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Chronic Illness: Treatment, Cost and Side Effects

Last Updated: Feb 20, 2024

What is the Chronic Illness?

Chronic illness refers to any kind of disorder or condition, both physical and mental, which affects a person for a long time. These diseases are usually difficult to cure or may even be incurable. Treatment may mostly involve managing the symptoms of the disease through medications, lifestyle changes, diet and exercise.

Some examples of chronic diseases include diabetes, arthritis, HIV/AIDS, lupus, multiple sclerosis. None of these conditions can be cured, but can be controlled using medication and lifestyle changes. People with chronic illnesses often suffer from depression as well. While depression is caused as a result of the diet and lifestyle changes coming with the chronic illnesses.

People who undergo heart attack generally have a higher risk of suffering from depression as well. People with Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, cancer and diabetes also suffer from risk of depression. Depression is considered to be one of the most difficult side effects of a chronic illness.

Chronic illnesses generally have the following features- a complex cause, long latency periods, functional impairment or disability and a number of risk factors. While chronic illnesses are common in adults and the elderly, similar conditions may also affect children. Such a child needs additional care at home and school, to be able to lead a relatively normal life.

How is the Chronic Illness treatment done?

Treatment for the chronic illness depends on the underlying disorder. A doctor will diagnose the condition and will begin treatment accordingly. The course of treatment for chronic illnesses will differ from one to the other. For instance, the treatment for asthma will be different from the treatment for cardiovascular diseases.

For any heart related conditions, the doctors will likely prescribe medicine that facilitates the flow of blood from the heart to other parts of the body. Similarly, in case of asthma, doctors may only ask the patient to use an inhaler.

In case of diabetic patients, regular insulin shots are usually used. The insulin helps regulate the blood sugar levels in the blood. Colorectal and lung cancer on the other hand are treated with the help of radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Depression is often caused as a side effect to the chronic illness. This must also be treated with proper medication and psychiatric counselling.

Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)

People suffering from a disease that is difficult to cure or may not be curable at all, can consider going for treatments related to chronic illnesses. Even though there is no cure, leaving the condition untreated may lead to further complications or even death. In such a circumstance, treatment can aid the patient in keeping the symptoms contained and under control.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

People suffering from conditions that are either difficult to cure or are incurable need to consider chronic illness treatment. Furthermore, people suffering from depression as a result of the chronic illness should also seek treatment for both the disease and the depression.

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Are there any side effects?

Side effects of the treatment depend on the condition. For instance heart medications can cause rash, diarrhea, itching, headache, chest pain, gangrene and dizziness. Cancer treatment methods such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy on the other hand can lead to loss of hairt, loss of appetite, weight-loss, nausea, vomiting and more.

However, it is true that side effects of a medication for a particular chronic illness may not have as many side effects as the drug used to treat another such illness.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

Since most chronic illnesses are difficult to cure, treatment usually continues throughout the life of patient. However, patients suffering from such a disease are often asked to eat healthy and perform daily exercises. This change in lifestyle eventually helps the doctor in treating the person

How long does it take to recover?

Treatment takes a lot of time. In most cases, people must continue with the treatment for the rest of their life. However, the symptoms of the diseases can be kepty under control with medication. Patients will likely experience better health a few days after starting to consume the drugs.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

Price of treatment depends on the disease that is at the root of the chronic illness. In case of a heart attack or cardiovascular condition, the cost will be anywhere between Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 50,000. However, the cost may be higher in case of treatment for lung cancer. Cancer treatments usually range between Rs. 5 Lakhs to Rs. 15 Lakhs in India.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

Results of the treatment are seldom permanent. In fact, most chronic illnesses are very difficult to cure. Medication is used to keep the conditions managed, rather than curing it completely. However, if the patient stops taking these drugs, their symptoms will likely recur.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

The only alternatives to the treatment related to chronic illnesses include the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. This means that the patient would need to maintain a diet, the ideal weight, perform daily exercises and give up smoking and drinking completely. While taking these steps will not cure the disorder, it will certainly help in reducing the symptoms related to the chronic illness.

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Written ByDr. Akhilesh Singh Post Graduate Course In Diabetology,CCEBDM(DIABETOLOGY) & CCMH ( CARDIOLOGY)General Physician

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