Chronic diseases are the most prevalent healthcare problems in the United States, with nearly half (45 percent) of all Americans reporting at least one chronic illness. Many chronic diseases are lifelong conditions, and their impact lessens the quality of life not only of those suffering from the diseases, but also of family members, caregivers, and others. More than two-thirds of all deaths are caused by one or more of the most common chronic diseases, including:
This category includes diseases such as obstructive sleep apnea and cystic fibrosis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and other common chronic lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory asthma, and bronchiectasis. In all cases, damage or blockage of the airways interferes with the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in lungs.
Cancer is a term for a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. Cancers are described based on the origin of the tumor, including:
Developmental delays may be caused by illnesses such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness; and autism, characterized by difficulty with social interactions and communication.
Diabetes mellitus, often referred to simply as diabetes, is a group of metabolic diseases in which there are high levels of sugar in the blood, either because the body does not produce enough insulin or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced. There are three main types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes.
Chronic disorders and diseases of the digestive system include gastroesophageal reflux disease, ulcers, Crohn's disease, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
The overarching terms for a variety of diseases affecting the heart and vasculature, including:
Chronic mental health issues, such as depression and schizophrenia, are debilitating for those who experience them and extremely distressing for family members and caregivers. While the exact cause of these diseases remains unclear, it is thought that a combination of neurotransmitter imbalances plus genetic predisposition may contribute.
Rheumatic or musculoskeletal conditions comprise more than 150 diseases and syndromes. Those conditions with the greatest impact on society include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis.
AHRQ's Effective Health Care Program is a leading resource for evidence-based, patient-centered outcomes research on chronic diseases. AHRQ is providing this library of resources for health professionals and consumers to help them compare and discuss treatment options in order to make more informed decisions and improve the quality of their health care. These resources are the latest in a series of AHRQ's growing library of free English and Spanish-language publications that review the scientific evidence on various health conditions so consumers and clinicians can work together to learn more about the benefits and risks of different treatment options.
These free AHRQ resources can be downloaded from this site or they can be ordered by contacting the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse at AHRQPubs@ahrq.hhs.gov. When ordering, use the publication number and the code AHRQ C-01, which will expedite the ordering process.
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EHC Inside Track is a newsletter highlighting important news and developments from AHRQ’s Effective Health Care Program.
Call 1-800-358-9295 and use reference code C-01 to get free print copies of EHC Program clinician and consumer research summaries.