I am an ICU doctor and have been on the clinical frontline for the past 22 years. Most people will have this question: Many diseases have no symptoms and are discovered in the middle and late stages. What is going on? Why do some diseases have no symptoms? What is the mechanism behind this?
Take the occurrence and development of gastric cancer as an example. It takes a long process for stomach disease to develop into gastric cancer. Many patients with gastric cancer have no obvious symptoms in the early stages. In the past, when the cause of gastric cancer was not clear, the mainstream view was that stomach problems were caused by irritating food, excess gastric acid, or excessive stress. But it was later discovered that even if these factors were avoided, the incidence of gastric cancer was still high. In 1981, Australian doctors Marshall and Warren proposed that there is a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori in the stomach, which may be related to gastric disease and gastric cancer.
You must have heard of this bacteria, but how powerful is it? Even iron pieces can be corroded when they enter the human stomach. Almost all bacteria will die when encountering gastric acid, with the exception of Helicobacter pylori. It can indeed survive in strong acids with a pH as low as 2.0.
It was not until 1994 that the idea that persistent Helicobacter pylori infection could cause gastric cancer was recognized, and the World Health Organization classified this bacterium as a first-level carcinogen. In 2005, Marshall and Warren won the Nobel Prize in Medicine. The reason for their award is that “the discovery of Helicobacter pylori has deepened people’s understanding of the relationship between chronic infection, inflammation and cancer.”
From this case, we found that the development from chronic, persistent or even asymptomatic bacterial infection to gastric cancer went through a very long process. All serious chronic diseases do not occur suddenly, but are discovered suddenly. In fact, many diseases are completely preventable, but many people don’t know how to prevent them, let alone the reasons behind them.
I often encounter patients who come to see me at an advanced stage. For example, in the case of intestinal cancer, patients only come to the hospital for treatment when the tumor has grown to block the intestines, causing obstruction, or has metastasized to distant places. This is because most patients do not have any symptoms in the early stages. The reason why the human body can be in a disease state without showing obvious symptoms for more than ten or even decades is because the human body has a compensatory mechanism.
The so-called compensation means that certain tissues or organs in the body can no longer be repaired due to continuous damage, so the human body mobilizes the undamaged parts to speed up the replenishment or replace the damaged parts to complete the work. For example, if the blood vessels of patients with coronary heart disease are narrowed or blocked, the small blood vessels around the blocked blood vessels will become thicker and longer, and even new blood vessels will grow to replace the blocked blood vessels and supply blood to the myocardium. , to prevent fatal myocardial infarction.
Therefore, elderly people who often suffer from angina are less likely to die suddenly because of compensation – long-term angina has caused new small blood vessels to grow around the patient’s narrow blood vessels. On the contrary, sometimes young people who have a myocardial infarction are more likely to die because these compensatory blood vessels have not yet been formed.
The human body’s compensation allows the organs to basically meet their functions in a state of continuous damage, that is, to make do, so no obvious symptoms will appear. However, compensation is a mechanism that the human body has to do and it is a compromise. The ultimate goal of compensation is to ensure the basic functions of organs, that is, to save life. Symptoms will only appear when the disease reaches an advanced stage, when compensation is no longer possible or has exceeded its limit.
The condition can be reversed if the cause can be removed. However, if the cause of the disease persists for a long time, problems will occur sooner or later, symptoms will appear, and some chronic diseases can even become cancerous. In other words, compensation brings compromised survival, but over time, it will also have adverse effects on the human body.
Don’t complain about why your body collapsed suddenly, but you need to understand that your body may have made a lot of efforts and sacrifices to protect you. Knowing the important principle of compensation, you will know how to effectively prevent and treat chronic diseases.
My suggestion is that since many chronic diseases have no symptoms in the early stages, we should proactively screen for early detection and early treatment. For some viral and bacterial infections, such as HPV, hepatitis B virus, etc., we can prevent them from the source or block them from the intermediate links to effectively prevent the development of chronic diseases.
In addition, you can also learn and understand through professional medical knowledge. Based on this, I did a lot of science popularization work in my spare time, shared some medical knowledge on short video platforms such as Douyin and Video Account, and published my second book “My Life Hangs by a Thread, I Will Not Let Go” in November this year. 》. This new book records 19 of my most representative cases during my more than 20 years on the ICU front line. Each case reflects a different theme. It is not just the story of a certain person, but the problems that everyone faces. Understanding the stories behind these cases can help everyone break down the barriers to medical information. What is more important is the analysis behind each case, such as how patients and family members should find professional doctors, how to make decisions together with doctors, etc.
Everyone is the first person responsible for their own health. From this perspective, it is necessary and obligatory for us to have a better understanding of our own bodies and how we should use the body’s mechanisms to protect our health in a more scientific and effective way and protect ourselves and our families. By. Bo Shining (Deputy Chief Physician of ICU of Peking University Third Hospital)