Many individuals confuse the difference between an acute disease and a chronic disease. An acute disease lasts for just a short time but can begin rapidly and have intense symptoms. By contrast, a chronic disease produces symptoms that last for three months or more.
Often, people are confused about what constitutes an acute disease. They believe that an acute disease is always severe. In reality, an acute disease can be mild, severe or even fatal. The term "acute" does not indicate the severity of the disease. Instead, it indicates how long the disease lasts and how quickly it develops. Examples of acute diseases include colds, influenza and strep throat.
A chronic disease is persistent. It lasts for a long period of time and might recur. Like an acute disease, a chronic disease can be mild, severe or fatal. Examples of chronic diseases include cancer, heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes. Unlike an acute disease, a chronic disease is likely to develop over time instead of having a sudden onset.
Treatment of Acute Diseases
Some acute diseases might resolve themselves without significant medical attention or treatment. For example, an individual might recover from influenza at home without taking prescription medications or requiring the care of a physician. Pneumonia, on the other hand, is an acute disease that often requires medical care and prescription medication. Frequently, hospitalization is required as well.
Treatment of Chronic Diseases
Chronic diseases often require the care of medical professionals and the use of prescription medications. Sometimes, hospitalization is required as well. For an example, an individual who has diabetes might need to see a doctor on a regular basis and take prescribed medications. An individual who has kidney disease might require professional medical care, medication and dialysis. Frequently, medical intervention might make an individual who has a chronic disease more comfortable or might reduce the symptoms, but chronic diseases often cannot be cured.
Diseases that fall between what normally are considered acute diseases and chronic diseases are sometimes referred to as subacute diseases. A disease might be considered acute at first, then subacute after a few days or a few weeks. If the disease continues for several months, it might then be called a chronic disease. There are no standard time periods that are used to determine whether a disease is acute, subacute or chronic, so their precise definitions can vary, depending on who is making the determination.