Chronic Disease Management
A shocking number of people in the U.S. currently have a chronic disease like heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease. Among adults, 60% have at least one; 40% are juggling two or more chronic medical conditions.
Failing to adequately manage these conditions can have serious, life-threatening consequences. For example, when high blood pressure – which typically has no symptoms – goes undetected for too long, it can damage blood vessels unbeknownst to you, and lead to a stroke or heart attack. Uncontrolled diabetes is the No. 1 reason for leg amputations and a common cause of blindness among working-age adults.
At North Texas Family Medicine, our board-certified physicians have spent decades helping patients like you care for a chronic disease to reduce the risk of medical complications and improve your quality of life. Our doctors will assess the appropriateness of your current treatment plan, including your medications, and review lifestyle factors such as nutrition, exercise, and alcohol and tobacco use. We also provide education and coaching that play a critical role for patients struggling with chronic health concerns.
Chronic Diseases We Treat
Arthritis is a very common chronic condition in which your joints become inflamed, causing pain and stiffness that worsens over time. It can occur anywhere in the body, and the pain can range from mild to debilitating.
Osteoarthritis (a degenerative condition in which the cartilage that cushions bones gradually wears away) and rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disorder) are the most common types of arthritis.
If you think you may have arthritis, mention it to your family doctor. In many cases, the right type of medication (especially anti-inflammatories) may be all you need to alleviate your pain and restore pain-free movement.
With asthma, the airways in your lungs become inflamed, making it difficult to breathe. Additional symptoms of asthma include wheezing, tightness in the chest, and coughing that brings up phlegm.
Asthma flare-ups occur intermittently and may be triggered by allergies or airborne irritants such as smoke. An episode may also be triggered by cold, dry weather, or physical activity.
There is no cure for asthma, but your symptoms can be controlled. The intensity and duration of symptoms can vary greatly among individuals with asthma. Because of this, you should ask your family doctor about the best type of bronchodilation medication to use, and whether a nebulizer or inhaler may be a better choice for you.
One in four people with type 2 diabetes are not even aware they have the disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This makes regular screenings at your family doctor’s office so important. A simple blood test can identify whether you have the condition – or if you have prediabetes, a precursor to diabetes.
The high blood sugar levels that signify diabetes occur most often when your body has difficulty processing the sugar you consume. This is called type 2 diabetes. Over time, serious problems can result, including damage to nerves, kidneys, heart, and eyes, as well as poor blood circulation.
Oral medication or insulin injections, in conjunction with lifestyle changes such as weight loss, are often necessary to control blood sugar levels in diabetics. Your family doctor can help you come up with a regimen that works best for you.
Cardiovascular disease, commonly called heart disease, usually refers to circulatory issues that can lead to heart attack or stroke. But heart disease may also include disorders affecting the heart itself, such as a heart rate that is too fast or too slow.
Coronary artery disease, or CAD, is the most common type of heart disease. It occurs due to a buildup of cholesterol plaque inside blood vessel walls. That’s why keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol levels within a normal range is extremely important if you are at risk of developing heart disease. Certain lifestyle factors can put you at increased risk: tobacco use, lack of activity, and a fat- and salt-heavy diet.
If you’re living with heart disease, make sure you have all the information you need to manage the condition. That’s where your long-term family doctor can make all the difference in the world – providing you with treatment options that are most likely to work based on knowledge of you, your overall health, and the chronic condition you’re dealing with.
Also called the “silent killer,” high blood pressure causes no obvious symptoms until it has already damaged your heart or blood vessels and resulted in a heart attack or stroke.
High blood pressure is when the force of your blood through your blood vessels is too high. It can occur due to many different reasons, including kidney problems and sleep disorders like sleep apnea. Poor lifestyle choices are believed to contribute to high blood pressure. It is a very common chronic medical condition.
There is no cure for high blood pressure, but you can effectively manage it, usually with medication and lifestyle changes. Regular, periodic blood pressure readings can help identify your personal triggers, as well as what treatments or behaviors help to keep your blood pressure in check.
When you have high levels of cholesterol, a fat-like substance in your blood, you are said to have high cholesterol. High cholesterol is typically determined with a blood test.
Your cholesterol level is important because it can increase your risk of heart disease. Like high blood pressure, there are typically no symptoms – until it is too late. It is estimated that more than one-third of American adults have high cholesterol.
Your liver produces cholesterol, which is typically all the cholesterol your body needs. Thus, when you consume animal products such as meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy products, you are consuming excess cholesterol.
Ongoing treatment for the condition includes diet, exercise, and may also include medication.
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped organ located at the base of the neck, above the chest. It produces hormones that regulate metabolism among other body functions.
Two of the most common disorders of the thyroid include:
- Hypothyroidism – insufficient production of thyroid hormones, which can significantly slow your metabolism and cause symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, sensitivity to cold, and weight gain.
- Hyperthyroidism – excess production of thyroid hormones, which speeds metabolism and can cause heart palpitations, weight loss, and difficulty sleeping.
A blood test is used to identify problems with thyroid hormone production levels. While there is no cure for these problems, the conditions can be effectively managed, usually by taking a synthetic thyroid hormone to correct the hormone imbalance.
What Your Sleep May Reveal
Ever wonder why your doctor asks how you’re sleeping?
Poor sleep quality or insufficient amounts of sleep are associated with many different chronic, long-term health problems – including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and depression. Insomnia in a patient that doesn’t usually have problems sleeping may be the first clue your doctor has that something is amiss with your health.
Most experts recommend 7-9 hours of sleep a night. If you’re having difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep, the first step you’ll want to take is to see someone familiar with your usual sleep patterns and health history – in other words, visit your family medicine doctor about it.
Comprehensive Care for Chronic Diseases at North Texas Family Medicine
Don’t tough it out: chronic diseases are a leading cause of death and disability, especially among American adults. Let us help you. If you’ve been diagnosed with one or more chronic medical conditions, the primary care physicians at North Texas Family Medicine can help. Call (972) 599-2567 or request an appointment now to make sure your current treatment plan is right for you.