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Difference between Acute and Chronic

People suffer from various medical conditions in their lifetime such as asthma, arthritis, broken bone, heart conditions etc. The medical conditions that people develop can be categorized as either chronic or acute. So, let us see the difference between these two terms!


This term is used to indicate a medical condition that appears suddenly and worsens rapidly. It is a sudden onset of a disease or injury that persists for a short duration of time. For example: a broken bone, heart attack, bad throat, influenza, etc. In acute medical conditions, people usually recover fast and get rid of symptoms easily in few days. The acute diseases if not treated properly may become chronic diseases. Patients with acute diseases require immediate care or treatment usually within 48 hours of admission.


Acute medical conditions often caused by an infection, automobile accident, fall injuries, misuse of drugs or medications etc.

Common Acute Conditions:

  • Asthma attack
  • Bronchitis
  • Broken Bone
  • Burn
  • Common Cold
  • Flu
  • Heart Attack
  • Pneumonia
  • Respiratory infection
  • Strep throat


This term is used to indicate a medical condition that develops gradually and worsens over an extended period of time. It persists for a long time which means one may suffer from pain or disease over a long period of time like few months or years. For example, people suffering from asthma, kidney failure, diabetes, cancer etc. People suffering from chronic medical conditions may take years to get relief from the disease or the disease may last a lifetime.


Chronic medical conditions are caused by unhealthy habits or practices like poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, excessive use of alcohol, smoking and social, emotional, environmental, genetic factors etc.

Common Chronic conditions:

  • Arthritis
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis
  • Kidney failure

So these terms (acute or chronic) don't indicate the severity of a disease. They are simply used to indicate the duration for which a disease or pain lasts and how fast it develops. So, chronic patients may require prescribed medication for a longer period of time and acute patients may require medication for few days or may not require any medication.

Based on the above information, some of the key differences between acute and chronic are as follows:

Acute Chronic
A medical condition with a rapid onset and progresses rapidly A medical condition that begins gradually and progresses slowly over a long period of time like few months or years
Lasts for a short duration, few days or weeks It is persistent in nature, lasts for a long time like few months, years or lifetime
Symptoms appear rapidly Symptoms appear gradually
Easy to diagnose and treat Cannot be diagnosed and treated easily
Acute diseases need immediate care or treatment Does not require immediate care or treatment, patients have time to take the second opinion, search the best hospital, doctor, etc.
Often caused by an infection or due to an accident, fall etc. Often caused by unhealthy practices like poor nutrition, excessive drinking, smoking etc.
Common examples: cold, flu, influenza, broken bone, chicken pox, pneumonia, heart attack etc. Common examples: asthma, arthritis, diabetes, kidney failure, cancer etc.
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