What Are the Most Common Degenerative Diseases?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 October 2019
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Some of the most common degenerative diseases are heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and diabetes. Neurological diseases may include multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease. These conditions are typically not considered curable, although most of them can be managed successfully using a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. The exact life expectancy and quality of life to be expected varies based on the exact type of disease.

A degenerative disease is one that will eventually progress and destroy large amounts of tissue over time. They are generally considered incurable, although some can be halted or reversed over time with proper treatment. This is not considered the same as a cure because by definition, a cured disease is one where the source of illness is removed from the body, allowing condition to correct itself. With a degenerative disease, the cause of illness usually results from the body not being able to perform properly. For instance, arthritis is a degenerative disease which results from the body attacking its own tissues rather than from an outside virus or bacteria.


Heart disease is one of the most commonly diagnosed degenerative diseases. Sometimes it is caused by genetic factors or heart defects present at birth, but most cases stem from unhealthy lifestyle choices. Eating a diet high in fat and calories and living a sedentary lifestyle are all potential risk factors for heart disease. Treatments often include changing these unhealthy lifestyle habits and engaging in more positive ones. Medication and surgery are also common treatments.

Cancer is also amongst the most common degenerative diseases. It can occur in many forms and infect almost any area of the body. Much like heart disease, cancer develops over time and those who are impacted by the disease usually have a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors. The same unhealthy lifestyle habits which put a person at risk of heart disease can also lead to cancer. Additionally, exposure to harmful substances, like radiation, and a strong genetic link may also put one at risk for cancer.

Other degenerative diseases include diabetes and osteoporosis, as well as certain brain and nerve disorders. Some of these are preventable by following healthy eating and lifestyle plans, but genetics plays a role in each of these diseases as well. Although incurable,diabetes, osteoporosis, and multiple sclerosis can all be managed and patients may still live full lives. Those with more aggressive degenerative diseases, like Parkinson's or Lou Gehrig's disease, will eventually die of the disease in most cases.


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