Sometimes the students we work with can be diagnosed with a variety of medical conditions, which we may not even be aware of because they are well-managed, and the students do not consider themselves disabled. For some students, a medical condition may be life-limiting, impacting on their studies and their engagement on campus.
Diagnoses may include but not be limited to:
A common condition that affects the brain and causes frequent seizures.
When the level of glucose (sugar) in your blood becomes too high. It happens when your body can’t produce enough of a hormone called insulin, which controls blood glucose. People with Type 1 diabetes need daily injections of insulin to keep their blood glucose levels under control.
Includes a wide variety of diseases, disorders and conditions that affect the heart and sometimes the blood vessels as well. Types of heart conditions include angina, heart attack (myocardial infarction), atherosclerosis, heart failure, cardiovascular disease, and cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms).
1 in 2 people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. In the UK, the four most common types of cancer are: breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and bowel cancer. There are more than 200 different types of cancer, and each is diagnosed and treated in a particular way. Cancer treatments can cause a range of challenging symptoms, pain and discomfort.
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that damages the cells in your immune system and weakens your ability to fight everyday infections and disease. AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is the name used to describe a number of potentially life-threatening infections and illnesses that happen when your immune system has been severely damaged by the HIV virus. There’s currently no cure for HIV, but there are very effective drug treatments that enable most people with the virus to live a long and healthy life. With an early diagnosis and effective treatments, most people with HIV won’t develop any AIDS-related illnesses and will live a near-normal lifespan.
A common lung condition that causes occasional breathing difficulties. It affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood, although it can also develop for the first time in adults. There are simple treatments that can help keep the symptoms under control so it doesn’t have a big impact on your life.
A lifelong condition in which parts of the digestive system become inflamed. It’s one type of a condition called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Crohn’s disease affects people of all ages. The symptoms usually start in childhood or early adulthood. Symptoms include diarrhoea, stomach aches and cramps, blood in your poo, fatigue, and weight loss. The symptoms may be constant or may come and go every few weeks or months. When they come back, it’s called a flare-up.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a long-term condition causing inflammation to the joints, skin and other organs. There’s no cure, but symptoms can improve if treatment starts early. Lupus is an autoimmune disease. This means the body’s natural defence system (immune system) attacks healthy tissues. It isn’t contagious. Symptoms include extreme fatigue, joint pain and swelling, skin rashes on the face, poor circulation. Students with Lupus may need to protect themselves from direct sunlight and fluorescent lighting as direct exposure can cause symptoms to worsen. In severe cases people with lupus may suffer damage to internal organs such as lungs and kidneys.
This is not a full and comprehensive list of conditions and symptoms. There are a range of conditions that may affect students. For more information on medical conditions please see the resources section for further reading.
Edge Hill student Grace discusses what it’s like to manage a medical condition at university and how staff have supported her through her studies.
Positive ways you can support a student with a medical condition
- Get to know your student and find out what strategies they already have to help them manage their condition and consider reasonable adjustments you can make to support the student. Reasonable adjustments may be required for work-based learning or placements, as well as flexibility about deadlines.
- Be patient – long-term health conditions, especially with associated pain can affect processing speed and concentration so they may take longer to respond to a question.
- Students may require medical treatment or attend regular medical appointments – consider ways to support this by being flexible.
- Some students with chronic medical conditions may develop poor mental health, such as depression or anxiety – see the Mental Health toolkit for more information.
- Don’t be dismissive or display a lack of understanding.
- Don’t tell someone they look fine or that they look awful.
- Don’t ask “Is that a real illness?”
- Don’t avoid asking the student about their illness or condition – do this in an empathetic way and ask for more information to help you understand how you can support them.
Check if there are any reasonable adjustments you can put in place to support the student.
Early referral can prevent students falling behind with their work. Contact the Disability Support team to make a referral if:
- You are aware the student has a medical condition and requires support.
- The student doesn’t have a Student Support Plan in place already.
- You feel you need support around reasonable adjustments.
If the student requires support with anything else including accommodation, money advice or wellbeing support contact the Catalyst Helpdesk to make a referral.
If your student’s disability or condition is affecting their wellbeing or mental health see our Mental Health toolkits for advice on how to support them.
Useful links and further reading
Refer to the Student Support Plan if the student has one – these are shared with the named contact in the Department or Faculty or contact the Disability Support team.