Difference Between Acute and Chronic Diseases

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: September 05, 2023


Difference Between Acute and Chronic Diseases

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Diseases are some kind of disorders that happen in an organism and disrupt the regular functioning of the body. These mostly happen when the body cannot protect itself from foreign agents like viruses or bacteria. But sometimes, the cause of a disease can be an accident, which is again unpredictable. Sometimes, the body dysfunctions because of certain internal problems in the working mechanism of the body organs. Diseases are often accompanied by various signs and symptoms.

Diseases can be classified into various categories based on various parameters. But based on the duration of happening of a disease, it can be classified into acute and chronic. Acute diseases are those which happen suddenly and remain in the body for a short period. Mostly, it doesn’t require any medical attention. Chronic diseases are those kind of diseases that generally shows symptoms from an early stage, but their detection is quite difficult and, once diagnosed, remains lifelong. Only the symptoms of these types of diseases can be controlled.

Acute Diseases vs. Chronic Diseases

One of the main difference between acute disease and chronic disease is acute disease happen suddenly without showing any symptoms and remains for a short period, but chronic disease happens over some time by showing previous symptoms and remains in the body for more than 3 years or lifelong. Acute diseases are unavoidable or cannot be prevented, but chronic diseases can definitely be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle.

Difference Between Acute Diseases and Chronic Diseases In Tabular Form

BasisAcute diseasesChronic diseases
MeaningAcute diseases are those diseases that occur in a person suddenly and remain in the body for a short period.Chronic diseases are those diseases that occur in the person’s body by prior showing symptoms and remain in the body for a longer period, for a long time.
ExampleHeart attack, bur, cut from a sharp knife, common cold, typhoid, etc.Psoriasis, leprosy, pneumonia, diabetes, hypertension, etc.
DurationThe duration is disease-specific but all of them remain for a short period.The duration of the disease starts from the day the symptoms of that particular disease are seen, and if the disease remains for more than 3 years, then it is called chronic.
SymptomsGenerally, it doesn’t show any symptoms as the disease happens suddenly, but after the occurrence of the illness, some symptoms might be life-threatening.The symptoms are disease-specific, though, but some of the common symptoms seen in most cases are fatigue, pain in the body, degradation in mental health, etc.
CausesThe symptoms are disease-specific, though, but some of the common symptoms seen in most cases are fatigue, pain in the body, degradation in mental health, etc.Since the symptoms are seen for a longer time before the actual disease, it becomes difficult for the doctor to detect them beforehand. Hence, he has to run various tests before jumping to any conclusion.
DiagnosisCauses of chronic diseases can be an unhealthy lifestyle, an unbalanced diet, fewer hours of sleep, working for more than prescribed limits, less exposure to the sun, and not doing any physical exercise.The role of the patient is to be concerned, at least for those short periods, till the disease exists in the body.
When to consult a doctorOnce the specific disease is detected by the doctor, a regular visit is not necessary but a continuation of medication is necessary. The person can visit the doctor for a quarterly check-up.Acute diseases generally are self-healing within a period, but medications can also be taken for the first recovery. But sometimes, some of the acute diseases are serious, like heart attacks, which require immediate medical attention without any negligence.
PreventionThese types of diseases cannot be mostly prevented as these are uncertain and happen suddenly.This type of disease can be prevented by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and quitting intake of any kind of intoxicants.
Role of the patientThe role of the patient is to be concerned, at least for those short periods, till the disease exists in the body.The role of the patient is to remain consistent with prescribed medications.
TreatmentSerious acute diseases require immediate medical attention.Chronic diseases take time to be diagnosed but once done, there is mostly no treatment for it but only the symptoms can be controlled by medications.
OutcomeThere are positive responses or outcomes after the treatment is over.The outcome is nothing but to remain with the disease.

What Is an Acute Disease?

Acute diseases happen to a person suddenly without showing any previous symptoms and don’t last long. These can, though, be treated medically but also get cured automatically on their own. One of the best examples of an acute disease is the common cold. Common cold can be treated by taking various medications, but it gets automatically cured if left unattained within 3 days. Other examples of acute diseases are typhoid, cholera, asthma attack, heart attack, flu, and many more. A small cut on the finger burn, or any kind of accident can be classified under the category of acute disease. However, if an acute disease persists for a long period, it can become a chronic disease. An example of this can be an asthma attack, which, if not cured with time because of the breathing problems faced by the sufferer, can lead to damage to the lungs and airways. Moreover, asthma, once detected, cannot be cured. Only its symptoms can be controlled.

Acute disease can occur because of any virus or any infectious bacteria. It can also happen because of any accident, ranging from a small burn on a finger while cooking to an accident from an automobile leading to any bone fracture or dislocation. Acute disease does not show any symptoms, but after the disease happens, there can be some urgent accompanied distinct symptoms that require immediate care but for a short period. For example, because of a motor vehicle accident, the patient might happen to have a bone fracture, so for the time being, he might have to be in hospital, but soon after some days of recovery, the patient would be allowed to go home and rest. Depending on the harshness of the fracture, within a period, the fracture would be recovered, and the person would be all fine.

Classifications of Acute Diseases:

Based on the number of people affected by a disease at a time, acute diseases can be classified into 3 types, i.e., sporadic diseases, epidemic diseases, and endemic diseases.

Sporadic diseases:

This type of acute disease spread generally due to climatic changes or because of infectious agents. It spreads among certain groups of people at the same time, showing the same symptoms. These diseases occur without any specific geographical concentration that is only seen occasionally among certain groups in a place. Because of this, the predictability of this disease becomes uncertain and makes the work of researchers more difficult. These require urgent concern as they arise, and precautions can be taken within a certain period to prevent its spreading among other groups of people. Some examples of this category are dengue fever, plague, etc.

Epidemic diseases:

Epidemic diseases are those diseases that spread among a large number of people in a community region or population within a short period. When it is based on a region in particular, the spread of disease is termed as an epidemic, but when this disease spreads beyond any geographical region just like COVID-19, it will be termed a pandemic. The virus, because of which the disease is spreading, mutates itself, and then the rate of spreading can increase uncontrollably. An epidemic disease may not necessarily be contagious.

This type of spread can be prevented by investing in an efficient disease surveillance system. This will help the government to remain alert from any kind of spread of such disease. Some of the popular epidemic diseases include leprosy, malaria, chikungunya, etc.

Endemic diseases:

This is such a kind of disease that has persistently remained in a particular region from a subsistence period. For example, dengue in India is caused by infected Aedes mosquito species, which are present mostly in India. Similarly, malaria is also considered to be specific to certain countries or regions because of the environmental susceptibility of that place. The prevalence of endemic disease is regarded as a “baseline” for what is anticipated to last eternally each year.

Causes of acute diseases:

Acute diseases are commonly caused because of viruses, bacteria, or any other similar infectious agent. However, acute disease can also be caused because of a minor to a major accident. However, the unhealthy lifestyle that we follow in our early 20s will later lead to any kind of chronic disease because, with age, our body becomes more vulnerable to diseases.

Serious acute diseases:

Certain symptoms of acute disease shown suddenly can be life-threatening and require urgent and immediate medical support. These should not be neglected anyway. For example, heart attack, asthma attack, acute bronchitis, pneumonia, etc.

When should a doctor be consulted?

As discussed above, acute diseases are self-healing. These don’t generally require any medical attention. But again, if the disease remains persistent in the body for a longer period than expected or when the symptoms worsen, then immediate medical consultations are advisable. Moreover, serious acute illness also requires medical attention. Some of the life-threatening symptoms seen commonly in acute diseases are shortness of breath, organ failure, tissue death, etc.

What Are Chronic Diseases?

Chronic diseases are those types of diseases that develop in our bodies over a certain period. Generally, it is presumed that if a disease persistently stays in a human body for more than 3 years, then it can be termed a chronic disease. The symptoms of these types of diseases can be either urgent or non-urgent, depending on the disease. This disease develops in the body slowly and leads to complicated issues.

Chronic diseases may or may not be cured by medical consultations, but the symptoms of the disease can be controlled by taking medications as, at times, if the disease’s symptoms are not taken seriously, then it can lead to life-threatening issues. One of the best examples of this can be diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic disease and cannot be cured, but its symptoms can be cured. But if not controlled, then a person can die because of high blood sugar levels, as it will also lead to subsequent organ failures.

Gender, unhealthy lifestyle, and age can increase the chances of chronic diseases. Taking vaccines can also become ineffective in front of chronic diseases. But a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet can be equally beneficial. Quitting smoking and controlling the consumption of alcohol will also prove to help limit the symptoms of chronic disease as well as prevent them from happening at later stages of life.

Some examples of chronic diseases are psoriasis, hypertension, diabetes, etc.

Causes of chronic diseases:

The causes of happening of chronic disease are of a wide range. Some of them are as follows

  • Unhealthy lifestyle
  • Unbalanced diet
  • The habit of taking regular intoxicants
  • No physical exercise
  • Consumption of steroids without a doctor’s prescription
  • Glucose and blood pressure levels always remain high
  • Less exposure to the sun

Symptoms of chronic diseases:

Generally, the symptoms are disease-specific. However, some of the common symptoms are mostly related to the person’s mental health. Many people do not understand this or would usually connect the symptoms of chronic disease to mental health, but it should be done.

One’s day can start to include pain and weakness fairly frequently. The person undoubtedly has certain self-care obligations in addition to your sickness, such as taking medication and exercising. Monitoring health management responsibilities can also be stressful.

One’s physical characteristics may change as a result of a sickness. A desirable self-image can become negatively affected by these developments. One could avoid spending time with friends and participating in social activities when one doesn’t feel good about themselves. People with chronic illness frequently complain of mood disorders that include anxiety and depressive disorder, yet these conditions are very manageable.

How to prevent the occurrence of chronic diseases?

Some of the ways we can keep ourselves away from being affected by chronic diseases:

  1. Intake of a balanced diet
  2. Quitting cigarettes and alcohol
  3. Doing regular exercise
  4. Practicing a certain healthy lifestyle
  5. Regulating the sleep schedule
  6. Taking care of mental health in a positive approach
  7. Consulting with medical assistants whenever guidance is required

When to visit a doctor?

In most chronic diseases, once it has been detected by a recognized physician, there is no need for regular visits. However, a quarterly check-up with the concerned doctor should be made to recheck if there are any further developments or improvements in the disease. Moreover, taking the medications asked for daily is all the more necessary, and neglecting this can raise the symptoms and can be life-threatening. Meanwhile, if there are any sudden changes shown in the person’s body, then it should be immediately brought to the notice of the concerned doctor.

Main Differences Between Acute Diseases and Chronic Diseases (In Points)

  • Acute diseases cannot be prevented as these happen suddenly but remain for a short period. Chronic diseases can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle, as much of the chronic disease happens because of the age or gender of the person.
  • The diagnosis of acute diseases is easy as these are specific. Chronic diseases take time to be detected, but, once diagnosed, remain with the person mostly lifelong.
  • The outcome of treatment of acute disease is positive unless the disease is life-threatening. The outcome of treatment of chronic disease is nothing, as these are not curable.
  • The symptoms of acute diseases are not much as these happen suddenly, but some symptoms like shortness of breath and severe chest pain are serious and require immediate medical attention. The symptoms of chronic diseases are, again, disease-specific, but some common symptoms are fatigue, nausea, headaches, etc.


Based on a variety of factors, diseases can be categorized into several categories. But diseases can be divided into acute and chronic categories depending on how long they last. Acute diseases develop rapidly and last only briefly in the body. Most of the time, no medical treatment is necessary. Chronic diseases are those types of illnesses that typically present symptoms at an early stage but are difficult to diagnose and, once diagnosed, are lifelong. These types of disorders can only have their symptoms under control. Acute diseases cannot be prevented from happening, but chronic diseases can be prevented from happening by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.


  • https://www.britannica.com/science/human-disease/Classifications-of-diseases
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disease
  • https://medlineplus.gov/ency/imagepages/18126.htm
  • https://www.ncoa.org/article/chronic-versus-acute-disease
  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8954463/
  • https://www.vedantu.com/biology/acute-and-chronic-diseases
  • https://www.clinton-med.com/acute-diseases
  • https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/index.htm


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"Difference Between Acute and Chronic Diseases." Diffzy.com, 2024. Fri. 19 Jul. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-acute-and-chronic-diseases>.

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