Non-Infectious Diseases: Definition & Examples

Non-Infectious Diseases: Definition & Examples
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Not all diseases can be spread from one person to another. In this lesson, we'll learn about non-infectious diseases: what they are, some examples of them, and how they are treated.

What Is a Non-Infectious Disease?

When a co-worker shows up to work sick and a few days later everyone else is sick, you surely know who to blame. But not every disease can be caught from someone else. Diseases that are not contagious are called non-infectious or non-communicable diseases because they can't be spread from one person to another. So there's no vector for them to move from one host to another, no virus, no bacteria, no pathogen.

Instead, these diseases are caused by other factors, such as genetics, environment, and lifestyle behaviors. Some can be prevented, while others are completely out of your control. Let's take a closer look at what these diseases are, how you get them, and what you can do about them once you have them.

Examples of Non-Infectious Diseases

Many non-communicable diseases are linked to our genes, such as autoimmune diseases. These are diseases that cause the body to attack itself instead of simply fighting off foreign intruders. Rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and celiac are all diseases that turn the body on itself.

Cancers are non-communicable diseases, and the causes of different cancers vary widely. Cancers arise from a genetic mutation that doesn't stop those cells from growing out of control. Sometimes these mutations occur naturally, but they may also be triggered by things such as sun exposure, smoking, and other harmful activities.

Allergies, though they make you feel like you have a cold, are not shareable, either. As much as you might like to pawn off some of your stuffy head and runny nose, allergies are your body's way of putting up too much of a fight for a non-threatening substance. People are allergic to things like pollen, dust, mold, and cats because their body reacts to that specific allergen, which triggers an overreaction to something the body thinks is a pathogen that will harm it.

Both types of diabetes are non-infectious diseases. With diabetes, your pancreas doesn't produce insulin properly or doesn't produce it at all. If diabetes is not treated, it can lead to some other serious conditions, such as blindness and a loss of limbs.

There are also many brain diseases that are not contagious. Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, stroke, and even sleep disorders are things that only the person who has them can fully experience. Bones and vital organs, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, stomach, intestines, gallbladder, appendix, and liver, can also have diseases, most of which are not contagious.

Treating Non-Infectious Diseases

So just how do you treat a disease that can't be spread? It depends entirely on the disease itself. Diabetics can take insulin shots to help regulate their blood sugar, while those with overactive immune systems can take immunosuppressant drugs to help calm down the body's defenses. Various cancers can be treated with radiation and chemotherapy, and there are many surgical and medical options for diseased organs.

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