You may have come across the terms acute and chronic in references to illnesses and diseases. But what do the terms mean and what are the differences between these types of maladies? To clear all the ambiguities we will discuss 9 differences between acute diseases and chronic diseases.
1. Onset Of The Disease
The most evident difference between the acute and the chronic types is the onset of the disease.
Acute diseases show their signs and symptoms very briskly. You start feeling the symptoms as soon as you acquire the disease and get infected. An example of an acute disease that has a rapid onset include bone fracture and pneumonia.
On the other hand, chronic diseases take longer to show their presence. The persistent abnormal condition is reported to the doctor after some time. This means that the onset is slow. Examples of slow-onset chronic diseases include hypertension and diabetes.
2. Duration Of The Condition
The duration of the disease is another major difference between acute and chronic conditions. In fact, the term acute refers to something that stays for a shorter period of time while chronic means something that stays for long. Acute diseases may last for a few days to a few weeks. However, a disease that lasts longer than 3 months is considered chronic. For example, the common cold and flu is an acute condition that lasts for a short time contrary to chronic Alzheimer’s disease that may last a lifetime.
3. Activity Of The Disease
The activity of the disease also differentiates between the two types. Acute diseases are fast at manifesting themselves and also at progressing. Acute illnesses have explosive progression unlike the slow progress of chronic illnesses. An accurate example to explain the rapid advancement of acute disease would be Ludwig’s Angina that leads to a quick swelling of the floor of the mouth (submandibular, sublingual, and submental spaces). The ultimate outcome of this swelling is suffocation and an inability to breathe which makes it an emergency as confirmed by a review. COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) is a breathing disease characterized by inflammation of lung cells and obstruction of airways. A study reveals the slow progress of different chronic ailments such as COPD and Alzheimer’s etc.
4. Causes Of Disease
Acute diseases are mostly caused by an infectious agent such as a virus or bacteria. For example, tuberculosis is a disease of the lungs and is caused by a bacterium i.e. Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. The disease has a rapid onset, progresses rapidly, and requires medical attention. Chronic diseases are more of an outcome of poor lifestyle and dietary habits. Hypertension is linked to heavy consumption of fatty foods and the problems it entails such as obesity. According to an analysis, obesity is a major risk for the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Similarly, COPD is believed to be caused by heavy smoking. In a study, a correlation between smoking and increased occurrence of COPD was found.
5. Transmission Of Disease
As acute diseases are caused by some infectious agents they can be transmitted from one person to another whereas chronic diseases can not be transferred. Syphilis is transmitted via the exchange of sexual fluids and is therefore termed as a sexually transmitted disease. Likewise, coronavirus spreads from an individual to a healthy one via his breath, cough, and sneeze. However, the majority of chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and osteoarthritis are not transmitted from one person to another.
6. Long-term Effects
Chronic illnesses have long-term effects, with the common phrase “you have to live with it”. That is the case with chronic maladies. There are no definitive cures and some of the chronic illnesses stay in your body throughout the body and therefore have long-term effects. For example, diabetes slowly destroys your eyes (retinopathy), nerves (neuropathy), and kidneys (nephropathy). There are no long term effects seen with an acute disease.
7. Phases Of Illness
Infection with a virus or bacterium results in a disease that is fast in onset and progresses rapidly too. Therefore, you get an acute illness that only increases until medical intervention is made (antibiotics for bacterial infection) or the immune system of the body kicks in (antibody production against a viral infection). On the other side of the picture, you can observe a rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patient. RA patients have periods of extreme pain and stiffness called flare ups, and periods of remission in between. A feature of chronic illness and not an acute one.
8. Diagnosis Of Disease
Chronic diseases have a slow onset which makes their diagnosis difficult and late whereas acute infirmities have a rapid onset and severe impacts that make their diagnosis relatively quick and easy.
9. Treatment Of Disease
Acute diseases do not have long term effects generally and can be cured completely. An example of acute curable disease is the common cold and flu. Chronic ailments like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis can be managed to stay within bearable limits but can not be cured completely.