Invisible Illnesses

An invisible illness is an umbrella term for any medical, physical or mental health condition, that isn’t easily visible to others. Living with these illness often leads to judgement and criticism because others believe you look fine on the outside, and therefore must be.

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Invisible illnesses is a broad subject and can make daily life more challenging for those who have one. Here is some information...

What are invisible illnesses?

An invisible disability is a disability that cannot be seen, may not require a wheelchair, crutches or a blue badge. Mental Health issues such as depression, stress, anxiety and bipolar can affect individuals and their families. The general public can be totally unaware that the individual is suffering and just assume and label as "miserable", "attention seeking", "pessimistic" and given a wide berth, when what they may just need is a bit of understanding and support. Physical disabilities which do not require the use of wheelchairs or crutches include lupus, ME, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. These are not usually life-threatening illnesses but can affect the quality of life such as pain 24/7, limited mobility, being unable to enjoy a good day out or extreme fatigue. These disabilities do not just affect adults. Children can suffer any of the above, or may be affected as the child of the individual who is suffering. They could be young carers who help their parents wash, get dressed or even walk.

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How Invisible Illnesses impact lives
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Open letter

Some stats about Invisible Ilnesses in the UK

In the UK, there are approximately 13.9 million people living with a disability.

Types of Invisible Illnesses

Sensory loss, Non-obvious Physical disabilities, Autism, Learning disability, Dementia including Alzheimer's, Mental Health conditions.
More info below, click to expand. If you have an invisible illness that is not listed please get in touch and we will be happy to add it. 

Addison's disease, also known as primary adrenal insufficiency or hypoadrenalism, is a rare disorder of the adrenal glands.The adrenal glands are 2 small glands that sit on top of the kidneys. They produce 2 essential hormones: cortisol and aldosterone. The adrenal gland is damaged in Addison's disease, so it does not produce enough cortisol or aldosterone.About 8,400 people in the UK have Addison's disease. It can affect people of any age, although it's most common between the ages of 30 and 50. It's also more common in women than men.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects people's behaviour. People with ADHD can seem restless, may have trouble concentrating and may act on impulse .Symptoms of ADHD tend to be noticed at an early age and may become more noticeable when a child's circumstances change, such as when they start school.Most cases are diagnosed when children are 6 to 12 years old.The symptoms of ADHD usually improve with age, but many adults who were diagnosed with the condition at a young age continue to experience problems.People with ADHD may also have additional problems, such as sleep and anxiety disorders.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a term used for people who have excessive difficulties with concentration without the presence of other ADHD symptoms such as excessive impulsiveness or hyperactivity.  The official term from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV is “ADHD of the predominantly inattentive type.”  However in practice ADD is a much more appropriate term.

Adrenal cortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare disease. It is caused by a cancerous growth in the adrenal cortex, which is the outer layer of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands lie on top of the kidneys. They play an important role in the endocrine system, which is the system that produces and regulates hormones. ACC is also known as adrenocortical carcinoma.

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life. For example, you may feel worried and anxious about sitting an exam, or having a medical test or job interview.During times like these, feeling anxious can be perfectly normal.But some people find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and can often affect their daily lives.

An allergy is a reaction the body has to a particular food or substance.Allergies are very common. They're thought to affect more than 1 in 4 people in the UK at some point in their lives.They're particularly common in children. Some allergies go away as a child gets older, although many are lifelong.Adults can develop allergies to things they were not previously allergic to.Having an allergy can be a nuisance and affect your everyday activities, but most allergic reactions are mild and can be largely kept under control.Severe reactions can occasionally occur, but these are uncommon.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia in the UK.Dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning. It can affect memory, thinking skills and other mental abilities.The exact cause of Alzheimer's disease is not yet fully understood, although a number of things are thought to increase your risk of developing the condition.These include:

  • increasing age
  • a family history of the condition
  • untreated depression, although depression can also be one of the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease
  • lifestyle factors and conditions associated with cardiovascular disease

Arachnoiditis is a chronic inflammation of the arachnoid layer of the Meninges.The symptoms of Arachnoiditis tend to vary from one patient to another and some are common features of other back disorders. It is therefore very important to report every symptom, no matter how embarrassing, to your doctor.Chronic back pain is the most frequent complaint. Sciatic pains in the legs are also reported as are deep muscle pains in back and limbs, uncontrollable muscle spasms and twitches occur. These can be accompanied by hypersensitivity and what some sufferers describe as "burning feet". Joint pains are common. Even the weight of clothes can cause discomfort. I felt as if I had scraped a layer of skin from my thighs and the wound was still open. A lot of sufferers find it difficult to describe the pain they are experiencing and use the words, "throbbing", "burning" and "stabbing". Numbness and tingling sensations in the limbs also plague patients. Bladder and bowel problems also exist causing frequent visits to the toilet in the former with some embarrassing loss of control and in the latter constipation, though these may be caused by the medication required to cope with the pain. Another distressing feature is a lack of sexual drive, brought about by an absence of pleasurable sensations, medication, or, simply the pain experienced when attempting to make love. Another distressing problem is the feeling that insects are crawling about your skin causing incessant itching for which there is no remedy. Finally, one must not forget the psychological problems that arise as a result of arachnoiditis.

Asperger syndrome are now being diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder instead. Each person is different, and it is up to each individual how they choose to identify. Some people with a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome may choose to keeping using the term, while others may prefer to refer to themselves as autistic or on the autistic spectrum. Autism is a spectrum condition. All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Some people with Asperger syndrome also have mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different levels and types of support. People with Asperger syndrome see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. If you have Asperger syndrome, you have it for life – it is not an illness or disease and cannot be ‘cured’. Often people feel that Asperger syndrome is a fundamental aspect of their identity. People with Asperger syndrome don't have the learning disabilities that many autistic people have, but they may have specific learning difficulties. They may have fewer problems with speech but may still have difficulties with understanding and processing language.

Asthma is a common lung condition that causes occasional breathing difficulties.It affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood, although it can also develop for the first time in adults.There's currently no cure, but there are simple treatments that can help keep the symptoms under control so it does not have a big impact on your life.

Autism is a spectrum. This means everybody with autism is different. Some autistic people need little or no support. Others may need help from a parent or carer every day. Some people use other names for autism. There are other names for autism used by some people, such as: autism spectrum disorder (ASD) – the medical name for autism

Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder that mainly affects your mood. If you have bipolar disorder, you are likely to have times where you experience:

  • manic or hypo manic episodes (feeling high)
  • depressive episodes (feeling low)
  • potentially some psychotic symptoms during manic or depressed episodes
You might hear these different experiences referred to as mood states. Everyone has variations in their mood, but in bipolar disorder these changes can be very distressing and have a big impact on your life. You may feel that your high and low moods are extreme, and that swings in your mood are overwhelming.

An injury to the head or face, resulting in trauma to the brain. The brain injury may be mild to severe, and the subsequent impact can likewise be from mild, short-term problems to permanent problems including emotional and behavioural changes, cognitive effects and physical disability.

Cancer is a condition where cells in a specific part of the body grow and reproduce uncontrollably. The cancerous cells can invade and destroy surrounding healthy tissue, including organs.Cancer sometimes begins in one part of the body before spreading to other areas. This process is known as metastasis.1 in 2 people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. There are more than 200 different types of cancer, and each is diagnosed and treated in a particular way. 

Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) is a group of inherited conditions that damage the peripheral nerves.It's also known as hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy (HMSN) or peroneal muscular atrophy (PMA).The peripheral nerves are found outside the main central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).They control the muscles and relay sensory information, such as the sense of touch, from the limbs to the brain.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a long-term illness with a wide range of symptoms. The most common symptom is extreme tiredness. CFS is also known as ME, which stands for myalgic encephalitis. Many people refer to the condition as CFS/ME. CFS/ME can affect anyone, including children.

Chronic pain is usually defined as pain that persists beyond the normal time that tissues take to heal following an injury. Most soft tissue injuries heal up within weeks, although some can take several months to completely heal.If a pain continues longer than 3-6 months, it is usually described by pain specialists as “chronic” pain.

Circadian rhythm sleep disorders (CRSD), also known as circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders (CRSWD), are a family of sleep disorders which affect the timing of sleep. CRSDs arise from a persistent pattern of sleep/wake disturbances that can be caused either by dysfunction in one's biological clock system, or by misalignment between one's endogenous oscillator and externally imposed cues

Coeliac disease is a condition where your immune system attacks your own tissues when you eat gluten. This damages your gut (small intestine) so you are unable to take in nutrients

Crohn's disease is a lifelong condition where parts of the digestive system become inflamed. It's one type of a condition called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Cushing's syndrome is a condition caused by having too much of a hormone called cortisol in your body. It can be serious if it's not treated.

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited condition that causes sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive system. This causes lung infections and problems with digesting food.

Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days. Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you're depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.Some people think depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They're wrong – it is a real illness with real symptoms. Depression is not a sign of weakness or something you can "snap out of" by "pulling yourself together".The good news is that with the right treatment and support, most people with depression can make a full recovery.

Dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning. There are many different causes of dementia, and many different types. People often get confused about the difference between Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood sugar level to become too high.There are 2 main types of diabetes:

  • type 1 diabetes  – where the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin
  • type 2 diabetes – where the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body's cells do not react to insulin
Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1. In the UK, around 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2.

Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling. It's a specific learning difficulty, which means it causes problems with certain abilities used for learning, such as reading and writing. Unlike a learning disability, intelligence isn't affected.

Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS) are a group of rare inherited conditions that affect connective tissue.Connective tissues provide support in skin, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, internal organs and bones

Borderline personality disorder (BPD), also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), is a mental illness characterized by a long-term pattern of unstable relationships, distorted sense of self, and strong emotional reactions. Those affected often engage in self-harm and other dangerous behavior.

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and Fallopian tubes. Endometriosis can affect women of any age. It's a long-term condition that can have a significant impact on your life, but there are treatments that can help

Epilepsy is a common condition that affects the brain and causes frequent seizures.Seizures are bursts of electrical activity in the brain that temporarily affect how it works. They can cause a wide range of symptoms.Epilepsy can start at any age, but usually starts either in childhood or in people over 60.It's often lifelong, but can sometimes get slowly better over time.

Fibromyalgia is a condition with chronic pain. The exact causes are not known. However, symptoms are not totally restricted to the pain. There are also sleep disturbances, joint stiffness and severe fatigue. The problem sometimes exists along with depression, stress and Anxiety. Fibromyalgia affects mostly women, though men can also be affected. Adults are usually the victims, although children may also be affected.

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a group of mental and physical problems that can happen when a mother drinks alcohol while she is pregnant. A "syndrome" is a group of symptoms. "Fetal" means anything that has to do with a Fetus. Fetal alcohol syndrome includes ways a fetus is hurt by alcohol while it is still in its mother's womb.

Fructose malabsorption, formerly named dietary fructose intolerance (DFI), is a digestive disorder in which absorption of fructose is impaired by deficient fructose carriers in the small intestine's enterocytes. This results in an increased concentration of fructose in the entire intestine.

Hearing loss can have many different causes. For example: sudden hearing loss in 1 ear may be due to earwax, an ear infection, a perforated (burst) eardrum or Ménière's disease. sudden hearing loss in both ears may be due to damage from a very loud noise, or taking certain medicines that can affect hearing.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that damages the cells in your immune system and weakens your ability to fight everyday infections and disease.  AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is the name used to describe a number of potentially life-threatening infections and illnesses that happen when your immune system has been severely damaged by the HIV virus.While AIDS cannot be transmitted from 1 person to another, the HIV virus can.There's currently no cure for HIV, but there are very effective drug treatments that enable most people with the virus to live a long and healthy life. With an early diagnosis and effective treatments, most people with HIV will not develop any AIDS-related illnesses and will live a near-normal lifespan.

Hereditary Fructose Intolerance (HFI) is an inherited inability to digest fructose (fruit sugar) or its precursors (sugar, sorbitol and brown sugar). This is due to a deficiency of activity of the enzyme fructose-1-phosphate aldolase, resulting in an accumulation of fructose-1-phosphate in the liver, kidney, and small intestine.

Hyperhidrosis is a condition characterized by abnormally increased sweating, in excess of that required for regulation of body temperature. Although primarily a physical burden, hyperhidrosis can deteriorate quality of life from a psychological, emotional, and social perspective.

Hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar, is a fall in blood sugar to levels below normal. This may result in a variety of symptoms, including clumsiness, trouble talking, confusion, loss of consciousness, seizures, or death

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), referred to previously as spastic or nervous colon, and spastic bowel, is a functional gastrointestinal disorder characterized by a group of symptoms accompanied together that include abdominal pain and changes in the consistency of bowel movements.

Kidney disease means your kidneys are damaged and can’t filter blood the way they should. You are at greater risk for kidney disease if you have diabetes or high blood pressure. If you experience kidney failure, treatments include kidney transplant or dialysis.

Lactose intolerance is a common condition caused by a decreased ability to digest lactose, a sugar found in dairy products. Those affected vary in the amount of lactose they can tolerate before symptoms develop.

Learning disability and other conditions. People often confuse learning disability with other conditions. Some examples include: Autism. Autism is not a learning disability. But some autistic people may also have a learning disability. Autism is a developmental disability which affects how you communicate and interact.

Lupus is a disease that occurs when your body's immune system attacks your own tissues and organs (autoimmune disease). Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems — including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs.

Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is an infectious disease caused by the Borrelia bacterium which is spread by ticks. The most common sign of infection is an expanding red rash, known as erythema migrans, that appears at the site of the tick bite about a week after it occurred.

Migraine is a medical condition that involves severe, recurring headaches and other symptoms. Before the headache, there may be sensory changes that are known as an aura.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition - that means it affects your nerves. You get it when your immune system isn’t working properly. Your immune system normally protects you by fighting off infection, but in MS it attacks your nerves by mistake. Your nerves control lots of different parts of your body.

Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that affects the brain’s ability to control sleep-wake cycles. People with narcolepsy may feel rested after waking, but then feel very sleepy throughout much of the day.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome. Patellofemoral pain is the medical term used when pain occurs at the front of the knee, around the kneecap (patella), without signs of any damage or other problems in the knee joint.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it.

Primary immunodeficiencies are very rare
diseases and some are so unusual that they
only affect one or two people in the world. Any
immunodeficiency means that you are likely
to catch rather more infections than is normal.
This is probably why you have been referred to
a Consultant Immunologist.
Some immunodeficiencies are so severe they
are diagnosed soon after birth. But others
leave you at risk to just one or two types of
bacteria, and it could be many years before
you are exposed to these bacteria. In addition,
because these diseases are so rare, many
doctors do not take them into consideration
when diagnosing possible causes of recurrent,
severe, or unusual infections. As a result, it is
possible to suffer long term ill health and even
permanent damage, before you are diagnosed.
These diseases cannot be cured, but with
proper care, most people can enjoy a
reasonable quality of life.

See: Bipolar, Emotional Unstable Personality Disorder, PTSD, etc

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, referred to as CRPS, is a condition that isn’t well understood and is often difficult to diagnose. Its main feature is persistent pain in an arm or leg, usually after trauma.  It is often associated with changes in temperature, swelling and sensitivity. It’s sometimes referred to as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), Sudeck’s atrophy or algodystrophy.

Acute kidney failure (renal failure) or acute kidney injury is when your kidneys suddenly stop working properly. This means that they are unable to remove salt, water and waste products from the bloodstream.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints. The condition usually affects the hands, feet and wrists.There may be periods where symptoms become worse, known as flare-ups or flares.A flare can be difficult to predict, but with treatment it's possible to decrease the number of flares and minimize or prevent long-term damage to the joints.Some people with rheumatoid arthritis also experience problems in other parts of the body, or more general symptoms such as tiredness and weight loss.

Scleroderma is an autoimmune condition that affects the skin and connective tissue. A person who is living with scleroderma will have an overactive immune system, meaning that the body attacks its own healthy tissues, causing hardening and scarring.

Scleroderma is an autoimmune condition that affects the skin and connective tissue. A person who is living with scleroderma will have an overactive immune system, meaning that the body attacks its own healthy tissues, causing hardening and scarring.

Schizophrenia is a severe long-term mental health condition. It causes a range of different psychological symptoms.Doctors often describe schizophrenia as a type of psychosis. This means the person may not always be able to distinguish their own thoughts and ideas from reality.

Schnitzler syndrome is a rare, underdiagnosed disorder in adults characterized by recurrent febrile rash, bone and/or joint pain, enlarged lymph nodes, fatigue, a monoclonal IgM component, leukocytosis and systemic inflammatory response.

Sensory Processing Disorder is a complex neurological disorder that affects the way sensations are experienced and processed. Sensory Processing Disorder exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses and, as a result, a child’s daily routine and activities are disrupted

Sjogren's (SHOW-grins) syndrome is a disorder of your immune system identified by its two most common symptoms — dry eyes and a dry mouth. The condition often accompanies other immune system disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Sleep disorders (or sleep-wake disorders) involve problems with the quality, timing, and amount of sleep, which result in daytime distress and impairment in functioning. Sleep-wake disorders often occur along with medical conditions or other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or cognitive disorders.

Spinal cord disorders can originate from either outside or inside the spinal cord. Damage from the outside of the cord is caused by compression of the spinal cord or injury. The spinal cord may be compressed due to a bone fracture, spinal degeneration, or abnormalities, such as a hematoma, tumor or herniated disk.

Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is a condition affecting the movement of the jaw. It's not usually serious and generally gets better on its own.

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. It produces hormones that control the speed of your metabolism -- the system that helps the body use energy. Thyroid disorders can slow down or rev up metabolism by disrupting the production of thyroid hormones.

Trigeminal neuralgia is sudden, severe facial pain. It's often described as a sharp shooting pain or like having an electric shock in the jaw, teeth or gums. It usually happens in short, unpredictable attacks that can last from a few seconds to about 2 minutes.

Transverse myelitis (TM) is a rare neurological condition in which the spinal cord is inflamed. Transverse implies that the inflammation extends horizontally across the spinal cord.  Partial transverse myelitis and partial myelitis are terms sometimes used to specify inflammation that only affects part of the width of the spinal cord.

A tumour is an abnormal mass of tissue that may be benign, premalignant, or cancerous. Tumours vs. cysts Tumours should not be confused for cysts, which are distinct but can be similar. While a tumour is an abnormal mass of tissue, a cyst is a sac containing air, fluid or other material.

Ulcerative colitis is a long-term condition where the colon and rectum become inflamed. The colon is the large intestine (bowel) and the rectum is the end of the bowel where stools are stored. Small ulcers can develop on the colon's lining, and can bleed and produce pus.

Visual impairment, also known as vision impairment or vision loss, is a decreased ability to see to a degree that causes problems not fixable by usual means, such as glasses. Some also include those who have a decreased ability to see because they do not have access to glasses or contact lenses.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the name for a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties. It includes: emphysema – damage to the air sacs in the lungs. chronic bronchitis – long-term inflammation of the airways.

Low blood pressure is a reading of less than 90/60mmHg. It does not always cause symptoms, but you may need treatment if it does.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels. It's usually associated with a build-up of fatty deposits inside the arteries (atherosclerosis) and an increased risk of blood clots.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a type of joint disease that results from breakdown of joint cartilage and underlying bone. The most common symptoms are joint pain and stiffness. Usually the symptoms progress slowly over years. Initially they may occur only after exercise but can become constant over time.

Heart disease includes conditions that narrow or block blood vessels (coronary heart disease). This can lead to a heart attack, angina and some strokes. Heart disease also covers conditions that affect your heart's muscle, valves or cause abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias)

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. As a result, bones become weak and may break from a fall or, in serious cases, from sneezing or minor bumps.

High cholesterol is when you have too much of a fatty substance called cholesterol in your blood. it's mainly caused by eating fatty food, not exercising enough, being overweight, smoking and drinking alcohol. It can also run in families. you can lower your cholesterol by eating healthily and getting more exercise.

High blood pressure is medically known as hypertension. It means your blood pressure is consistently too high and means that your heart has to work harder to pump blood around your body. High blood pressure is serious. If you ignore it, it can lead to heart and circulatory diseases like heart attack or stroke.










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