Sign in

Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Chronic Illness

In Elemental. More on Medium.

Despite the rise in gut health awareness, treatments for IBS have barely changed in decades

Photo: Jonathan Borba/Unsplash

You probably know the drill: you see a new doctor and have to answer a long checklist about your condition. For me, it’s a new gastroenterologist, and the long history bit is exhausting. Yes, I have flare ups — yes, they are painful. I suffer from IBS-C, which is slightly more polite than saying “irritable bowel syndrome with constipation.” Embarrassing, right?


Covid-19 is new, but the ME/CFS community has dealt with long-haul-like symptoms for years. Here’s how they cope.

A young woman lies down and stares at the ceiling, holding her phone and feeling worried
A young woman lies down and stares at the ceiling, holding her phone and feeling worried
Photo: martin-dm/E+/Getty Images

As the pandemic has progressed, it has become clear that a good chunk of Covid-19 patients suffer symptoms for weeks, even months, after first getting sick. Many of them deal with fatigue, muscle and body aches, difficulty breathing and concentrating, and other issues that make “normal life” feel out of reach.

While SARS-CoV-2 is new, the problem of long-term symptoms after an infection isn’t. Many in the chronic illness community, particularly those affected by myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), understand some of what the long-haulers are going through. ME, sometimes referred to as chronic fatigue syndrome, is a complex, multisystemic neuroimmune disease…


A physician explains the finer details

Photo: AndreyPopov/Getty Images

By now you’ve heard that all sorts of chronic medical problems can increase a person’s risk for complications, and even death, from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The CDC reports that those suffering from chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, end-stage kidney disease on dialysis, and class 3 obesity are at increased risk — as are people with immune deficiencies or on immunosuppressive medications. In addition, race, gender, and socioeconomic status affect a person’s risk. …


It’s a process, not an event

A doctor talking to the patient about their diagnosis.
A doctor talking to the patient about their diagnosis.
Photo: wutwhanfoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus

You probably know somebody who always seems to be sick but can’t really explain why. Or maybe you’re the one who’s been labeled a problem patient. And if you’re anything like I was, you probably think diagnosis works the way we see on TV: Somebody with a mysterious illness heads to Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital or Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, and an intrepid doctor figures out exactly what tests to run to solve the mystery. Alas, things do not usually work this way in the real world.


It’s a problem shared by millions of Americans. Experts, patients, and researchers offer ways to cope.

Illustration: Thoka Maer

Lizz Schumer was diagnosed with fibromyalgia when she was 25 years old, although she first experienced a variety of confusing symptoms several years earlier when she was in college.


I’ve had three different mysterious chronic illnesses. Each time, the struggle to figure out what was wrong drove me further down the online rabbit hole.

Illustration by Jaedoo Lee

It was easier to search at night when it was quiet. I kept up the ritual the way I kept an eye for dying leaves in my houseplants: focused on the excavation, with a sense of obligation but also a mild, almost pleasurable buzz.

Elemental

Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store