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.

    • Blingthang

      Uh, yes you can die from RA. It happens all the time. What do you think Adrienne Rich died of? RA is a systemic disease and can cause heart attacks, strokes, serious lung disease, kidney disease, renal disease, spinal cord syndrome, lymphoma and fatal infections. Makes you two – three times more likely to die than someone your age who doesn’t have the disease and takes ten years off your life.

      But I agree Lupus should definitely be on the list.

    • asdfgh

      Early death would be nice

  • 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.

  • Emma

    How about Progeria?

  • Picobill

    Debbie I’d say yes.. got CRPS in 2008 it went full body by 2011 and now waiting on a power chair to get me out of my bed… even then a day out is one of pain.. and with all respects to the RA sufferers CRPS pain is the highest rated pain there is… Also CRPS may not kill but imagine living in such pain 24/7 if you can you can probably understand why CRPS nickname is “The Suicide Disease” But CRPS is a “rare” condition even though it’s incurable so I think whoever put this together was thinking just mainstream…

  • CaraLayne ★

    Does IBD, like Crohn’s Disease fall under the same cateogory as Rheumatoid Arthritis? I Mean, Crohn’s is also autoimmune and definately debilitating so…?

    • Rosetta Katrina

      A percentage of people with Crohn’s get RA. I’m one of the ‘lucky’ ones with both. It was hard to tell which was worse some days. The Crohn’s or the RA.

  • Blingthang

    Ha! Whoever wrote this obviously hasn’t actually spoken to any RA sufferers. “Uninterrupted lives.” That’s laughable. It interrupts every part of your life: your work/financial life, athletic life, social life, romantic life and even your ability to care for yourself.

  • Bouleh Art

    Mine should be number one but not sure if I could call this as a toxivicated or disease. I cannot seep permanently (not insomnia or sleep disorder neither seep deprivation) cause by taking heavy 13000mg of moleculized fluoride Antibiotic For 2weeks course that damage and washout my central nervous system that control sleep and wake up cycle.



    I was diagnosed of Lung disease (Asbestosis) in 2013, the doctor told me it has no permanent cure, i was given medications to help me with breathing and bronchodilators inhaler to slow it down, this continued till i saw a testimony in a health forum posted by an Anita Fords from Switzerland about how she was cured of the disease by a herbal Doctor from South Africa Dr Ejiro, I contacted this herbal doctor via his email and he sent me the herbal medicine for Asbestosis through courier service, when i received tthe herbal medicine i applied it for 2 weeks as instructed and i was totally cured off the disease, my health is back again, Contact this herbal doctor via his email or +27617403481

  • Michelle Smith

    Huntington’s disease is one of the most horrendous diseases. Period.

    Huntington’s disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative genetic disorder that affects muscle coordination and leads to mental decline and behavioral symptoms.[1] Symptoms of the disease can vary between individuals and affected members of the same family, but usually progress predictably. The earliest symptoms are often subtle problems with mood or cognition. A general lack of coordination and an unsteady gait often follow. As the disease advances, uncoordinated, jerky body movements become more apparent, along with a decline in mental abilities and behavioral symptoms.[1] Physical abilities gradually worsen until coordinated movement becomes difficult. Mental abilities generally decline into dementia. Complications such as pneumonia, heart disease, and physical injury from falls reduce life expectancy to around twenty years from the point at which symptoms begin. Physical symptoms can begin at any age from infancy to old age, but usually begin between 35 and 44 years of age. The disease may develop earlier in life in each successive generation. About 6% of cases start before the age of 21 years with an akinetic-rigid syndrome; they progress faster and vary slightly. The variant is classified as juvenile, akinetic-rigid, or Westphal variant HD.

    HD is the most common genetic cause of abnormal involuntary writhing movements called chorea, which is why the disease used to be called Huntington’s chorea. The disease is caused by an autosomal dominant mutation in either of an individual’s two copies of a gene called Huntingtin. This means a child of an affected person typically has a 50% chance of inheriting the disease. The Huntingtin gene provides the genetic information for a protein that is also called “huntingtin”. Expansion of a CAG (cytosine-adenine-guanine) triplet repeat stretch within the Huntingtin gene results in a different form of the protein, which gradually damages cells in the brain, through mechanisms that are not fully understood. Genetic testing can be performed at any stage of development, even before the onset of symptoms. This fact raises several ethical debates: the age at which an individual is considered mature enough to choose testing; whether parents have the right to have their children tested; and managing confidentiality and disclosure of test results. Genetic counseling has developed to inform and aid individuals considering genetic testing and has become a model for other genetically dominant diseases.

    There is no cure for HD. Full-time care is required in the later stages of the disease. Existing pharmaceutical and non-drug treatments can relieve some symptoms, but are still limited in improving quality of life. It is much more common in people of Western European descent than in those of Asian or African ancestry. The disease can affect both men and women.

  • Cara Fox

    I can’t believe Huntington’s is isn’t even on the list! I thought it would be in the top 3. It’s the mother of all diseases.

    • Sarah VH

      Make your own list, then.

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