Even though a rapid growth in medical research and a phenomenal development in technology have been accompanied by society’s increased awareness of wellness and health, we have not been able to eradicate disease. An ideally designed body would be free from disease. A careful study of body chemistry and cellular function reveals a blueprint for maintaining a disease-free state. The body is protected in three ways:
- Normal body structures function to block the entry of germs through the use of tears, mucous membranes, intact skin, cilia, and body pH.
- The inflammatory response rushes leukocytes to a site of infection, where the invading organisms are engulfed and destroyed in a process called phagocytosis.
- Specific immune responses of the body react to a foreign antigen to protect and defend against disease.
Disease is a pathological condition of the body in response to an alteration in the normal body harmony. Disease is usually tangible or measurable. It may be the direct result of trauma, physical agents, and poisons or the indirect result of genetic anomalies and metabolic and nutritional disturbances. There is a difference between illness and disease. Illness describes the condition of a person who is experiencing a disease. It encompasses the way in which individuals perceive themselves as suffering from a disease. Illness is highly individual and personal. A disease, on the other hand, is known by its medical classification and distinguishing features. For most health-care providers, a disease is easier to treat than an illness. Proper and effective medical management, however, attends to both the disease and the illness.
Fear, anxiety, embarrassment, and concern about the cost of treatment or about possible incapacity or disfigurement may be some of the troubling emotions persons feel when faced with an illness. Some desire to know everything about their particular disease; others choose complete ignorance. The medical community is generally expected to have a “cure,” but not many individuals understand the importance of their participation in the “getting well” process.
This chapter provides a brief synopsis of the causes of disease and disorders. When considering the disharmony that occurs in the body in the form of disease, remember the harmony that exists most of the time.