What is the difference between acute and chronic?
“Acute” and “chronic” are two terms commonly used in the practice of medicine. Acute is used when a disease or medical condition comes on suddenly. A chronic illness is one that lasts for several months and can be considered a continuation of an acute illness if it developed rather quickly.
However, acute is more often used to describe a medical condition that develops all of a sudden and only lasts for a short period of time. It could last for days or it could be gone within a few hours. They are usually illnesses that are severe and could be fatal if left untreated. They can subside or continue, in which case the illnesses can become chronic. There are some illnesses that can only be acute, such as a heart attack, while others can only be chronic, such as asthma.
In order for an illness to be classified as being chronic it has to last three months or longer. When an acute illness is not cured or doesn’t subside and just continues on, then it is said to become chronic. However, as a rule, a chronic illness starts gradually and become progressively worse as time goes on.
One example of a chronic illness is diabetes because it requires treatment for the remainder of the patient’s life. Bronchial asthma is another example. However, this could be an acute or a chronic illness because it can start quickly and be cured quickly or it could just need continuous treatment, such as when the illness worsens at certain times.
There are some acute conditions that are life-threatening if they are not treated immediately. Ruptured appendix, for example, is an acute condition that needs immediate surgery. Another example is an ectopic pregnancy in which the fetus starts to develop in the Fallopian tube instead of the womb.
Patients who have an acute illness seek medical attention immediately because the symptoms are so severe. Those who have chronic conditions often put off seeking medical attention because the symptoms are such that they do not interfere too much in their daily activities when they first develop. It is not until the condition becomes worse that they visit a doctor. The terms “acute” and “chronic” have to do with the length of time associated with the medical condition.