| Monday, October 30, 2006
| God of Microscopic Things
|A piece of dialogue from the movie Lagaan:
Lakha: Ooh sab chhod Bhuvan, tu to Tagda khiladi chahat hai naa...eeh Kachra to lula hai (Forget all that, Bhuvan. You want a healthy player, but this Kachra is handicapped).
Bhuvan (pointing to Lakha's hands): Tere haath salamat hai na; devi maa meherbaan hai Lakha, soh keh raha hai (Your hands are uninjured due to the blessings of God, Lakha, thats why you are saying this).
I somehow get reminded of this dialogue whenever I think about how scores of normal people take for granted the many things of life, how normal people can never imagine how hard it is to be on the other side of fence - the painful side, how they can never understand what each tick of clock means for people suffering from say, heart stroke or cancer. A disease in most cases, affects one's lifestyle and changes the course of life permanently. Suddenly, some of the priorities in life become more important than others. Of course it must be much worse than this, but the experience can be likened to a vigorous shaking, back to your senses; if at all someone manages to get back their senses. It may sound strange, but these thoughts led me to do a little digging-around about some of the worst human diseases and the casualties they inflict year after year. As always, I would like to share with my readers whatever I learned (it might be a bit too long, but if you are like me, a sucker for information, then this would help):
Hepatitis: Hepatitis is the inflammation of liver caused by one of the 5 hepatitis virus: A, B, C, D and E of which Hepatitis B is most common and fatal. Symptoms include jaundice, vomiting, dark urine, fatigue and pain. Hepatitis B and C victims can become chronic carriers (life-long) and can suffer from liver cirrhosis (liver cancer) at later stages in their lives. About 2 billion (yes, billion) have been infected with Hepatitis B virus with an estimated 1.2 million dying each year and 350 million already chronic. Approx. 180 million people are infected with Hepatitis C virus out of which 130 million are chronic carriers. Hepatitis B virus can get transmitted just like HIV, however it is 50-100 times more infectious.
Cancer: Cancer is the range of diseases in which cells in some tissue multiply uncontrollably and start invading other parts of the body, thus spreading. There are more than 100 types of cancer - blood cancer, skin cancer, cancer of lung, stomach, breast, prostate, liver, colon, bladder etc. About 7.6 million died last year just due to cancer, with lung and liver cancer amounting to about 1.3 and 1.0 million respectively. Lung, stomach and liver cancer are more common in men; while breast, lung and stomach cancer amongst women. Tobacco is the single most important cause for cancer affecting lung, throat, mouth, stomach, bladder, pancreas, liver, kidney and just about everything.
Heart disease: This disease has no regards for gender, geography or grandiosity. According to WHO estimates, over 17 million died from cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes in 2005; with another 20 million surviving them year after year. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, increased tobacco usage tend to be the high risk factors. More than one billion(!) adults worldwide are overweight; at least 300 million of them are clinically obese. This disease remains the number one killer in US, followed by cancer.
AIDS: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by Human Immuno-deficiency virus (HIV). The HIV virus attacks our immune system itself; ie. the army and the soldiers of our body, making our body susceptible to a wide variety of other diseases. HIV can spread from one human to another through blood, semen, vaginal fluid or breast milk. Although the virus has been found in tears, saliva and urine of infected people, the risk of transmission through these is found to be negligible due to low concentrations. 25 million have died so far, making AIDS the most destructive pandemic ever recorded. An estimated 38.6 million people are living with HIV today. Approximately 4.1 million people became newly infected in 2005, while around 2.8 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses last year. India has the highest number of people with HIV infections, surpassing South Africa this year.
Diabetes: Diabetes occurs when sugar levels in the blood increase due to stoppage/deficiency in the production of insulin (type 1) and/or defective response to the insulin hormone (type 2). Insulin is the hormone secreted by pancreas to regulate blood glucose levels. Diabetes is chronic and long-term complications can involve cardio-vascular problems, kidney failure, blindness, impotency and gangrene that may lead to amputation of feet and legs. An estimated 177 million people are affected by diabetes, the majority by type 2 diabetes and this number can double by 2030. Two-thirds live in the developing countries.
Malaria: It is usually caused by transmission of parasites from the bites of infected female mosquitoes. These mosquitoes are known to thrive more in tropical countries. About 300 million clinical cases with more than a million annual deaths occur worldwide due to malaria. And about 90% of these deaths occur in African children alone. Dengue, another viral outbreak caused by mosquitoes, causes 50 million infections around the globe according to WHO estimates.
Alzheimer's disease: Its a disease of the brain that causes loss of memory (amnesia), loss of attention, language and sometimes even recognition of other people and the current day or month of year. An estimated 24 million people suffer from dementia worldwide. With the current growth rate, it is estimated about 81 million will suffer from it by 2040. Alzheimer's also happens to be the 3rd most costly disease in US, after heart diseases and cancer.
Parkinson's disease: This is a disease of the central nervous system that affects our movement skills and speech. Victims suffer body and muscle tremors, difficulty in movement, even paralysis and difficulty in speech. The worldwide prevalence of Parkinson's disease is estimated to be 4 to 6 million people, with over 1.7 million affected in China alone. In the Parsi community of Bombay, the prevalence is about 328 people per 100K.
Schizophrenia: Around 24 million suffer from this severe brain disorder where people experience delusions often hearing voices and seeing imaginary people. Along with depression, this disorder accounts for 60% of all suicides. Another 50 million suffer from epilepsy, victims of which experience convulsions and repetitive seizures.
Asthma: Its a chronic disease reducing the air flow into and out of the lungs, causing recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing. About 300 million people are estimated to suffer from it according to WHO, while about 255,000 died in 2005.
Tuberculosis: Another contagious disease, the bacteria spreads through the air when an infected person talks, coughs, sneezes, spits etc. It mainly affects the lungs causing chest pain, fever, coughing up of blood etc. One-third of world's population(!) is estimated to be infected, with someone new getting infected every second. Around 1.7 million died in 2004, while 23.5 million people was the combined prevalent and incident rate. TB is the leading cause of death of HIV-positive people.
So after all this, if we sit down to estimate the total fatalities from some of these diseases, say in 2005, it would come down to approximately 17m (heart) + 1.2m (hepatitis) + 7.6m(cancer) + 2.8m (AIDS) + 2.9m (diabetes) + 1.0m (malaria) + ~1.7m (TB) + 0.25m (asthma) = almost 35 million. Thats just in 2005 and thats just eight diseases. I haven't even referred to diseases like diptheria, cholera, respiratory diseases, influenzas etc. OR deaths due to suicides, hunger, alcohol, substance abuse (heroin, cocaine,...) etc. !!
So many people suffering and dying. Sorry for painting such a gloomy picture, but these are the facts that we all need to be aware of. We always read in novels or see in movies that someone dies peacefully on bed due to plain old age. I wonder how many of us would actually go that way? Sometimes I feel, bacteria and viruses will win the battle and cause our perish instead of a meteorite collision, for example. Of course, cutting-edge research by doctors and scientists has entirely eradicated or brought under control many diseases like small-pox, polio, plague, leprosy etc. Its just that new outbreaks like avian influenza, SARS, West Nile virus etc. continue to emerge year-after-year and it really makes me wonder whether we are fighting a losing battle?
My 2-bit advice: Kill that bloody mosquito.
Info compiled from: WHO and Wikipedia.
Labels: Diseases, Health, Research
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Throat cancer often develops from squamous cells on the mucosal surfaces of the larynx, pharynx or mouth. Smoking cigarettes and drinking large quantities of alcohol can increase a person's risk for developing throat cancer. Head and neck cancers account for about 5 percent of cancers in the United States. Throat cancers usually develop around age 60, and men are 10 times more likely to develop them than women. http://www.chantixhome.com/
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