Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) | Non-Contagious Diseases | Non-Infectious Diseases

Non-communicable diseases are diseases that are not transmitted from one person to another. These affect only the person who is suffering from it.

In order to survive the body must be protected from the extreme insults of its environment and obtain its nourishment. Apart from its need for a number of chemical substances, referred to as nutrients, which are normally obtained from foods.

Man is in a very literal sense-what he eats, The physical body is in a constant state of flux with continually entering (nutrients) and leaving (waste products).

Some of the nutrients our body uses as a source of energy and this constitutes the prime nutritional need.

Others such as minerals, vitamins, and proteins have a more specific role in the body’s architecture and function. Any deficiency of the latter nutrients leads to one or the other disorders in the body and exhibits certain symptoms for the same.

As a matter of fact, these disorders do not spread from person to person and are hence termed non-communicable disorders (or disease).

Examples of non-communicable diseases


Malnutrition literally means bad nutrition. This may take the form of overnutrition, leading at one extreme to gross obesity; or of undernutrition leading at the other extreme to starvation and ultimately death.

Overnutrition is associated with affluence, undernutrition with poverty, in South Africa both are seen but the dimensions of the latter are more disturbing—poverty with its attendant cycles of inadequate shelter, poor hygiene, squalor and disease, insufficient and inappropriate food.

Undernutrition may be general, reflecting an overall lack of food; or nutrients. Certain important disorders, that develop due to malnutrition has been described as:

Protein deficiency malnutrition

The effect of malnutrition is more prominent in children than in adults. The reason is very distinct, children grow actively for which they need an adequate and constant supply of proteins.

Children between the ages of 1 to 5 are the worst sufferers. Two important disorders marasmus and kwashiorkor develop due to protein deficiency in children.

Protein deficiency symptoms marasmus and kwashiorkor — non-communicable disease
Anjali (Right) with potbelly caused by protein deficiency (Courtesy: Protsahan India Foundation)
Symptoms of kwashiorkar
  • Mental and physical growth retarded
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bulging eye
  • Protruding bellies
  • Loss of lusture in the hairs and skin
  • The skin becomes dry, lustreless and appearances of dark spots
  • Children becomes lazy and irritated
Symptoms of marasmus
  • Children become weak and get fatigued easily
  • Severely emaciated (abnormally thin)
  • Apperaence as old man’s face
  • Wrinkles on the skin
  • Depressed eyes
  • Subcutaneous fat disappear

Vitamin deficiency

You are quite familiar with different types of vitamins, their sources, the roles that they play in the metabolism, and the diseases that develop due to their deficiency.

For revision sake, we shall describe only two vitamins and the disorders it produces.

Vitamin A (beauty vitamin)
  • It helps in the normal growth of bones and teeth particularly in children.
  • It helps to keep the skin smooth and soft.
  • It is essential for the health of the eyes.

Deficiency of vitamin A results in:

  • Night blindness
  • Xeropthalmia
Night blindness

Night blindness is characterized by the failure of things to see in dim light. It is due to a deficiency of carotene from which vitamin A is synthesized. A pigment, namely, rhodopsin (visual purple) is synthesized in the rod cells of rating and enables us to see in dim light.


Its chief symptoms include dryness of the eyes as the tear glands fail to work, the cornea gets infected. In several cases, blindness might result.

Other symptoms are thick and rough skin, lusterless and dull eyes, kidney and bladder stones are more common, and a decrease in resistibility.

Food sources of carotene:

  • Green-leafy vegetables
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Pumpkins
  • Papayas
  • Apricot, etc.
Niacin (nicotinic acid) or vitamin B3

It is important for the skin and also for the central nervous system. Lack of niacin causes a disease called pellagra.

Symptoms are mental depression, extremities becoming numb, loss in weight, skin appears — rough, scaly, dark

Food sources for niacin:

  • Egg
  • Milk
  • Fruits
  • Groundnuts
  • Fresh green vegetables
  • Whole grains

These foods will usually provide sufficient niacin to maintain good health.

Degenerative diseases

It is a type of disease in which the function or structure of the affected body tissues or organs changes affect body function and goes worse over time.

Degenerative diseases may affect many of your body’s activities, such as body balance, movement, breathing, talking, nerve functions, spine functions, and heart functions. Aging is one of the common risk factors for many degenerative diseases.

Examples of degenerative diseases

  • Alzheimer’s disease (AD)
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease)
  • Cancers
  • Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease (CMT)
  • Chronic traumatic encephalopathy
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Some of the cytochrome c oxidase deficiencies (often the cause of degenerative Leigh syndrome)
  • Some of the cardiovascular diseases (e.g. atherosclerotic ones like coronary artery disease, aortic stenosis, etc.)
  • Ehlers–Danlos syndrome
  • Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva
  • Friedreich ataxia
  • Frontotemporal dementia (FTD)
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Infantile neuroaxonal dystrophy
  • Keratoconus (KC)
  • Keratoglobus
  • Leukodystrophies
  • Lewy body disease
  • Macular degeneration (AMD)
  • Marfan’s syndrome (MFS)
  • Some of the mitochondrial myopathies
  • Mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Multiple system atrophy
  • Muscular dystrophies (MD)
  • Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis
  • Niemann–Pick diseases
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Pulmonary arterial hypertension
  • All prion diseases (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, fatal familial insomnia, etc.)
  • Progressive supranuclear palsy
  • Retinitis pigmentosa (RP)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sandhoff Disease
  • Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA, motor neuron disease)
  • Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis
  • Substance Use Disorder
  • Tay–Sachs disease
  • Vascular dementia (it might not itself be neurodegenerative, but often it appears alongside other forms of degenerative dementia)

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