Globally Top 10 Causes of Disability

The Top 10 Question brand explores the Globally Top 10 Causes of Disability, identifying the foremost factors that contribute to disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) worldwide. These encompass a range of diseases and conditions exerting a significant influence on global health.

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Causes of Disability

Global Causes Of Cause of Disability

The global causes of disability encompass a range of health conditions and factors that contribute to individuals experiencing limitations in their daily activities or restrictions in their participation within their communities. These causes can include various diseases, injuries, and conditions that impact physical, mental, or cognitive abilities. Some of the major contributors to global disability include:

List of Globally Top 10 Causes of Disability

  1. Ischemic heart disease
  2. Stroke
  3. Lower respiratory infections
  4. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  5. Diarrheal diseases
  7. Road injuries
  8. Neonatal disorders
  9. Malaria
  10. Tuberculosis

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Ischemic heart disease

Ischemic heart disease

Ischemic heart disease (IHD), also known as coronary artery disease (CAD) or coronary heart disease (CHD), is a cardiovascular condition characterized by a reduced blood supply to the heart muscle. It is the most common type of heart disease and a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide.


IHD is primarily caused by the buildup of fatty deposits, cholesterol, and other substances on the inner walls of coronary arteries, known as atherosclerosis. Over time, this buildup, called plaque, can narrow or block the arteries, reducing blood flow to the heart.

Risk Factors

Several risk factors contribute to the development of ischemic heart disease, including:

  • Age: The risk increases with age.
  • Gender: Men are generally at a higher risk than premenopausal women, but the risk equalizes after menopause.
  • Family history: A family history of heart disease may increase the risk.
  • Smoking: Tobacco smoke contains chemicals that can damage blood vessels and heart tissue.
  • High blood pressure: Hypertension forces the heart to work harder, increasing the risk of heart disease.
  • High cholesterol levels: Elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol contribute to plaque formation.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease, especially if poorly controlled.
  • Obesity: Excess weight can contribute to other risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes.


The symptoms of ischemic heart disease can vary. Common signs include:

  • Angina: Chest pain or discomfort due to reduced blood flow to the heart.
  • Shortness of breath: Difficulty breathing, especially during physical activity.
  • Fatigue: Feeling tired or weak, often without an apparent reason.
  • Heart attack: Sudden, severe chest pain, often radiating to the arm, neck, jaw, or back, may indicate a heart attack.

Diagnosis and Treatment

  • Diagnostic tests: Electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG), stress tests, echocardiogram, coronary angiography, and blood tests can help diagnose IHD.
  • Medications: Treatment may include medications to manage risk factors (e.g., cholesterol-lowering drugs, antiplatelet agents, beta-blockers).
  • Lifestyle changes: Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, smoking cessation, and stress management.
  • Medical procedures: Invasive procedures such as angioplasty and stent placement or coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) may be recommended in severe cases.

IHD requires ongoing management and lifestyle modifications to prevent complications and improve overall heart health. Early detection and intervention are crucial for minimizing the impact of ischemic heart disease on an individual’s well-being. Individuals with concerns about heart health should consult with healthcare professionals for personalized advice and care.


Ischemic heart disease can lead to various complications, including:

  • Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack): This occurs when blood flow to a part of the heart muscle is blocked, leading to damage or death of the heart tissue.
  • Heart Failure: The heart’s pumping ability is compromised, and it cannot meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen.
  • Arrhythmias: Irregular heartbeats can result from the damage to the heart muscle.
  • Valvular Heart Disease: The strain on the heart may lead to issues with the heart valves.



A stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), is a medical emergency that occurs when there is a sudden disruption of blood flow to the brain. This interruption can result in damage to brain cells due to the lack of oxygen and nutrients. Strokes can be classified into two main types: ischemic and hemorrhagic.

Ischemic Stroke

Ischemic strokes are the most common type, accounting for the majority of stroke cases. They occur when a blood clot or atherosclerotic plaque blocks a blood vessel, reducing or completely halting blood flow to a part of the brain.


  • Thrombotic Stroke: Caused by a blood clot (thrombus) forming in one of the arteries supplying blood to the brain.
  • Embolic Stroke: Occurs when a blood clot or debris (embolus) travels from another part of the body to the brain, blocking a blood vessel.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

Hemorrhagic strokes result from bleeding in or around the brain. This bleeding can damage nearby cells and tissues.


  • Intracerebral Hemorrhage: Bleeding directly into the brain tissue, often caused by conditions such as high blood pressure or aneurysms.
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage: Bleeding in the space between the brain and the thin tissues that cover it (subarachnoid space), often due to a ruptured aneurysm.


Recognizing the signs of a stroke is crucial for prompt medical intervention. The common acronym FAST helps identify symptoms:

  • Face Drooping: Sudden weakness or drooping on one side of the face.
  • Arm Weakness: Inability to raise both arms evenly.
  • Speech Difficulty: Slurred speech or difficulty speaking.
  • Time to Call Emergency Services: Seek medical attention immediately if any of these symptoms are observed.

Risk Factors

Several risk factors contribute to the likelihood of experiencing a stroke:

  • High Blood Pressure: The leading risk factor for strokes.
  • Smoking: Increases the risk of blood clots and damages blood vessels.
  • Diabetes: Raises the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • High Cholesterol: Elevated levels can lead to the formation of plaques in arteries.
  • Age: The risk of stroke increases with age.
  • Family History: A history of strokes in the family may increase the risk.

Diagnosis and Treatment

  • Imaging Tests: CT scans or MRI scans help identify the type and location of the stroke.
  • Blood Tests: Check for factors that may contribute to the stroke.
  • Medication: Treatment may include medications to dissolve blood clots (thrombolytics), control blood pressure, or prevent further clot formation.
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove clots or repair bleeding vessels.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

A stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), is a medical emergency that occurs when there is a sudden disruption of blood flow to the brain. This interruption can result in damage to brain cells due to the lack of oxygen and nutrients. Strokes can be classified into two main types: ischemic and hemorrhagic.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a progressive respiratory condition characterized by persistent airflow limitation, making it difficult for individuals to breathe. This limitation is typically not fully reversible and is often associated with chronic inflammation of the airways and lung tissue. COPD encompasses two main conditions: chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Chronic Bronchitis

In chronic bronchitis, there is long-term inflammation of the bronchial tubes (airways that carry air to and from the lungs). This inflammation leads to increased production of mucus and may result in a persistent cough. Over time, the airways become narrowed, making it challenging for air to flow in and out of the lungs.

Lower respiratory infections (LRIs) are a group of infections that affect the lower parts of the respiratory system, primarily the lungs and bronchial tubes. These infections can be caused by various microorganisms, including viruses, bacteria, and fungi. LRIs are a significant global health concern and can range from mild respiratory illnesses to severe, life-threatening conditions.

Diarrheal Disease

Diarrheal Disease

Diarrhoeal disease is a global public health problem that causes significant morbidity and mortality, particularly in developing countries. It is defined as the passage of three or more loose or watery stools within a 24-hour period. Diarrhoea can be caused by a variety of factors, including infectious agents, non-infectious agents, and medications.

Infectious agents

  • Viruses: Rotavirus, norovirus, adenovirus, astrovirus
  • Bacteria: Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter
  • Parasites: Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Entamoeba histolytica

Non-infectious agents

  • Food intolerance: Lactose intolerance, fructose intolerance, gluten intolerance
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis
  • Malnutrition: Protein-energy malnutrition (PEM), kwashiorkor


  • Antibiotics: Penicillin, cephalosporins, macrolides
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin

Symptoms of diarrhoeal disease

  • Loose or watery stools
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Dehydration

Complications of diarrhoeal disease

  • Dehydration: Dehydration is the most serious complication of diarrhoeal disease, and it can be life-threatening, especially in children and the elderly. Symptoms of dehydration include thirst, dry mouth, decreased urination, sunken eyes, and lethargy.
  • Malnutrition: Diarrhoeal disease can lead to malnutrition because it prevents the body from absorbing nutrients from food. Malnutrition can weaken the immune system and make it more difficult to fight off infections.
  • Growth stunting: Diarrhoeal disease can stunt growth in children. This is because diarrhoeal disease can prevent children from absorbing nutrients from food, which is essential for growth.

Prevention of diarrhoeal disease

There are a number of things that can be done to prevent diarrhoeal disease, including:

  • Practicing good hygiene: This includes washing hands with soap and water after using the toilet, before eating, and after handling food.
  • Drinking safe water: This means drinking bottled water or water that has been boiled or filtered.
  • Eating safe food: This means cooking food thoroughly, washing fruits and vegetables carefully, and avoiding raw or undercooked meat and seafood.
  • Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding is the best way to protect infants from diarrhoeal disease.
  • Vaccination: There are vaccines available for rotavirus and cholera, which can help to prevent these two causes of diarrhoeal disease.

Treatment of diarrhoeal disease

The treatment of diarrhoeal disease depends on the cause. In most cases, the treatment is supportive, which means that it is aimed at relieving symptoms and preventing complications. This may include:

  • Restoring fluids and electrolytes: This can be done by drinking oral rehydration solutions (ORS) or by receiving intravenous fluids.
  • Taking medications: There are medications that can help to treat diarrhoeal disease caused by bacteria or parasites.

Lower Respiratory infection

Lower Respiratory infection

Infections impacting the lower respiratory tract, known as Lower Respiratory Infections (LRIs), target vital components such as the lungs, trachea (windpipe), and bronchi (air passages within the lungs). This differs from upper respiratory infections, which primarily affect the nose, throat, and sinuses.

Types of Lower Respiratory Infections

  1. Pneumonia:
    • Cause: Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections.
    • Symptoms: Fever, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, and in severe cases, confusion.
  2. Bronchitis:
    • Cause: Viral or bacterial infection leading to inflammation of the bronchial tubes.
    • Symptoms: Persistent cough, often with mucus, chest discomfort, and sometimes fever.
  3. Bronchiolitis:
    • Cause: Commonly caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in infants and young children.
    • Symptoms: Wheezing, difficulty breathing, coughing, and sometimes fever.
  4. Influenza (Flu):
    • Cause: Influenza viruses (types A, B, and C).
    • Symptoms: Sudden onset of fever, body aches, cough, sore throat, and fatigue.


LRIs are often spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. Close contact with an infected person or touching surfaces contaminated with the virus or bacteria can contribute to transmission.

Risk Factors

  • Age: Infants, young children, and the elderly are more vulnerable.
  • Weakened Immune System: Conditions such as HIV/AIDS or immunosuppressive treatments.
  • Chronic Respiratory Conditions: Individuals with asthma, COPD, or other chronic lung diseases are at higher risk.
  • Environmental Factors: Exposure to air pollution, smoking, or occupational hazards.


Diagnosis of LRIs often involves a combination of clinical evaluation, medical history, and diagnostic tests such as chest X-rays, blood tests, or respiratory samples (sputum or nasal swabs).

Neonatal conditions

Neonatal conditions refer to health issues

Neonatal conditions refer to health issues that affect newborns, typically within the first 28 days of life, also known as the neonatal period. This period is critical for a baby’s health and development as they transition from the womb to the outside world. Neonatal conditions can vary widely in their nature and severity, and they may arise due to various factors, including prenatal influences, genetic factors, or complications during childbirth.

Common Neonatal Conditions

  1. Preterm Birth Complications:
    • Definition: Birth that occurs before 37 weeks of gestation.
    • Complications: Preterm infants may face challenges related to immature organs, respiratory distress syndrome, and an increased risk of infections.
  2. Low Birth Weight:
    • Definition: Babies born weighing less than 2,500 grams (5.5 pounds).
    • Complications: Low birth weight is associated with an increased risk of developmental delays, respiratory problems, and other health issues.
  3. Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome (NRDS):
    • Cause: Insufficient surfactant production in the lungs of preterm infants.
    • Symptoms: Difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, and bluish skin color.
    • Treatment: Respiratory support and surfactant replacement therapy.
  4. Neonatal Sepsis:
    • Cause: Infection, often bacterial, in the bloodstream.
    • Symptoms: Fever, difficulty feeding, lethargy, and respiratory distress.
    • Treatment: Antibiotics and supportive care.
  5. Birth Asphyxia:
    • Cause: Lack of oxygen before, during, or after birth.
    • Symptoms: Bluish or pale skin, difficulty breathing, and low heart rate.
    • Treatment: Prompt resuscitation and supportive care.
  6. Congenital Anomalies:
    • Definition: Structural or functional abnormalities present at birth.
    • Examples: Heart defects, neural tube defects, and genetic disorders.
    • Management: Surgical intervention, medications, or supportive care depending on the specific anomaly.
  7. Neonatal Jaundice:
    • Cause: Buildup of bilirubin in the baby’s blood.
    • Symptoms: Yellowing of the skin and eyes.
    • Treatment: Phototherapy or, in severe cases, exchange transfusion.
  8. Neonatal Hypoglycemia:
    • Cause: Low blood sugar levels in newborns.
    • Symptoms: Tremors, irritability, poor feeding, and lethargy.
    • Treatment: Monitoring blood glucose levels and providing glucose supplementation if necessary.



The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a viral infection that targets the immune system, specifically focusing on CD4 cells, which are essential white blood cells responsible for combating infections. Without proper intervention, HIV infection can advance to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), the disease’s most advanced stage marked by profound immune suppression and increased vulnerability to life-threatening illnesses.

  1. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus):
    • HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, specifically targeting CD4 cells (T cells), which are crucial for the immune system’s proper functioning.
    • It is transmitted through contact with certain body fluids, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids, anal fluids, and breast milk from a person who has HIV.
    • Common modes of transmission include unprotected sexual intercourse, sharing of needles or syringes among drug users, and from mother to child during childbirth or breastfeeding.
  2. AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome):
    • AIDS is the final and most severe stage of HIV infection.
    • It occurs when the immune system is severely damaged, and the CD4 cell count falls below a certain threshold, or when specific opportunistic infections and cancers develop in individuals with HIV.
    • AIDS weakens the immune system to the point where it can no longer fight off many infections and diseases that a healthy immune system would typically control.

HIV/AIDS has been a global health crisis for several decades, but significant progress has been made in understanding and managing the disease. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a combination of medications used to control HIV, slow the progression of the virus, and prevent the development of AIDS. When taken consistently and correctly, ART can help people with HIV lead long and relatively healthy lives. Additionally, prevention methods such as safe sex practices, needle exchange programs, and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) have been developed to reduce the transmission of HIV. Public health efforts also focus on raising awareness and reducing the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.

Road injuries

Road injuries

Road injuries, also commonly referred to as road traffic injuries (RTIs) or road accidents, are incidents that occur on roadways involving vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, or other road users and result in harm or injury. These injuries can range from minor cuts and bruises to severe injuries or even fatalities.

Road injuries can occur in various ways, including:

  1. Vehicle Collisions: These are accidents involving two or more vehicles, such as cars, motorcycles, trucks, or buses. Collisions can result from factors like speeding, reckless driving, impaired driving (due to alcohol or drugs), distracted driving (e.g., texting while driving), or adverse weather conditions.
  2. Pedestrian Accidents: These occur when pedestrians are struck by vehicles while walking or crossing roads. Lack of pedestrian infrastructure, such as crosswalks and pedestrian signals, and driver negligence are common contributing factors.
  3. Cycling Accidents: Cyclists can be involved in accidents with motor vehicles, often resulting in injuries or fatalities. Factors include inadequate bike lanes, failure to yield the right of way, and poor visibility.
  4. Single-Vehicle Accidents: These involve a single vehicle running off the road or colliding with a stationary object. Factors like driver fatigue, loss of control, and mechanical failures can contribute to these accidents.
  5. Rollovers: Some accidents result in vehicles overturning. This can happen due to high-speed collisions, sharp turns, or instability in certain vehicle types.
  6. Motorcycle Accidents: Motorcyclists are vulnerable road users and are at greater risk of injury in accidents. Lack of protective gear, inattentive drivers, and road conditions can contribute to these accidents.



Malaria is a serious and sometimes life-threatening infectious disease caused by parasites of the genus Plasmodium. It is primarily transmitted to humans through the bite of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.

Malaria is a significant global health problem, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Here are some key facts about malaria:

  1. Parasitic Infection: Malaria is caused by several species of Plasmodium parasites. The most deadly form is Plasmodium falciparum, but other species, such as Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium ovale, and Plasmodium malariae, can also infect humans. Each species can lead to slightly different clinical presentations and complications.
  2. Transmission: Anopheles mosquitoes become infected with the Plasmodium parasites when they feed on the blood of an infected person. They then transmit the parasites to other people when they bite and inject the infected saliva into their bloodstream.
  3. Symptoms: The symptoms of malaria typically include fever, chills, sweats, headaches, muscle aches, and fatigue. Other common symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In severe cases, malaria can lead to organ failure, seizures, coma, and death.
  4. Diagnosis: Malaria is diagnosed through blood tests that detect the presence of Plasmodium parasites in the bloodstream. Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) are commonly used in resource-limited settings, while more advanced laboratory techniques, such as microscopy and polymerase chain reaction (PCR), can provide more accurate results.
  5. Treatment: The treatment of malaria involves the use of antimalarial medications. The choice of medication depends on the species of the parasite causing the infection and its resistance to specific drugs. Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) are currently the most effective treatment for uncomplicated falciparum malaria.
  6. Prevention: Preventive measures are crucial in malaria-endemic areas. They include:
    • Insecticide-treated bed nets to protect against mosquito bites while sleeping.
    • Indoor residual spraying with insecticides to reduce mosquito populations.
    • Chemoprophylaxis for travelers to endemic areas.
    • Efforts to eliminate mosquito breeding sites, such as stagnant water.
  7. Vaccination: In recent years, a malaria vaccine known as “RTS,S/AS01” or “Mosquirix” has been developed and is being piloted in some African countries. While it offers partial protection against malaria, it is not a perfect solution, and research is ongoing to improve malaria vaccines.

Malaria is a major public health challenge, causing a significant burden of disease and death, particularly among children under the age of five and pregnant women. Global efforts have been made to control and eliminate malaria, including the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets, improved diagnostics and treatment, and research into new preventive and therapeutic interventions. These efforts have led to substantial progress, but malaria remains a critical health issue in many parts of the world.



Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It primarily affects the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body, such as the brain, spine, kidneys, and bones. TB is a contagious disease that spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Here are some key facts about tuberculosis:

  1. Transmission: TB is primarily transmitted from person to person through the inhalation of tiny airborne droplets containing the bacteria. Close and prolonged contact with an infected individual is usually necessary for transmission.
  2. Latent TB vs. Active TB: Not everyone infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis becomes ill with active TB. Some individuals may have latent TB infection, which means they have the bacteria in their body but do not exhibit symptoms and are not contagious. However, latent TB can become active TB if the person’s immune system becomes weakened.
  3. Symptoms of Active TB: When TB becomes active, it can cause a range of symptoms, including:
    • Persistent cough, often with bloody sputum
    • Chest pain
    • Fatigue
    • Fever and night sweats
    • Loss of appetite and weight loss
    • Weakness
  4. Diagnosis: TB is diagnosed through a combination of clinical evaluation, chest X-rays, and laboratory tests. Sputum samples are often examined for the presence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. In some cases, additional tests like TB skin tests or interferon-gamma release assays may be used.
  5. Treatment: TB is treatable with a course of antibiotics that typically lasts for six to nine months. The most common medications used to treat TB include isoniazid, rifampin, ethambutol, and pyrazinamide. It is crucial to complete the entire course of treatment as prescribed to prevent the development of drug-resistant TB.
  6. Drug-Resistant TB: Drug-resistant TB occurs when the bacteria become resistant to one or more of the drugs used for treatment. This is more common when treatment is not completed as directed. Multi-drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) are more challenging to treat and require more extended and more complex drug regimens.
  7. Prevention: TB prevention measures include:
    • Vaccination: The Bacille Calmette-GuĂ©rin (BCG) vaccine is available in some countries and can provide partial protection against TB, particularly in children.
    • Infection Control: Preventing the spread of TB in healthcare settings and congregate settings is essential to limit transmission.
    • Treatment of Latent TB: Treating individuals with latent TB infection can prevent them from developing active TB in the future.

TB is a significant global health concern, and efforts to control and eliminate the disease continue worldwide. These efforts involve early diagnosis, appropriate treatment, contact tracing, and public health interventions to reduce transmission. Addressing TB also requires attention to social determinants of health, such as poverty and access to healthcare, as these factors can contribute to TB transmission and persistence.

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