The second edition of Human Diseases and Conditions expands the 2000 edition by more than 25 percent, adding 85 additional topics. From "Caffeine-related disorders" to "Celiac disease" to "Carpal tunnel syndrome," this work documents modernity’s afflictions upon the human body.
General umbrella entries, such as "Allergies," "Animal bites and stings," "Pain" and "Chronic illness," cover a range of ailments and afflictions, as do entries on developmental phases, such as "Puberty" and "Aging," or theoretical topics, such as "Body image" or "Consciousness." Each entry provides some detail about symptoms and diagnosis. Treatment options and general recommendations for living with a disorder are included if applicable, though on the whole entries tend to be less information-rich than many consumer health publications. The book covers the genetic disorders which are perennial research topics, though the additional resources provided in the bibliography of each entry tend to be book-length consumer print resources or organizational in nature, which limits its utility as a springboard into deeper research. Some articles, such as those on "Regenerative medicine" and "Bioterrorism," delve into social, as well as medical, science. Human Diseases and Conditions manages to avoid medical jargon almost entirely, using common language for entry headings, as well as diagnosis and treatment information. "Neurochemistry," for example, becomes "Brain chemistry," and organic explanations tend along the lines of: "Autism is a brain disorder that isolates individuals in a world of their own" (175). Even the simplest vocabulary, from abdomen to tumor, are defined in the margins when they appear, which, along with the clear, concise nature of the entries, makes the extremely accessible work of particular utility for students struggling with comprehension. This is also helpful for English-language learners, and could be useful in adult education settings. Even the heading within the entries manage to be matter-of-fact ("Who Has Warts and Why?").
Many of the entries begin with a narrative depiction of a human disorder or condition from a practical and non-medical perspective, often as it afflicts a teen or family members. The entry for "Nearsightedness" begins typically: "Kate noticed she was squinting when she needed to see the board from the back of her classroom. Squinting helped bring the words into focus" (1166). Whenever possible, articles emphasize well-known literary and historical occurrences of the condition, ranging from "Of Human Bondage" ("Club foot") to "The Glass Menagerie" ("Pleurisy"), or through historical anecdotes about Charles Darwin ("Agoraphobia"), jazz musician Keith Jarrett ("Chronic fatigue"), or President John F. Kennedy ("Addison’s disease"). The full-color illustrations are well-chosen, and, as with the narrative introductions, often relate to the perception of the condition within society; "Alcoholism" is demonstrated by a nineteenth-century Currier engraving, "The Drunkard’s Progress."
Each of the four volumes contains a complete Table of Contents, which is important as headings are sometime idiosyncratic, with Human Diseases and Conditions opting for the vernacular when possible. Some cross-references to authorized entries appear within the body of the work, while others (like redirection from "Trisomy 21" to "Down Syndrome") appear only in the final cumulating index in Volume 4. Volume 4 also contains a complete bibliography, integrating resources recommended after each article, as well as a glossary of terms defined throughout. Recommended for public libraries.