Usually we think of having a job as being good for us, but sometimes the career-related conditions of professionals can be harmful to their health. Occupational diseases can range from stress and anxiety to carpal tunnel syndrome or eye strain from using a computer too much.
Common Career-Related Conditions
The first disease recognized as being caused by a person’s job was when the link between chimney sweeps and squamous cell carcinoma of the scrotum was discovered in 1775 by Sir Percivall Pott. Luckily, professionals these days don’t usually have to worry about such dire health issues (though lung diseases are still possible among people who work with asbestos or in mines, for example).
However, there are still health issues that can be caused at least in part by your job, depending on how demanding it is and what is physically required of you.
Carpal tunnel syndrome, for instance, is a condition of the hands and wrists that can come about from too much repetitive motion, whether that’s using a computer, operating a machine or performing another repetitive task through the day. Warning signs include numbness, tingling or burning in the thumb and fingers, and possibly also pain and loss of strength in the hand. Though diagnosis and treatment of the condition is unclear, loss of function is possible if the pain is untreated.
Another common problem for computer workers is sometimes called computer vision syndrome, which is a temporary condition caused by focusing on a computer screen for too long. It can cause headaches, blurred vision, neck pain, eye strain, dry eyes, difficulty focusing and other problems.
And while it can’t be pinned down to one work-related condition, more and more workers these days complain of on-the-job stress interfering with their health and happiness. Studies have shown that as many as 40 percent of workers say their jobs are very stressful, and a quarter of all workers say their job is the number one cause of stress in their lives.
Stress can come about for all sorts of reasons, ranging from a heavy workload to uncertain expectations, lack of decision-making ability to poor communication, lack of job security and mobility to dangerous environmental conditions or high-pressure environments.
Likewise stress can manifest in all sorts of health conditions, including:
- trouble sleeping
- upset stomach
- shorter temper, and
- difficulty concentrating.
Feeling stressed at work can make you less productive and focused and can also lead to serious health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, back problems and neurological problems like depression. It’s possible that people who are stressed out at work have more workplace injuries, and they may even be more likely to commit suicide and have more cancer, ulcers and impaired immune function.
How to Deal with Career-Related Conditions
Of course, which work-related condition you have will determine what you can do about it. Dealing with computer vision syndrome, for example, can be as simple as taking regular breaks away from the computer and using eye drops when you feel dryness. Special glasses for use at the computer can also be helpful.
Carpal tunnel is difficult to diagnose and treat, and there are a lot of strain issues that are not specifically carpal tunnel syndrome. Taking breaks away from repetitive tasks when possible is helpful, as well as using ergonomic equipment when possible. Braces can help keep the wrist straight, and sometimes surgery is necessary to correct serious problems.
When it comes to on-the-job stress, if you feel it is affecting you in a dangerous way, you need to do everything you can to limit stress and relax when you can. Whether that means talking to your boss about a more flexible work schedule or different responsibilities, or taking a vacation and learning relaxation techniques, getting a grip on stress is one of the best things you can do for your health and well-being.