Management of Chronic (long-lasting) Diseases
We know how important access to information and resources is for people living with chronic disease and their caregivers. It can assist anyone who is ready to take an active role in learning to improve their quality of life and learn non-medicinal ways of managing long-term symptoms and/or pain.
Below are some links to resources for individuals and families about the conditions, as well as information about programs within Central Health. The following list of chronic diseases may not be inclusive of all conditions.
Chronic Respiratory Conditions
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Chronic Respiratory Conditions
Chronic respiratory diseases are chronic diseases of the airways and other parts of the lung. Some of the most common are asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, cystic fibrosis, sleep apnea and occupational lung diseases. Respiratory diseases affect all ages-children, teens, adults and seniors. Most of these diseases are chronic in nature and all have a major impact not only on the individual with the disease, but on the family, the community, and the health care system.
Asthma is a chronic health disorder affecting a substantial proportion of children and adults worldwide. It is characterized by coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and wheezing. Asthma symptoms and attacks (episodes of more severe shortness of breath) usually occur after exercise or exposure to allergens, viral respiratory infections, irritant fumes or gases. These exposures cause an inflammation of the airway wall and an abnormal narrowing of the airways, which lead to asthma symptoms. Effective treatment can prevent the onset of symptoms in response to these triggers and can control symptoms once they occur.
For more information about asthma check out the following websites:
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic disease characterized by shortness of breath, cough and sputum production. While symptoms of the disease do not usually appear in people younger than age 55 years, changes to the lung begin many years earlier. COPD is an umbrella term for a number of diseases which include chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
COPD progresses slowly over a period of years. Increasing disease severity is associated with more frequent exacerbations, further reductions in airflow and premature death. As the disease advances, shortness of breath limits the activity levels of individuals and reduces their quality of life.
For more information about COPD check out the following websites:
Sleep Apnea is a disorder that causes your breathing to stop repeatedly while you sleep. These breathing pauses or “apneas” can happen many times throughout the night.
There are three types of sleep apnea. The most common is obstructive sleep apnea, which is due to a physical blockage of airflow.
For more information about Sleep Apnea:
Cystic Fibrosis in a rare genetic multi-system disease that mainly affects the respiratory and digestive system but can also affect the sinuses, liver, pancreas and reproductive organs. The severity of the disease varies, depending on the person.
Cardiovascular diseases and blood circulation conditions affect blood flow through the body, which include the heart and blood vessels to the:
other parts of your body
Heart diseases and conditions are the second leading cause of death among Canadians.
High Blood Pressure/Hypertension
High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for stroke and a major risk factor for heart disease. It's important to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range.
Blood pressure is a measure of the pressure or force of blood against the walls of your blood vessels (known as arteries). The top number represents the pressure when your heart contracts and pushes blood out (systolic) and the bottom number is the lowest pressure when the heart relaxes between beats (diastolic).
Blood pressure that is consistently more than 140/90 mm Hg when measured in the doctor's office or 135/85 mmHg when measured at home is considered high. If you have diabetes, 140/90 mm Hg is high.
Normal blood pressure is between 120/80 mm Hg and 129/84 mm Hg.
If your blood pressure is between 130/85 mm Hg and 139/89 mm Hg, you have "high-normal" blood pressure, which is more likely to develop into high blood pressure.
For more information about hypertension/high blood pressure check out the following websites:
Blood cholesterol is a natural fat. Your body needs it to function properly. Having too much cholesterol in your blood is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
Heart failure happens when the heart cannot pump blood as well as it should. As a result, the rest of the body does not receive enough blood. This can happen because of damage to the heart muscle from: a heart attack
too much alcohol
high blood pressure
heart muscle disease
Patients with heart failure usually have shortness of breath and swollen legs.
The nervous system, which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and nerves, controls all of our body functions and movements. Disorders of the nervous system are identified as neurological conditions, and can disrupt normal functions and movements of the body.
MS is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). It attacks myelin, the protective covering around the nerves of the central nervous system, causing inflammation and often damaging the myelin. MS may affect vision, hearing, memory, balance and mobility.
MS is unpredictable and can cause symptoms such as extreme fatigue, lack of coordination, weakness, tingling, impaired sensation, vision problems, bladder problems, cognitive impairment and mood changes. Its effects can be physical, emotional and financial. Currently there is no cure, but each day researchers are learning more about what causes MS and are zeroing in on ways to prevent it.
Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. It develops gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. But while a tremor may be the most well-known sign of Parkinson's disease, the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.
In the early stages of Parkinson's disease, your face may show little or no expression, or your arms may not swing when you walk. Your speech may become soft or slurred. Parkinson's disease symptoms worsen as your condition progresses over time.
Although Parkinson's disease can't be cured, medications may markedly improve your symptoms. In occasional cases, your doctor may suggest surgery to regulate certain regions of your brain and improve your symptoms.
A stroke is a sudden loss of brain function. It is caused by the interruption of flow of blood to the brain (ischemic stroke) or the rupture of blood vessels in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke). The interruption of blood flow or the rupture of blood vessels causes brain cells (neurons) in the affected area to die.
The effects of a stroke depend on where the brain was injured, as well as how much damage occurred. A stroke can impact any number of areas including your ability to move, see, remember, speak, reason and read and write.
Stroke is a medical emergency. Recognizing and responding immediately to the stroke warning signs by calling 9-1-1 or your local emergency number can significantly improve survival and recovery.
For more information about stroke check out the following websites:
Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation
Canadian Stroke Network
Epilepsy is a debilitating neurological disorder characterized by repeated seizures of various types and severity.
Alzheimer's disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that destroys brain cells, causing thinking ability and memory to deteriorate over time. Alzheimer's disease is not a normal part of aging, and is irreversible
Chronic pain is pain that has lasted for at least three months. Chronic pain may also be any recurrent pain that occurs at least three times within three months. Chronic pain can be:
Persistent: continuous pain, or
Recurrent: frequent episodes of pain such as headaches
Unlike acute pain, chronic pain does not serve a useful purpose. Chronic pain is a prolonged, abnormal response to injury. You can think of it as a malfunction in your body's alarm system in which it sends off danger signals for no good reason.
Chronic pain can be associated with diseases like arthritis and cancer or can occur for no known reason (idiopathic). Unlike acute pain, chronic pain serves very little purpose other than to remind a person that their disease is ongoing and requires continued treatment. Chronic pain is what most people with pain suffer from. It requires careful management in order to treat the pain and improve functioning. It is generally harder to treat than acute pain and requires a multi-modal approach. A multi-modal treatment approach uses a combination of medication as well as physical and psychological therapies. There are also specialized chronic pain teams that use an interdisciplinary approach (medicine, nursing, physical therapists, psychologists etc) to treat pain.
There are two types of chronic pain:
nociceptive pain - relating to or denoting pain arising from the stimulation of nerve cells (often as distinct from that arising from damage or disease in the nerves themselves).
neuropathic pain -
For more information about Chronic Pain check out the following websites:
Fibromyalgia (FM) is a relatively common condition affecting two per cent of Canadians. FM occurs more in women than in men. It is seen most in women older than 40, as the incidence of FM increases with age.
Although researchers initially thought the disease affected muscle tissue, we now know it is due to the impairment of pain processing mechanisms within the central nervous system. The preferred term today is chronic widespread pain.
For more information about fibromyalgia check out the following websites:
Arthritis consists of more than 100 different conditions which range from relatively mild forms of tendinitis and bursitis to crippling systemic forms, such as rheumatoid arthritis. It includes pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia and arthritis-related disorders, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, that involve every part of the body. Other forms of the disease, such as gout, are almost never thought of as arthritis, while osteoarthritis is often thought to be the only form of this disease.
The common denominator for all of these conditions is joint and musculoskeletal pain, which is why they are grouped together as 'arthritis.' Often this pain is a result of inflammation of the joint lining. Inflammation is involved in many forms of arthritis and is the body's natural response to injury. The warning signs presented by inflammation are redness, swelling, heat and pain. When a joint becomes inflamed, it may get any or all of these symptoms. This can prevent the normal use of the joint and therefore it can cause the loss of function of that joint.
For more information about arthritis check out the following websites:
Cancer is a disease that starts in our cells. Our bodies are made up of millions of cells, grouped together to form tissues and organs such as muscles and bones, the lungs and the liver. Genes inside each cell order it to grow, work, reproduce and die. Normally, our cells obey these orders and we remain healthy. But sometimes the instructions get mixed up, causing the cells to form lumps or tumours, or spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body.
Tumours can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Benign tumour cells stay in one place in the body and are not usually life-threatening.
Malignant tumour cells are able to invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. Cancer cells that spread to other parts of the body are called metastases.
The first sign that a malignant tumour has spread (metastasized) is often swelling of nearby lymph nodes, but cancer can metastasize to almost any part of the body. It is important to find malignant tumours as early as possible.
Cancers are named after the part of the body where they start. For example, cancer that starts in the bladder but spreads to the lung is called bladder cancer with lung metastases.
For more information about cancer check out the following websites:
Diabetes is a chronic, often debilitating and sometimes fatal disease, in which the body either cannot produce insulin or cannot properly use the insulin it produces. This leads to high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood, which can damage organs, blood vessels and nerves. The body needs insulin to use sugar as an energy source.
There are three main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, usually diagnosed in children and adolescents, occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that controls the amount of sugar in the blood. Approximately 10 per cent of people with diabetes have type 1 diabetes.
The remaining 90 per cent have Type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body does not effectively use the insulin that is produced. Type 2 diabetes usually develops in adulthood, although increasing numbers of children in high-risk populations are being diagnosed.
A third type of diabetes, gestational diabetes, is a temporary condition that occurs during pregnancy. It affects approximately 2 to 4 per cent of all pregnancies (in the non-Aboriginal population) and involves an increased risk of developing diabetes for both mother and child.
Prediabetes refers to a condition where a person's blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes.
For more information about diabetes check out the following websites:
There are seven Diabetes teams in the central region. Diabetes teams may include a dietitian, nurse, nurse practitioner or physician who can help you learn to manage your diabetes. For more information about services of Diabetes Care at Central Health visit the Diabetes Care Program.
Mental health and physical health are fundamentally linked. People living with a serious mental illness are at higher risk of experiencing a wide range of chronic physical conditions. Conversely, people living with chronic physical health conditions experience depression and anxiety at twice the rate of the general population. Co-existing mental and physical conditions can diminish quality of life and lead to longer illness duration and worse health outcomes.
Reference: S.B. Patten, “Long-Term Medical Conditions and Major Depression in the Canadian Population,” Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 44 no. 2 (1999): 151-157.
Obesity is a complex disorder involving an excessive amount of body fat. Obesity isn't just a cosmetic concern. It increases your risk of diseases and health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Being extremely obese means you are especially likely to have health problems related to your weight.
Many organizations including the Canadian Obesity Network, the Canadian Medical Association, the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization now consider obesity to be a chronic disease.
Health Risks of Obesity:
High blood pressure
Type 2 diabetes
sleep apnea and other breathing problems
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a chronic, often debilitating, functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder with symptoms that include abdominal pain, bloating, and altered bowel behaviours, such as constipation and/or diarrhea, or alternating between the two.
Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are diseases that inflame the lining of the GI (gastrointestinal) tract and disrupt your body's ability to digest food, absorb nutrition, and eliminate waste in a healthy manner.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) is an extremely debilitating and potentially disabling illness which is characterized by a sudden onset and lasts for at least six months. It is know to affect multiple systems of the body. While the cause of chronic fatigue is not currently known, it can literally hit anyone at any time. The symptoms of chronic fatigue can closely resemble other types of fatigue which can be caused by various disorders and medications.
Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue:
Impaired mental functions
Muscle and joint pain
Cold or flu like symptoms
And a long list of others
Lupus is a chronic disease with a variety of symptoms caused by inflammation in one or more parts of the body.
More information about Chronic Disease:
Prevention of Chronic Disease