Despite the wealth of medical literature and a progressively more informed population, there are several health conditions that continue to evade the public radar until it’s too late. These diseases are under-diagnosed because they can develop silently over the years, create symptoms that make them difficult to distinguish from other diseases, or they simply remain unknown to the public. For these and other reasons, screening campaigns aren’t always an effective method to diagnose them, and these ailments continue to jeopardize the health, life quality and longevity of many unsuspecting victims.
Chronic periodontitis : Periodontitis affects the gingiva and the periodontal tissues (hard and soft) that support the teeth. Chronic periodontitis is the consequence of long-term habits of poor oral hygiene and failure to regularly visit the dentist. Only dentists can diagnose the disease, and the dentistry professionals who treat it are called periodontists. Chronic periodontitis goes completely unnoticeable by most victims because it is painless, its symptoms are similar to those of gingivitis, and the progressive damage it causes cannot be easily seen from the outside. This destructive gum disease causes irreversible loss of alveolar bone and associated periodontal ligaments owing to the immune response to oral bacteria that creep to the roots of the teeth creating subgingival calculus. Many victims remain unaware even when their teeth begin to unexpectedly move in their sockets – too late to save them. Contrary to popular belief, edentulism in old age is not a natural consequence of aging; it is caused by untreated periodontal disease.
Celiac disease: This is one of the most difficult diseases to diagnose because it doesn’t cause a predictable or standard set of symptoms. Less than 20% of the victims are diagnosed in the developed world. It affects up to 1% of the population. Predisposition to this autoimmune disorder stems from genetic factors. Diagnosis is usually based on a combination of blood and genetic tests, and intestinal biopsies. The disease is relatively easy to manage once correctly diagnosed. Since it is triggered by the consumption of particular wheat protein (gluten), treatment consists of a permanent gluten-free diet. Unfortunately, the unsuspecting majority of the victims face higher risks of developing cancer and/or facing early death.
Hemochromatosis: Iron overload is an abnormally high concentration of iron in the body as a result of the organism’s inability to get rid of the excess. This condition is caused by a genetic disorder that leads to excessive absorption of iron in the organism (hereditary haemochromatosis), or by repeated blood transfusions that inadvertently increase iron concentration in the patient (transfusion hemosiderosis). Iron is an essential mineral that plays a role in many biological functions in the body. However, an excessive amount of iron disrupts biological processes and can cause serious organ damage. The condition remains asymptomatically for many years until organ function notably impairs. At this point, organ/tissue damage is apparent upon examination and may be life threatening. Treatment consists of removing the excess iron through either phlebotomy or iron chelating drugs.