If you're on the verge of developing diabetes, you're "pre-diabetic." You've got "pre-hypertension" if you're about to be diagnosed with high blood pressure, "pre-anxiety" before getting anxiety, and and "pre-dementia" before dementia. As if actual diseases weren't frightening enough, we now have what seems like a whole encyclopedia of pre-diseases to fear. What's with our fixation on inventing new diagnoses by fragmenting old ones, and what kinds of costs does it impose on society?
Preconditions don't always lead to actual conditions, but that doesn't stop millions of Americans from seeking treatment of some kind anyway. In fact, over 100,000 people die every year due to complications associated with medical treatments, according to Ivan Oransky, the executive editor of Reuters Health, who spoke yesterday at TEDMED, a three-day conference in Washington, D.C. on technology and medicine.
As with many of the challenges facing the country's healthcare system, the profit motive has a large role to play in exacerbating the prediagnosis epidemic. Making treatments available for preconditions does more than enable more frequent diagnoses of said illnesses, Oransky believes. It actually creates greater demand in a weird kind of feedback loop, because people want to believe that every medical ailment has a ready medical solution.