Don’t ignore these chronic conditions — especially now

June 30, 2020 | by Maria Ariza, M.D.
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

As they continue to deal with COVID-19, physicians are finding a disturbing trend. Fear of contracting the virus is keeping some people from getting medical care for chronic health problems that need attention, or preventive care that could catch an underlying issue before it becomes a problem.

While it’s important to stay home as much as possible and social distance from others, it’s also important to protect your health by returning to your doctor for routine check-ups and health screenings. If you have a chronic condition, regular check-ins with your doctor can help keep your condition in check.

Undiagnosed and untreated chronic conditions can make you vulnerable to COVID-19 and put you at increased risk for severe illness if you get the virus. Doctors are finding that many of the sickest coronavirus patients have undiagnosed chronic medical conditions.

What happens if you don’t manage, or take steps to prevent, chronic diseases during this pandemic? The following are some conditions that can’t be ignored:

  • Diabetes. Diabetes can affect almost every part of your body. When left untreated, it can potentially lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney or nerve damage. It’s important to work with your doctor to control your blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol levels, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Routine check-ups with your doctor can also help you assess your risk for diabetes and take steps to reduce it.

  • Hypertension and heart disease. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is known as the “silent killer.” Left undetected or uncontrolled, hypertension can lead to heart attack, stroke, vision loss and kidney disease. Regular check-ups with your doctor and lifestyle changes can help reduce blood pressure. Screenings, like heart scans, can be lifesaving by detecting early calcium build-up in the arteries, the most common cause of heart disease.

  • Respiratory conditions and lung disease. If left untreated, respiratory disorders like asthma, COPD and other lung diseases, can worsen dramatically and increase the risk of complications like pneumonia and respiratory failure. Uncontrolled asthma can lead to an increased risk of permanent lung scarring. Be proactive by working with your doctor to manage these conditions.

  • Obesity. Obesity can damage your body and cause health complications such as metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancers, sleep disorders. Your doctor can work with you to offer treatments for obesity, such as lifestyle changes, medications and/or weight loss surgery.

  • Crohn’s disease / gastrointestinal issues. Early diagnosis and treatment of this inflammatory bowel disease is essential. Letting Crohn’s disease go untreated allows the condition to progress and can lead to severe symptoms and complications (sometimes irreversible), hospitalizations, malnutrition and decreased quality of life.

  • Cancer. This is one disease that cannot be ignored. For many types of cancer, delays in treatment lead to worse outcomes for patients. Also, routine exams, labs and screenings, like mammograms, pap smears and colonoscopies, can help detect cancer early, before symptoms are present, and before the disease has a chance to spread.

  • Depression/anxiety. Now more than ever, people are struggling with depression and anxiety. Untreated, these conditions can have serious consequences, including addiction, self-injury and suicide. Depression and anxiety can also increase your risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis. Treatment helps lower these risks.

We all need to be vigilant about our health. Ignoring a chronic condition or delaying routine preventive care now can end up harming your health later. Also, when you postpone care, urgencies can become emergencies.

Waiting to get emergency care could be life threatening. Call 911 if the situation is life-threatening. Otherwise, head to the ER. Learn more about our emergency care.

Find a primary care doctor.

Book your next appointment online or download the MyEEHealthTM mobile app.

At Edward-Elmhurst Health, your safety and well-being continues to remain our top priority. When you visit us, you will find consistent safety measures in place. Learn more about our Safety Commitment.

For updates on our planning and response efforts as we work to stop the spread of COVID-19, please check EEHealth.org/coronavirus.

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