Healthcare News & Insights

The 12 Most Debilitating Diseases

Debilitating diseases come in many shapes and forms – from those that attack the muscles in our body and affect our physical abilities to those that affect our brain function and impair our thought processes.

People with debilitating diseases face a number of challenges that take an extensive toll on their health and finances. A person’s life can be completely changed in just a few short months as the disease progresses.

Here’s a list of debilitating diseases that significantly change the lives of millions of people:

12. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

RARA is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation in joints and organs throughout the body. A fairly common disease affecting 1.3 million people in America alone, RA includes symptoms that are painful and debilitating. People diagnosed with it may go through periods of remission for months or years where symptoms are not noticed. This is, however, a progressive illness that leads to joint destruction and physical disability, and there is no cure. Treatments have improved over time, and the prognosis for those with RA has improved. Physicians are now able to better control and prevent flare-ups, so patients are able to live a somewhat uninterrupted lives.


11. Schizophrenia

schizophrenia brainThis brain disease is a complex mental disorder that makes it difficult for those diagnosed with it to differentiate between reality and imagined experiences, behave normally in social situations, and have normal emotional responses to everyday situations. Though genetic factors have been identified as one of the causes of the disease, mental health experts still can’t pinpoint specific causes. People who suffer with schizophrenia often spend their lives in monitored isolation due to the disease’s extreme psychological barriers that prevent them from having friends or a job. Antipsychotic medications are the most common form of treatment, and because this is a life-long illness, patients usually have to stay on these medications, which have many side effects, for their lifetime.


10. Poliomyelitis

poliomyelitisThis disease, caused by the spread of the poliovirus, affects the central nervous system and can lead to partial or full paralysis. Though vaccinations to the poliovirus have helped prevent the spread of this disease in many parts of the world, it is still a big concern today due to its extremely debilitating complications. There are three main types of the disease, each ranging in complexity and health threats: subclinical infection, which accounts for 95% of the diagnoses, causes mild discomforts and runs its course within 72 hours; nonparalytic poliomyelitis, which causes pain, stiffness and fatigue, and usually lasts one to two weeks; and paralytic poliomyelitis, which targets the brain and spinal cord, and can cause full or partial paralysis or even death.



9. Muscular Dystrophy (MD)

MDMuscular dystrophies are actually a group of related and inherited disorders that contribute to muscle loss and weakness over time. Each type of MD can affect children and adults, though the most severe forms usually occur in early childhood. There is no cure for these diseases, making their debilitating effects even more upsetting. The effects can target all muscles or just a  group of muscles in the body, causing severe decreases in mobility, lung failure, scoliosis, cardiac fibrosis and tightening of muscles around main joints that cause complications that lead to death.


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  • Ken Stanfield

    COPD and Cystic Fibrosis are both devastating, I have seen many instances of both. Everything else on this list is staggering also… a very sobering, but well written, piece. Thank you.

  • JS7

    Outrageous that you have left Chronic Fatigue/ME off this list.

  • Shaswar

    I think Meniere’s Disease should be included in this list.

  • Nikki Potter

    Two words: pulsitale tinnitus.

  • Debbie O’Sullivan

    Would chronic pain syndrome/fibromyalgia fall into this list of debilitating diseases?

  • kharaa

    I agree, where is severe intractable Tinnitus on this list? it literally makes even the act of thinking hard to do, i’ve suffered from it for 8 years.

  • Brandy Nix

    Did you consider Lupus for this list? There are conditions on here that are NOT fatal but Lupus IS. Whoever wrote this needs to do some more research on debilitating diseases.

  • Eve M

    Why is SLE not on this list but RA is? You can’t die from RA but you can certainly die from lupus. All credibility is lost on this list and perhaps even site.

    • Leon Gower

      Yes you can die from RA as it causes systemic inflammation not just of the joints but of all the organs. Many people do die from this disease and the title is “12 most debilitating diseases” …. RA is most certainly debilitating.

  • Seal Rj IV

    There is so much more out there. How can you even choose what’s better or worse?

  • Cosmic Spark

    Why is schizophrenia 11th? It’s such an unbelievably terrifying disease, arguably on the level of Alzheimer’s.
    Still, nice list, I guess.

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