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Invisible Illness: What Is It And The Common Conditions To Watch Out For?

Not all people who look healthy are actually healthy. There are those who suffer from illnesses that are not outwardly visible.

Tenzin Chodon
Written by: Tenzin ChodonUpdated at: May 19, 2023 08:33 IST
Invisible Illness: What Is It And The Common Conditions To Watch Out For?

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Asymptomatic, a term that became familiar to us during the COVID-19 pandemic, refers to illness and infections that display no symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose the condition. Chronic illness that is not outwardly visible to people is also called invisible illness. There are several conditions that do not showcase any symptoms, leaving the patient unaware of his or her medical state. Speaking with Only My Health, Dr Nikhil Kulkarni, Consultant-Internal Medicine, SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim, helps us understand what invisible illness is and lists certain health conditions that are associated with it. 

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What Are Invisible Illnesses?

Dr Kulkarni said, “Most patients suffering from an invisible disease look healthy on the outside. These diseases need detailed screening to reach out the diagnosis.”

According to the doctor, these diseases are invisible to the observers and hard to diagnose, however, they affect the day-to-day life of a person. Chronic pain may be the only symptom, along with the ever-present fatigue, headache, and body pain that help detect these illnesses, he added. 

Invisible Illnesses To Watch Out For

Some of the common invisible illnesses include: 

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition, wherein the immune system attacks healthy cells in the joints. Common symptoms include fatigue, sore and swollen joints, fever, and loss of appetite, which are usually not enough to call a person sick. 

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

According to Dr Kulkarni, chronic fatigue syndrome is a condition, in which fatigue lasts for f six months. It can be accompanied by fever and sore muscles. 


Dr Kulkarni said, “Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes pain and tenderness throughout the body, leading to symptoms, such as musculoskeletal pain and fatigue. 

Celiac disease

According to the doctor, celiac disease is another autoimmune condition that can be characterised as an invisible illness. It involves an adverse reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat and barley.  The common symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea, and constipation.


Lupus is an autoimmune disorder, which attacks joints, blood cells, tissues, and the skin. The symptoms include joint and muscle pain, rashes, headache, and swollen glands. 

Sjogren’s syndrome

Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder, which occurs when the immune system attacks the glands that make moisture in the eyes, mouth, and other parts of the body. Common symptoms include dry eyes, dry skin, dry mouth, and swelling between jaw and ears.


Migraine is an illness that causes a throbbing pain in the head. Common symptoms include one-sided headache, fatigue, and mood changes. 

Crohn's disease

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes swelling of the tissues in the gastrointestinal tract. Some of the common symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and scarring of the intestine. 

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How To Cope With Invisible Illnesses

Dr Kulkarni said, “Most autoimmune conditions are diagnosed after a detailed screening for autoantibodies. An experienced physician or a rheumatologist can diagnose these conditions. Similarly, blood markers and endoscopic procedures can diagnose inflammatory bowel diseases. Migraine requires a detailed screening and neurological scans to understand its causes.