Living with a chronic disease: FAQs of long-term health conditions | 6 min read

Chronic health conditions affect a significant portion of the population, presenting a spectrum of challenges that impact daily life and overall well-being. Being your advocate can improve your ability to understand and manage the symptoms of your illness

So, before you schedule your next appointment with a doctor, write down the list of questions that you want to ask. It will help ensure you get all the necessary information to feel more confident about chronic disease management. 

Frequently asked questions about chronic conditions revolve around understanding the conditions, managing symptoms, treatment options, and lifestyle adjustments. These questions highlight the importance of open communication with healthcare providers to effectively manage chronic conditions and maintain a high quality of life:

1. What is a chronic condition?

A chronic condition is a long-lasting health issue that can be controlled but not cured. These conditions can vary in severity and impact daily life, and they often require ongoing management through medication, lifestyle changes, and healthcare. The World Health Organization states that chronic diseases are not passed from person to person. They are of long duration and generally slow progression. The four main types are cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructed pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes. Although common and costly, many chronic diseases are also preventable as they are linked to lifestyle choices that are within your power to change. 

2. How do I know if I have a chronic condition?

Determining whether you have a chronic condition involves a combination of self-observation and professional medical evaluation. Keep track of any symptoms you’re experiencing, including their frequency, intensity, and any triggers you’ve noticed. Chronic conditions often involve symptoms that persist over time or recur regularly. Many chronic conditions have genetic components. Knowing your family’s health history can explain your risk for certain diseases. If you suspect that your symptoms may indicate a chronic condition, it’s crucial to consult a general medical practitioner. They can conduct a thorough evaluation, including physical examinations, medical history reviews, and diagnostic tests (such as blood tests, imaging studies, etc.) to determine the cause of your symptoms.

3. How can I manage the symptoms of my chronic condition?

It’s important to remember that many chronic conditions can be managed effectively with the proper care and lifestyle adjustments. Early diagnosis and intervention can make a significant difference in managing the disease and maintaining quality of life. Symptom management typically involves a combination of medication, lifestyle modifications (such as diet and exercise), regular monitoring and check-ups with your doctor, and sometimes therapy or counselling. For some chronic conditions, long-term medication may be necessary to manage symptoms and prevent complications. The specifics depend on the condition.

Read next: Can foods boost blood flow circulation?

4. Are there lifestyle changes I can make to improve my condition?

Yes, eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, avoiding tobacco, limiting alcohol consumption, and managing stress can help keep you from developing many diseases and conditions. And, even if you already have diabetes, heart disease, arthritis or another chronic condition, eating healthy food and getting more exercise, whether it’s a brisk walk, a bike ride, a jog or a swim, can help you better manage your illness, avoid complications and prolong your life. Your general medical practitioner provider can offer tailored advice.

5. Is my chronic condition hereditary?

Some chronic conditions have genetic components that may increase your risk if family members have the condition. However, lifestyle and environmental factors also play a significant role in many chronic diseases.

6. What are some of the challenges of living with a chronic disease?

The impact of a chronic condition on daily life varies widely among individuals and depends on the type and severity of the condition. Many people live whole, active lives with proper management and adjustments. Others will find it more challenging:

  • Physical limitations: Chronic diseases can lead to pain, fatigue, mobility issues, and changes in appearance. These physical limitations can make it difficult to perform daily tasks and participate in activities you once enjoyed.
  • Work and school impairments – Symptoms or treatments may make it hard to consistently perform well at work or school. This can affect job stability, promotions, learning, etc.
  • Emotional challenges: Living with a chronic disease can take a toll on your emotional well-being. You may experience anxiety, depression, anger, frustration, and hopelessness. These emotions can be challenging to manage and can affect your relationships with others. Support from family, friends, support groups, or professional counsellors can be beneficial. Developing coping strategies such as mindfulness, stress management techniques, and focusing on activities you enjoy can help.
  • Medication management and care: Managing medications and treatments for a chronic disease can be complex and time-consuming. You may need to take multiple medications, attend regular appointments, and monitor your symptoms closely. This can be overwhelming and can interfere with your daily life.
  • Financial burden: Chronic diseases can be expensive to manage. You may have to pay for medications, treatments, doctor visits, and other healthcare costs. These costs can add up quickly and can put a strain on your finances. Currently, your medical scheme has to offer coverage for certain chronic conditions and certain existing benefits because the list of Prescribed Minimum benefits (PMBs) has been extended to cover 25 common chronic diseases. Medical schemes have to provide benefits that cover you for the diagnosis, treatment and care of these 25 chronic illnesses.
  • Social isolation and loneliness: Living with a chronic disease can lead to social isolation and loneliness. You may find it challenging to connect with others who understand what you’re going through. This can be incredibly challenging if you have to miss out on social events or activities due to your illness.

7. What treatment options are available for my chronic condition?

Treatment options vary depending on the specific condition but may include medications, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, surgery, or other medical interventions. It’s important to discuss all available options with your doctor.

8. How can Intercare help me manage my chronic condition?

Together with your Intercare medical practitioner and HealthBeat, you can take control of your chronic disease management. HealthBeat is a secure portal created to enable your healthcare management. With a HealthBeat profile, you can conveniently schedule medical, dental and mental health bookings and access various affordable online healthcare services. You can also create a care team, provide Intercare with updated personal information, add dependents, and set appointment reminders. The frequency of medical appointments can vary based on the condition’s stability and severity. Regular check-ups are essential for monitoring the condition and making any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.


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