*This is a guest post
Modern medicine has made great strides in relieving us of everything from thorns to tumours in our sides, but there are still some persistent, absolutely obstinate health conditions that need more than a one-two-punch from an antibiotic to knock out.
Running the gamut from nail fungus to mental illness, here are five ailments that are stubbornly, annoyingly difficult to treat.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a lifelong condition characterized by increased sensitivity of the colon to pain and too strong or too weak contractions of the intestinal walls. Symptoms such as stomach cramps, gas, bloating, diarrhoea, and constipation are triggered by stress or the intake of irritating foods, and episodes may last days to weeks.
The key to living with IBS is to identify your triggers and manage them. Some foods that are common triggers are beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chocolate, alcohol, milk, and soda. Stress also brings on symptoms, so it’s important to find ways to reduce stress. To supplement, adjust the amount of fibre intake in your diet relative to your symptoms, and exercise regularly to help your body develop regular bowel movement.
Depending on your symptoms, you may be given anti-diarrheal and antispasmodic medications. Prescriptions for fibre supplements might help, as they cause less bloating than dietary fibre. If your symptoms are severe enough to cause anxiety and depression, you may also benefit from antidepressants and counselling.
Despite its day-to-day hassles, IBS is not a terribly serious threat to your intestinal health and doesn’t increase your risk for colorectal cancer. That’s perhaps the one ray of light in this lifelong cloud hanging over your head!
Lyme disease is transmitted by bacteria-infected black-legged ticks. They cause a condition called borreliosis, which is transmitted by the ticks when they penetrate the skin through biting.
The disease progresses in three distinctive phases. The first phase lasts 3 to 30 days after the bite itself. Starting at the site of the bite, an expanding, bullseye-patterned rash with an outer bright red ring and a central area of clearing called erythema migrans develops. Fatigue, body pain, headaches and fevers are also present, mimicking the symptoms of a viral infection.
The rash disappears on its own after about four weeks, and then the second phase kicks in. By this time, the bacteria have already spread throughout the body, and affect the heart and nervous system. The heart may be inflamed, leading to abnormal heart rhythms, and the brain and spinal cord may swell too, resulting in meningitis and palsies. The third phase is characterized by complications of the second: heart and nerve damage, heart failure, facial paralysis, motor and sensory nerve damage. Inflammation, stiffness, pain in the joints — usually in the knees.
A diagnosis of Lyme disease can be made in its early stages by identifying it with the classic bullseye rash. In the late stages, however, when the symptoms become more general, the confirmatory test is an antibody test called the Western Blot assay.
In its early stages, Lyme disease is cured with antibiotics like doxycycline, amoxicillin, and cefuroxime. If detected in its first phase and given prompt treatment, the prognosis is positive.
The difficulty comes in when the disease has wreaked havoc on the heart and nervous system, because there may be permanent damage. For instance, arthritis remains even after the Lyme bacterium has been completely eliminated from the body.
Tougher antibiotics such as ceftriaxone may be needed in later stages, as well as prompt hospitalization to manage the heart and brain affectations.
Onychomycosis or nail fungus starts out as a little white spot under your nail, but over time the fungus burrows deeper into your nail and may make the nail thick, brittle, and yellow. The tissue underneath the nail may be painful, and sometimes the nail may crack and even break.
Annoyingly difficult to treat, but nail fungus is actually very easy to catch. The fungus can spread from one person to another just by using the same towel, or share a pair of shoes, or be walking barefoot in the same place an infected person had walked barefoot in. From there, it’s just as easy to pass on from one nail to another.
In some cases, you don’t even need to come into contact with an infected person to get nail fungus. Fungi proliferate best in places that are warm and moist. Toenails whiling the day away in your sweaty shoes (think athletes) and fingernails that are constantly wet (think dishwashers) are particularly at risk for growing nail fungi.
Treating nail fungus is best achieved with a combination of oral antifungal medications and topical antifungal creams applied to the nails. Curing the infection completely means taking the medications for 2-3 months. Even after the fungus has been treated, your nail will have to fully grow out. Fingernails take 4-6 months to grow out, and toenails 12-18 months.
And after you’ve weathered your first bout of nail fungus, there’s always the risk of nail fungus recurring. After treating toenail fungus, especially, replace the shoes and socks that you used while you had it to prevent reinfection.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that causes the person to have a distorted perception of their body image that makes them think they need to continually lose weight, despite them already having an abnormally low body weight.
Symptoms of anorexia typically include unhealthy weight reduction behaviour such as eating too little or not eating at all, excessive exercise, and denial of hunger. Often, these behaviours are not immediately apparent, so you may have to read between the lines if you suspect a loved one has anorexia. They may be skipping meals, eating only low-calorie foods, be overly preoccupied with weighing or measuring themselves, and constantly remarking that they’re fat (despite their body showing signs of malnutrition).
Anorexia can be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. And certainly, unfair societal standards that associate being skinny with being beautiful, likeable, and successful drives people (young girls most especially) to chase an unrealistic and unhealthy body image.
Annoyingly difficult doesn’t even come close to describing the road to recovery from anorexia—many people who have it can have a hard time accepting that they need treatment because they see anorexia as a conscious choice instead of an illness. If left untreated, however, complications such as electrolyte imbalances may arise. This poses a real risk of destroying the heart, kidneys, and brain—and may even lead to irreversible damage or death.
To treat anorexia, you may need to be enrolled in programs that specialize in treating eating disorders. Usually, there are therapy sessions with a psychiatrist that will endeavour to get to the underlying cause of the disorder. Take a look at this article to learn more about psychiatrists that are available online: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/psychologists/reasons-to-choose-an-online-psychiatrist/
If medical complications occur, you may need hospitalization to correct abnormal heart rhythms, electrolyte imbalances, malnutrition, or dehydration.
Tuberculosis (usually shortened to TB) is a contagious bacterial infection that often hits the lungs and can potentially also affect the nervous system. You can get TB by inhaling droplets containing Mycobacterium tuberculosis, usually by spending a lot of time sharing breathing space with a person who has tuberculosis.
In its active phase, TB is characterized by a persistent cough lasting more than three weeks, a presence of blood in the phlegm, fatigue, fever, chills, night sweats, and weight loss.
Nowadays, antibiotic treatments are available to almost always successfully manage TB. However, the course of treatment takes at least 6-9 months and involves taking multiple medications with many side effects. Most commonly used antibiotics for TB are rifampin, isoniazid, pyrazinamide, and ethambutol. You may start to see improvements weeks into the treatment, but it’s imperative that you comply with your course of treatment to prevent the bacteria from becoming resistant to your drugs and to reduce chances of reinfection.
Annoying, but not impossible
Living with difficult-to-treat health conditions can be a hassle, but believe that there’s still hope for a normal quality of life. If you take steps to be vigilant about your symptoms, reduce stress, comply with treatment, and assume an active role in managing your physical and mental health, even the most annoyingly difficult of health conditions will soon be nothing more than that — an annoyance you’ve learned to deal with.
Guest Bio: Sandy Getzky
Sandy Getzky is the executive coordinating editor at The Global Nail Fungus Organization, a group committed to helping the 100+ million people suffering from finger and toenail fungus. Sandy is also a registered Herbalist and member of the American Herbalist’s Guild.