How to Give Your Health Condition a Proper Voice

When it comes to your health, communication is key. Whether it's pain, general concern, or just knowing something is not right, correctly explaining what's going on to a healthcare professional can make all the difference in your diagnosis and treatment, even if it's simply knowing how to pronounce a difficult word.

Remember, health care is a partnership. Make sure you show up ready to fully participate in the dialogue with your doctor. The discussion and your health will be better for it. Here are our editor's picks of tough-to-say health conditions:

Ankylosing Spondylitis

man with back pain

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis characterized by chronic inflammation that affects the back and neck. In severe cases, bones fuse, resulting in a rigid and inflexible spine that can lead to abnormal posture.

Joints of the hips, knees, ankles, and shoulders can also be involved as can various organs of the body. Ankylosing spondylitis belongs to a group of conditions known as spondyloarthropathies which primarily affect men and which can be quite painful.



Chikungunya is an alphavirus infection transmitted through mosquito bites. Most who are infected develop symptoms within days that include fever, joint pain, fatigue, insomnia, muscle aches, and rashes, to name just a few of the more common ones.

Symptoms usually resolve quickly, particularly among younger people. There is no specific treatment or vaccination for chikungunya. But, the CDC recommends rest, keeping hydrated, and controlling pain and fever with medication.


pelvis x-ray

Sacroiliitis, inflammation located at the sacroiliac joints in the pelvis, is a key symptom of several forms of inflammatory arthritis. It most commonly occurs from chronic inflammatory arthritis in the spine and results in deep pain.

To diagnose it, doctors may order an x-ray, MRI, CT scan, or lab tests to find out if an infection is at the root. Common treatment of sacroiliitis includes taking pain-relieving medication, muscle relaxers, corticosteroid injections, DMARDS, or TNF-alpha blockers coupled with physical therapy, stretching, and strengthening and posture exercises.


woman out of breath

Atelectasis is the collapse of part or all of the lungs which can lead to a decrease in oxygen being delivered to your organs and tissues. It can occur suddenly or develop over a period of time. Symptoms range from none-existent to dramatic and can include shortness of breath, coughing, fever, chest pain, and shock, to name a few.

If your doctor suspects atelectasis, they may perform a physical exam, chest x-ray, CT scan, bronchoscopy, or blood gases test. Treatment of atelectasis will depend on the underlying cause, with the goal being to re-expand the collapsed portion of the lung which usually consists of a combination of therapies.


woman crippled by pain on the floor

Hyperalgesia is a common underlying feature of a category of illnesses called central sensitivity syndromes. These include fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and restless legs syndrome, among others.

When you have hyperalgesia, your body makes sensations more painful than they should be, whether local or widespread. Interestingly, hyperalgesia doesn't directly cause pain, it simply intensifies it. Reducing hyperalgesia can include the use of anti-depressant and anti-seizure medications. Long-term use of pain relievers can actually cause it.


clogged artery

Atherosclerosis is a chronic, progressive disease in which plaques build up in the walls of arteries. These plaques are formed by deposits of cholesterol and other lipids, calcium, and large inflammatory cells. Once a plaque is present, it can cause several kinds ​of problems, including blood flow obstruction, arterial thrombosis, aneurysms, stroke, peripheral artery disease, and kidney disease.

The fundamental underlying cause of atherosclerosis has not been fully established. However, many factors contribute to it, including genetic predisposition, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes, to name only a few. The best treatment for atherosclerosis is to do everything you can to prevent it, however, lifestyle changes can help it from progressing if you already have it.

Klebsiella Pneumoniae

kid in hospital

Klebsiella pneumoniae is most prevalent in hospital settings and can lead to bacterial pneumonia. It can ascend from the gut and cause a UTI, infect via a urinary catheter, or cause life-threatening blood infections and septic shock, especially among children. 

The bacteria can be hard to treat with antibiotics. So, it's imperative that hospital personnel and visitors keep equipment and hands clean. Currently, there are several research groups working on a vaccine, yet physicians prefer to treat it with quinolones or third- or fourth-generation cephalosporins. 

Myocardial Infarction

man with chest pain

The pain that usually accompanies a myocardial infarction or heart attack, is caused by a small blockage of the coronary arteries that, in turn, oxygen-starves the heart muscle. This is usually due to coronary artery disease or ruptured plaque in the artery wall.

Heart attacks usually produce sudden and significant symptoms, including sweating, nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, severe chest pain or discomfort, or, more atypically, pain in the back, arms, or stomach. Anyone experiencing symptoms resembling a heart attack needs immediate medical assistance. 


woman lying down in pain

Dyspepsia describes the discomfort in the upper abdomen often provoked by eating. You may know it best as indigestion. Symptoms can include bloating, nausea, flatulence, and a burning pain in the stomach, to name a few. If you overeat, eat too fast, eat spicy or fatty foods, consume too much caffeine or alcohol, or even smoke or take antibiotics or painkillers, dyspepsia can occur.

More serious reasons why dyspepsia presents may be a result of other conditions, including GERD, peptic ulcer disease, or even cancer, among others. You should consult your doctor if you are experiencing more severe symptoms. Treatment can involve lifestyle changes and over-the-counter or natural remedies.

Polycythemia Vera

red blood cells

Polycythemia vera (PV) is a disorder in which bone marrow makes too many red and white blood cells and platelets. This can lead to an increased risk of blood clots. People with PV are at slightly greater risk ​of developing leukemia, too. While symptoms may not surface for years, people can develop them, including fatigue, itchiness, night sweats, bone pain, fever, and weight loss.

PV can occur at any age but often happens later in life. Though similar to cancer, the condition can be managed effectively for very long periods. A test called the hematocrit concentration is used both to diagnose PV and to measure a person’s response to therapy. Phlebotomy and drug therapy are the usual starting points of treatment.

Myasthenia Gravis

woman looking in mirror

Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune neuromuscular disorder, meaning that antibodies, which the body normally makes to fight germs, interfere with the transmission of nerve signals to the muscles. This can lead to such symptoms as drooping eyelids, muscle weakness (more commonly in the arms and legs), and difficulty using the mouth. 

While myasthenia gravis is neither inherited nor contagious, researchers hypothesize a possible genetic component. For women, the disorder usually starts in their 20s or 30s; for men, usually after age 50. Testing for the condition includes a blood analysis or ​an edrophonium chloride test and common treatments include a variety of medications, thymus gland removal, and plasma exchange.


drawing blood

People who inherit thalassemia produce an abnormal form of hemoglobin inside red blood cells, normally leading to anemia and other complications, such as iron overload, osteoporosis, gallstones, blood clots, reduced production of sex organs, and enlargement of the spleen, liver, and bone marrow.

There are multiple types of alpha and beta thalassemia and a range of how severe the condition manifests—from just carrying the gene to needing lifelong red blood cell transfusions. People are generally identified with the disorder on routine complete blood count tests, but ​the diagnosis is confirmed by a hemoglobin profile. Treatment can involve medication, folic acid, splenectomy, and a low iron diet.


man with back pain

Sciatica is irritation of the very large sciatic nerve which is responsible for transferring pain and sensory information to and from the brain and muscles. (The sciatic nerve is formed from parts of the spinal cord.) The usual symptoms of sciatica include electric shock pain down the leg, numbness and tingling sensations, and muscle weakness, with the most common cause being a herniated spinal disc.

Typically (and often suddenly), sciatica affects 30- to 50-year-old people. Several conditions can cause pain, so doctors must rule them out with tests before diagnosing and treating sciatica. Treatment usually targets the associated inflammation and involves rest, medications, muscle relaxers, and, depending on severity, steroids. Exercise, physical therapy, and heat/ice packs are also helpful. Surgery may be considered in extreme cases, however, most people recover without it within weeks or months.

Hidradenitis Suppurativa

woman with pain in armpit

Hidradenitis suppurativa is a chronic, scarring skin disease that affects the sweat glands, occurring mainly in the armpits, groin, upper thighs, buttocks, scalp, and under female breasts. It is a common condition that is often misdiagnosed but can be quite disabling. Most who get it are between 20 and 40 years old. And women are three times more likely than men to have it.

The condition gets progressively worse and can lead to painful and restrictive abscesses and scars. While the exact cause is disputed, some believe it's caused by a formation of keratin plugs in follicles while others think it's a blockage of the apocrine gland. Obesity and cigarette smoking may also be triggers.

Hidradenitis suppurativa is diagnosed based solely on appearance. It can neither spread to others nor is a result of poor hygiene. Treatment is difficult and usually involves oral antibiotics, steroid injection, and surgery.


Knee pain

Crepitus is the cracking or grating feeling/sound under the skin—usually in a joint or around the lungs. It is often due to gas or air that has abnormally infiltrated the area and is generated when you move. 

Crepitation occurs when roughened articular (joint) surfaces or extra-articular (non-joint) surfaces rub together and can lead to pain, discomfort, and cartilage wear and degeneration. It's often associated with such conditions as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), interstitial lung disease, rotator cuff tears, and chronic inflammatory types of arthritis.

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