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Unformatted text preview: © Prep101 http://www.prep101.com/mcat/ DISORDERS AND DISEASES COMMONLY COVERED ON THE MCAT
GENETIC DISORDERS ........................................................................................................... 1
NUTRITIONAL DISORDERS ................................................................................................ 4
INFECTIOUS DISEASES......................................................................................................... 5
OTHER COMMON DISEASES .............................................................................................. 6
This category encompasses a wide variety of diseases and disorders, ranging in
frequency from very rare to fairly frequent, having a mild to lethal impact on the
patient. All are caused by variation at a single locus. They can be classified into six
categories, based on what type of chromosome they are found one and their inheritance
• Only one mutated copy of the gene is needed for a person to be affected by an
autosomal dominant disorder.
• Each affected person usually has one affected parent.
• There is a 50% chance that a child will inherit the mutated gene.
• Many disease conditions that are autosomal dominant have low penetrance,
which means that, although only one mutated copy is needed, a relatively small
proportion of those who inherit that mutation go on to develop the disease, often
later in life.
• Examples include: Huntingtons disease, Neurofibromatosis 1, HBOC syndrome,
Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer
• Two copies of the gene must be mutated for a person to be affected by an
autosomal recessive disorder.
• An affected person usually has unaffected parents who each carry a single copy
of the mutated gene (and are referred to as carriers).
• Two unaffected people who each carry one copy of the mutated gene have a 25%
chance with each pregnancy of having a child affected by the disorder.
• Examples include: Cystic fibrosis, Sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs disease, Spinal
muscular atrophy, Muscular dystrophy
• X-linked dominant disorders are caused by mutations in genes on the X
• Only a few disorders have this inheritance pattern. Page 1 of 9 © Prep101
• http://www.prep101.com/mcat/ Females are more frequently affected than males, and the chance of passing on
an X-linked dominant disorder differs between men and women. The sons of a
man with an X-linked dominant disorder will not be affected, and his daughters
will all inherit the condition. A woman with an X-linked dominant disorder has a
50% chance of having an affected daughter or son with each pregnancy.
Some X-linked dominant conditions, such as Aicardi Syndrome, are fatal to boys,
therefore only girls have them (and boys with Klinefelter Syndrome).
Examples include: Hypophosphatemia, Aicardi Syndrome X-linked recessive
• X-linked recessive disorders are also caused by mutations in genes on the X
• Males are more frequently affected than females, and the chance of passing on
the disorder differs between men and women. The sons of a man with an Xlinked recessive disorder will not be affected, and his daughters will carry one
copy of the mutated gene. With each pregnancy, a woman who carries an Xlinked recessive disorder has a 50% chance of having sons who are affected and a
50% chance of having daughters who carry one copy of the mutated gene.
• Examples include: Hemophilia A, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Color
blindness, Turner Syndrome
• Y-linked disorders are caused by mutations on the Y chromosome.
• Only males can get them, and all of the sons of an affected father are affected.
• Since the Y chromosome is very small, Y-linked disorders only cause infertility,
and may be circumvented with the help of some fertility treatments.
• This type of inheritance, also known as maternal inheritance, applies to genes in
• Because only egg cells contribute mitochondria to the developing embryo, only
females can pass on mitochondrial conditions to their children (both males and
• Examples include: Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON)
Multifactoral and Polygenic Disorders
This category encompasses disorders that are not the result of simple Mendelian
inheritance, but rather the result of multifactoral or polygenic causes. They are usually
associated with the effects of multiple genes, often in combination with lifestyle and
environmental factors. Page 2 of 9 © Prep101
• http://www.prep101.com/mcat/ Although complex disorders often cluster in families, they do not have a clearcut pattern of inheritance. This makes it difficult to determine a person’s risk of
inheriting or passing on these disorders. Complex disorders are also difficult to
study and treat because the specific factors that cause most of these disorders
have not yet been identified.
Examples of multifactoral disorders include: heart disease and diabetes
Examples of polygenic disorders may include autism Chromosomal Disorders
Changes that affect entire chromosomes or segments of chromosomes can cause
problems with growth, development, and function of the body's systems. These
changes can affect many genes along the chromosome and alter the proteins made by
those genes. Conditions caused by a change in the number or structure of chromosomes
are known as chromosomal disorders.
• Chromosomal conditions caused by changes in the number of chromosomes.
• These changes are not inherited, but occur as random events during the
formation of reproductive cells (ova and sperm cells). An error in cell division
called nondisjunction results in reproductive cells with an abnormal number of
• For example, a reproductive cell may accidentally gain or lose one copy of a
chromosome. If one of these atypical reproductive cells contributes to the genetic
makeup of a child, the child will have an extra (trisomy) or missing chromosome
(monosomy) in each of the body’s cells.
• Examples of monosomy include: X0 (Turner Syndrome)
• Examples of trisomy include: Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome), Trisomy 18
(Edwards syndrome), Trisomy 13 (Patau syndrome), Trisomy 9, Trisomy 8
(Warkany syndrome 2), and Trisomy 16 (the most common trisomy in humans,
occurring in more than 1% of pregnancies; usually results in spontaneous
miscarriage in the first trimester)
• Examples of trisomy involving sex chromosomes include: XXX (Triple X
syndrome), XXY (Klinefelter's syndrome), XYY (XYY syndrome)
• A ring chromosome is a chromosome that is formed when the ends have been
lost, and the arms fuse together to form a ring. Ring chromosomes may form in
cells following genetic damage by mutagens like radiation, they may also arise
spontaneously during development.
• Human genetic disorders can be caused by spontaneous ring chromosome
formation; although ring chromosomes are very rare, they have been found in for
all human chromosomes.
Page 3 of 9 © Prep101
• http://www.prep101.com/mcat/ Examples include: Ring Chromosome 20 syndrome where a ring formed by one
copy of chromosome 20 is associated with epilepsy; ring chromosome 14 and
ring chromosome 13 syndrome are associated with mental retardation and
dysmorphic facial features; ring chromosome 15 is associated with mental
retardation, dwarfism and microcephaly Aberrent Chromosomal Structure
• These changes are caused by the breakage and reunion of chromosome segments
when an egg or sperm cell is formed or in early fetal development. Pieces of
DNA can be rearranged within one chromosome, or transferred between two or
• The effects of structural changes depend on their size and location. Many
different structural changes are possible; some cause medical problems, while
others may have no effect on a person’s health.
• Although it is possible to inherit some types of chromosomal abnormalities, most
chromosomal disorders are not passed from one generation to the next.
• Any disease caused by chronic or long-term vitamin deficiency or caused by a
defect in metabolic conversion, such as tryptophan to niacin.
• Vitamin A deficiency causes xerophthalmia (night blindness), xerosis
(replacement of mucus-secreting cells with keratin-producing cells), corneal
ulcers/liquefaction (interruption of glycoprotein synthesis in eyes), decreases
production of human growth hormone
• Vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency causes neurodegeneration, wasting and
eventually, death. Well-known syndromes include Wernicke-Korsakoff
syndrome and beriberi, diseases also common in chronic abusers of alcohol
• Vitamin B3 (niacin) deficiency contibutes to pellagra (along with a tryptophan
• Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) deficiency leads to various forms of anemia
• Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) deficiency leads to scurvy, a disease involving the
breakdown of collagen-containing structures in the body (resulting in excessive
bruising, spongy gums, hair loss, poor healing of wounds, bleeding from mucosmembranes and anemia
• Vitamin D deficiency causes rickets, a softening of the bone (resulting in bow
legs, increased rate of fractures, and impaired growth)
• Vitamin K deficiency causes bleeding, cartilage calcification, and deposition of
calcium ions in blood vessels, by impairing the formation of the amino acid
glutamate (and therefore glutamate-containing proteins)
Page 4 of 9 © Prep101 http://www.prep101.com/mcat/ Hypervitaminosis
• Vitamin poisoning refers to a condition of high storage levels of vitamins, which
can lead to toxic symptoms.
• High dosage vitamin A, high dosage, slow release vitamin B3 and very high
dosage vitamin B6 alone without vitamin B complex are sometimes associated
with vitamin side effects that usually rapidly cease with supplement reduction or
cessation. Hypervitaminosis A can lead to birth defects, liver abnormalities,
reduced bone mineral density (osteoporosis), and loss of muscular coordination.
• Conversely, certain vitamins do not produce toxicity in excess levels. Vitamin C
has been used in dosages over 100,000 mg for serious illness — over 1000 times
the daily recommended intake — without ill effects (except a pronounced
• High doses of mineral supplements can also lead to side effects and toxicity.
Mineral supplement poisoning does occur occasionally due to excessive and
unusual intake of iron containing supplements, including some multivitamins
Infectious diseases are caused by a biological agent such as a virus, bacterium, fungi or
parasite. Infectious diseases require an agent and a mode of transmission (or vector).
For example, malaria, which is caused by Plasmodial parasites (the agent), cannot affect
humans unless the vector, the Anopheles mosquito, is transmits the agent to the human
bloodstream. The vector does not have to be biological. Many infectious diseases are
transmitted by droplets which enter the airway (e.g. common cold or tuberculosis).
Modes of transmission may include droplet contact, fecal-oral transmission, sexual
transmission, oral-sexual transmission, oral transmission, transmission by direct
contact, vertical transmission, and latrogenic transmission.
Viral Infectious Diseases
• Diseases caused by viruses; treated with anti-virals; often prevented with
• Common examples include AIDS; Chickenpox; Common cold; Dengue fever;
Ebola; Hepatitis; Herpes simplex and zoster; Influenza; Measles; Mumps; Polio;
Rabies; Rubella; Smallpox; West Nile disease; Yellow fever
Bacterial Infectious Diseases
• Diseases caused by bacteria; treated with antibiotics; many disease strains are
• Common examples include Anthrax; Cholera; Diphtheria; Gonorrhea; Leprosy;
Lyme Disease; Pertussis (Whooping Cough); Plague; Scarlet Fever; Syphilis;
Tetanus; Tuberculosis; Typhus Page 5 of 9 © Prep101 http://www.prep101.com/mcat/ Parasitic Infectious Diseases
• Diseases caused by parasites; treated with anti-infective agents which target
protozoa and other parasites
• Common examples include Chagas Disease; Fascioliasis; Giardiasis; Malaria;
Pinworm Infection; Scabies; Schistosomiasis; Toxoplasmosis; Trichinosis
Fungal Infectious Diseases
• Diseases caused by a fungus; can be superficial, cutaneous, subcutaneous or
• Treated with anti-fungals
• Common examples include Blastomycosis; Candidiasis (Yeast infections and
Thrush); Tinea pedis (Athlete’s foot)
Prion Infectious Diseases
• Diseases caused by an abnormally-structured host protein known as a prion
(short for proteinaceous infectious particle)
• There are no known treatments for prion-related diseases
• Common examples include Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (Mad cow);
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; Kuru
OTHER COMMON DISEASES
The following is a list of common diseases and conditions that are not infectious and not
genetic (although people may have a genetic predisposition, that is, they tend to run in
• Cancer is a class of diseases characterized by uncontrolled division of cells and
the ability of these cells to invade other tissues, either by direct growth into
adjacent tissue through invasion or by implantation into distant sites by
• Metastasis is defined as the stage in which cancer cells are transported through
the bloodstream or lymphatic system.
• Cancer may affect people at all ages, but risk tends to increase with age, due to
the fact that DNA damage becomes more apparent in aging DNA.
• There are many types of cancer. Severity of symptoms depends on the site and
character of the malignancy and whether there is metastasis. A definitive
diagnosis usually requires the histologic examination of tissue by a pathologist.
This tissue is obtained by biopsy or surgery.
• Most cancers can be treated and some cured, depending on the specific type,
location, and stage. Once diagnosed, cancer is usually treated with a combination
Page 6 of 9 © Prep101 • http://www.prep101.com/mcat/ of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. As research develops, treatments
are becoming more specific for the type of cancer pathology. Drugs that target
specific cancers already exist for several cancers.
Many forms of cancer are associated with exposure to environmental factors
such as tobacco smoke, radiation, alcohol and certain viruses. While some of
these can be avoided, there is no known way to entirely avoid the disease. Diabetes
• Diabetes mellitus is a disease characterized by persistent hyperglycemia (high
blood sugar levels), resulting either from inadequate secretion of the hormone
insulin, an inadequate response of target cells to insulin, or a combination of
• The three most common patterns of diabetes have been recognized over the last
thirty years as type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes (or type 3), although these
three "types" of diabetes are more accurately considered patterns of pancreatic
failure rather than single diseases.
• Arthritis is a group of conditions where there is damage caused to the joints of
the body. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability over the age of 65.
• There are many forms of arthritis, each of which has a different cause.
Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are autoimmune diseases in which
the body is attacking itself. Septic arthritis is caused by joint infection. Gouty
arthritis is caused by deposition of uric acid crystals in the joint and subsequent
inflammation. The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis is also known as
degenerative joint disease and occurs following trauma to the joint, following an
infection of the joint or simply as a result of aging.
• Alzheimer's disease is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by progressive
cognitive deterioration together with declining activities of daily living and
neuropsychiatric symptoms or behavioral changes. It is the most common cause
• This pathological process consists principally of neuronal loss or atrophy,
principally in the temporoparietal cortex, but also in the frontal cortex, together
with an inflammatory response to the deposition of amyloid plaques and
• Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that
affects the control of muscles, and so may affect movement, speech and posture. Page 7 of 9 © Prep101
• • http://www.prep101.com/mcat/ It is often characterized by muscle rigidity, tremor, a slowing of physical
movement (bradykinesia), and in extreme cases, a loss of physical movement
The primary symptoms are the results of excessive muscle contraction, normally
caused by the insufficient formation and action of dopamine, which is produced
in the dopaminergic neurons of the brain. Secondary symptoms may include
high level cognitive function and subtle language problems. PD is both chronic,
meaning it persists over a long period of time, and is progressive. Heart and circulatory-related diseases
Heart disease is one of a number of different diseases which afflict the heart.
Circulatory diseases refer to diseases that affect the arteries and veins. Together they are
known as cardiovascular diseases. Pulmonary diseases are those that affect the lungs
and gas exchange system.
Coronary heart disease
• Coronary heart disease, also called coronary artery disease and atherosclerotic
heart disease, is the end result of the accumulation of atheromatous plaques
within the walls of the arteries that supply the myocardium (the muscle of the
• While the symptoms and signs of coronary heart disease are noted in the
advanced state of disease, most individuals with coronary heart disease show no
evidence of disease for decades as the disease progresses before the first onset of
symptoms, often a "sudden" heart attack, finally arise. After decades of
progression, some of these atheromatous plaques may rupture and (along with
the activation of the blood clotting system) start limiting blood flow to the heart
muscle. The disease is the most common cause of sudden death.
Pulmonary heart disease
• Cor pulmonale is a medical term used to describe a change in structure and
function of the right ventricle of the heart as a result of a respiratory disorder. To
be classified as cor pulmonale, the cause must originate in the pulmonary
circulation. Vascular remodelling of the pulmonary circulation as a result of
tissue damage (causes including disease, hypoxic injury, chemical agents, etc.) or
chronic hypoxic vasoconstriction are two major causes.
• Hypertension or high blood pressure is a medical condition wherein the blood
pressure is chronically elevated.
• Persistent hypertension is one of the risk factors for strokes, heart attacks, heart
failure and arterial aneurysm, and is a leading cause of chronic renal failure.
Hypotension Page 8 of 9 © Prep101
• http://www.prep101.com/mcat/ Hypotension refers to abnormally low blood pressure.
It is often associated with shock, though not necessarily indicative of it.
The cardinal symptom of hypotension is lightheadedness or dizziness. If the
blood pressure is sufficiently low, seizures can occur Cariac Arrest
• A cardiac arrest, or circulatory arrest, is the abrupt cessation of normal
circulation of the blood due to failure of the heart to contract effectively during
• An aneurysm is a localized dilation or ballooning of a blood vessel by more than
50% of the diameter of the vessel and can lead to instant death.
• Aneurysms most commonly occur in arteries at the base of the brain and in the
aorta (this is an aortic aneurysm).
• This bulge in a blood vessel, much like a bulge on an over-inflated innertube, can
lead to death at anytime. The larger an aneurysm becomes, the more likely it is to
• Pulmonary edema is swelling and/or fluid accumulation in the lungs. It leads to
impaired gas exchange and may cause respiratory failure.
• It is due to either failure of the heart to remove fluid from the lung circulation or
due to a direct injury to the lungs. Treatment depends on the cause, but focuses
on maximizing respiratory function and removing the cause.
• Asthma is a disease of the respiratory system in which the airways constrict,
become inflamed, and are lined with excessive amounts of mucus. This airway
narrowing causes symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, chest
tightness, and coughing, which respond to bronchodilators. Between episodes,
most patients feel fine.
• Asthma occurs as a response to one or more "triggers," such as exposure to an
environmental stimulant (or allergen), cold air, exercise, or emotional stress.
• In children, the most common triggers are viral illnesses such as those that cause
the common cold. Page 9 of 9 ...
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