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Is there anything more frightening than the thought of a dangerous yet asymptomatic condition? It can be truly unnerving to consider a medical condition that has the potential to seriously impair your well-being without giving any warning signs along the way. For many, this is the stuff of nightmares. The bad news is that there actually are a number of serious medical conditions that can remain asymptomatic for months –– or even years –– at a time. These diseases (or subclinical infections as some are known) are more common than many realize. To that end, today we’re going to take a look at these most clandestine of conditions and explain what you can do to protect yourself against them.

How Many Diseases are Asymptomatic?

There are dozens of serious conditions that may remain completely asymptomatic or develop symptoms very slowly over a long period of time. It’s impossible to catalogue every asymptomatic disease here, but the list ranges from conditions like coronary artery disease, to the Dengue virus.

Assessing Risk for Asymptomatic Conditions

Sometimes, people are born with a genetic predisposition to an asymptomatic condition. Consider, for instance, hereditary elliptocytosis –– a condition wherein an abnormally large number of red blood cells are elliptical-shaped rather than biconcave. By learning about family history, and speaking to a medical professional about your parents’ and grandparents’ medical record, individuals can discover which diseases or conditions they may be susceptible to, or –– in some instances –– that they already have.

Alternatively, some asymptomatic conditions arise as a result of a person’s lifestyle. A good example of this is type 2 diabetes, which most often develops as a result of obesity and lack of exercise (though, it should be noted, some people are more genetically at risk for diabetes than others). On the plus side, it’s possible to recognize the risk factors for this disease and make dietary and lifestyle changes to prevent it.

Check with Your Doctor Regularly

This probably won’t come as a surprise, but the most effective way to ensure that you stay on top of your health is to speak with your doctor regularly. A run-of-the-mill checkup can enable your doctor to spot issues you may have missed, and doctors can use that opportunity to administer tests that can identify asymptomatic conditions or risk factors. In addition, don’t hesitate to visit specialized medical facilities to receive support for specific asymptomatic conditions –– such as STDs. (Thankfully, you can find a center for STD testing near you here.) Visiting the doctor might not always be convenient or fun, but it’s necessary all the same. And it just might save your life one day!

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