Living with a Long-term Condition

Living with a long-term condition brings challenges and it's important to have the confidence, support and information to take control of your condition.

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Asthma

Asthma can be complex and take time to diagnose. It is a chronic condition that affects all age groups, causing cough, breathlessness and wheezing. Every 10 seconds someone in the UK has a potentially life-threatening asthma attack. If you’re diagnosed with asthma, there are lots of effective medicines available to help manage your symptoms. When you’re first diagnosed, you will need to see your GP or asthma nurse a few times to check how you’re feeling, monitor your treatment and agree an asthma care plan as you are four times less likely to need to go to hospital with asthma if you have one. 

Once you feel as though you are on top of your symptoms and you are in a good routine with your medicines, it’s important to book an asthma review with your GP Practice at least once a year,  This is so your GP or asthma nurse can check your medicines in case the doses need to be changed. It’s also a chance to talk about your triggers, lifestyle and any other factors that may affect your asthma, such as hay fever.

A trigger is anything which starts your asthma symptoms or makes your asthma symptoms worse. It is possible to have several triggers and sometimes it is difficult to work out what your triggers are. Avoiding your individual triggers, when it’s possible, can help reduce the risk of an asthma attack. Read more here...

Diabetes

Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood sugar level to become too high. There are two main types of diabetes – type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1. In the UK, around 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2. It can have serious health consequences, however, with careful management, people with diabetes can continue to lead full, healthy and active lives.

People with diabetes are unable to stop the level of glucose in their blood from getting too high. Glucose is found in starchy foods, such as pasta, rice, bread and potatoes, as well as in fruit and sweet foods. When we eat food that contains glucose, insulin helps to move it from our blood into our cells, where it's broken down to produce energy. In people with diabetes, when the body doesn’t make enough insulin, or the insulin doesn’t work properly, that process is interrupted and glucose builds up in the blood. This causes the damaging symptoms of the condition. Left untreated, diabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke, nerve damage and blindness.

The aim of any diabetes treatment is to keep blood sugar levels as normal as possible and you need to develop an understanding of how food and physical activity affect your blood glucose level. People with type 1 diabetes can't produce any insulin and must put insulin into their bodies regularly for the rest of their lives. In type 2 diabetes, changing to a healthier diet and lifestyle can often control the condition without the need for further treatment for many years, although eventually you may need treatment with tablets or insulin. It is important to agree a diabetic care plan with your GP or diabetic nurse and book a diabetic review with your GP Practice at least once a year. Read more here...

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

High blood pressure rarely has noticeable symptoms, but if untreated it increases your risk of heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease, stroke or dementia. All adults should have their blood pressure checked regularly (at least every five years). Your chances of having high blood pressure increase as you get older.

Stage 1 hypertension Clinic blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg or higher, Stage 2 hypertension Clinic blood pressure is 160/100 mmHg or higher and severe hypertension Clinic systolic blood pressure is 180 mmHg or higher. Clinic diastolic blood pressure is 110 mmHg or higher.
You can take steps to prevent high blood pressure by:
•    losing weight if you need to
•    reducing the amount of salt you eat
•    exercising regularly
•    eating a healthy diet
•    cutting back if you drink too much alcohol
•    cutting down on caffeine
•    stopping smoking


If you have high blood pressure there are blood pressure-lowering medicines and a combination is usually needed to treat most effectively and with the minimum side effects. If you are under 55 years old – you will usually be offered an ACE inhibitor or an angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB).  If you are aged 55 or older (or you're any age with African or Caribbean family origin) – you will usually be offered a calcium channel blocker. 

In some cases, you may need to take blood pressure-lowering medication for the rest of your life. However, if your blood pressure levels stay under control for several years, your doctor might be able to reduce or stop your treatment. It's really important you take your medications as directed. The medication won't necessarily make you feel any different, but this does not mean it's not working.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

COPD is the name for a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease. Typical symptoms of COPD include:  increasing breathlessness when active, a persistent cough with phlegm and frequent chest infections.  The main cause of COPD is smoking.

It is important that COPD is diagnosed as early as possible so treatment can be used to try to slow down the deterioration of your lungs. Although the damage that has already occurred to your lungs cannot be reversed, you can slow down the progression of the disease. Stopping smoking is particularly effective at doing this. Treatments for COPD usually involve relieving the symptoms with medication, for example by using an inhaler to make breathing easier.

The type of medicine you take will depend on how severe your COPD is and what symptoms you have. Your doctor will discuss the best options with you. Pulmonary rehabilitation may also help increase the amount of exercise you are capable of doing. Surgery is only an option for a small number of people with COPD. It is important to have your GP Practice assess your breathlessness at least once a year.

Depression

Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days. We all go through spells of feeling down, but when you're depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days. Treatment for depression involves either medication or talking treatments, or usually a combination of the two. The kind of treatment that your doctor recommends will be based on the type of depression you have.

There is evidence that exercise may help depression and it is one of the main treatments if you have mild depression.  Talking through your feelings can be helpful and this can be with a friend or relative, or you can ask your GP to suggest a local self-help group.  Your GP may recommend a talking treatment (a type of psychotherapy) or antidepressants, which are tablets that treat the symptoms of depression. These have to be prescribed by a doctor, usually for depression that is moderate or severe.

If you have severe depression, you may be referred to a mental health team made up of psychologists, psychiatrists, specialist nurses and occupational therapists. Take this short test to see if you are depressed

Dementia

Dementia is a common condition. Your risk of developing dementia increases as you get older, and the condition usually occurs in people over the age of 65. An early diagnosis can help you get the right treatment and support, and help those close to you prepare and plan for the future. With treatment and support, many people are able to lead active, fulfilled lives. Living a healthy lifestyle is important for everyone and is the best way to help prevent dementia, eat well and exercise.

It’s easy to feel isolated and alone if you or someone you care for has dementia. Keeping in contact with others is good because it helps keep you active and stimulated. People with dementia can experience mood swings. They can feel sad or angry at times, or scared and frustrated as the disease progresses, you may find it difficult to stay positive. Remember you are not alone and that help and support are available. Talk to someone about your worries. This could be a family member or friend, a member of your local dementia support group or your GP, who can refer you to a counsellor in your area. Read more here...

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a condition that causes the joints to become painful and stiff and is the most common type of arthritis in the UK. You should try and stay active and exercise is safe and has real benefits for sufferers.  Osteoarthritis is a long-term condition and can't be cured, but it does not necessarily get any worse over time and it can sometimes gradually improve. A number of treatments are also available to reduce the symptoms. Mild symptoms can sometimes be managed with simple measures including regular exercise, losing weight if you are overweight, wearing suitable footwear and using special devices to reduce the strain on your joints during your everyday activities. 

If your symptoms are more severe, you may need additional treatments such as painkilling medication and a structured exercise plan carried out under the supervision of a physiotherapist.  In a small number of cases, where the above treatments haven't helped or the damage to the joints is particularly severe, surgery may be carried out to repair, strengthen or replace a damaged joint.

Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a condition that affects the brain and causes repeated seizures. For most people with epilepsy, treatment with medications called anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) is recommended. These medications cannot cure epilepsy, but they are often very effective in controlling seizures.  It can take some time to find the right type and correct dose of AED before your seizures can be controlled. In a few cases, surgery may be used to remove a specific area of the brain that is affected or to install an electrical device that can help control seizures.  Read more here...