A disease is any abnormal condition of the body or mind that causes discomfort, dysfunction, or distress to the person afflicted or those in contact with the person. Sometimes the term is used broadly to include injuries, disabilities, syndromes, symptoms, deviant behaviors, and atypical variations of structure and function, while in other contexts these may be considered distinguishable categories. more...
Pathology is the study of diseases. The subject of systematic classification of diseases is referred to as nosology. The broader body of knowledge about human diseases and their treatments is medicine. Many similar (and a few of the same) conditions or processes can affect animals (wild or domestic). The study of diseases affecting animals is veterinary medicine. Plants as well can suffer from a variety of processes such as infection, nutrient deficiency, or deleterious mutation. The study of diseases affecting plants is termed plant pathology.
Syndromes, illness and disease
Medical usage sometimes distinguishes a disease, which has a known specific cause or causes (called its etiology), from a syndrome, which is a collection of signs or symptoms that occur together. However, many conditions have been identified, yet continue to be referred to as "syndromes". Furthermore, numerous conditions of unknown etiology are referred to as "diseases" in many contexts.
Illness, although often used to mean disease, can also refer to a person's perception of their health, regardless of whether they in fact have a disease. A person without any disease may feel unhealthy and believe he has an illness. Another person may feel healthy and believe he does not have an illness even though he may have a disease such as dangerously high blood pressure which may lead to a fatal heart attack or stroke.
Transmission of disease
Some diseases, such as influenza, are contagious or infectious, and can be transmitted by any of a variety of mechanisms, including droplets from coughs and sneezes, by bites of insects or other vectors, from contaminated water or food, etc.
Other diseases, such as cancer and heart disease are not considered to be due to infection, although micro-organisms may play a role.
Social significance of disease
The identification of a condition as a disease, rather than as simply a variation of human structure or function, can have significant social or economic implications. The controversial recognitions as diseases of post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as "shell shock"; repetitive motion injury or repetitive stress injury (RSI); and Gulf War syndrome has had a number of positive and negative effects on the financial and other responsibilities of governments, corporations and institutions towards individuals, as well as on the individuals themselves. The social implication of viewing aging as a disease could be profound, though this classification is not yet widespread.
A condition may be considered to be a disease in some cultures or eras but not in others. Oppositional-defiant disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and, increasingly, obesity are conditions considered to be diseases in the United States and Canada today, but were not so-considered decades ago and are not so-considered in some other countries. Conversely, the number of people in the West who consider homosexuality to be a disease became widespread in the 20th century but has been decreasing in the last two decades.
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