I have diabetes but I always thought of diabetes as a metabolic disorder rather than a systemic disease.

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