Chronic vs. Acute Medical Conditions: What’s the Difference?
The conditions we develop are often categorized as either chronic or acute. So what’s the difference?
- Acute illnesses generally develop suddenly and last a short time, often only a few days or weeks.
- Chronic conditions develop slowly and may worsen over an extended period of time—months to years.
But of course, the differences are more than just that.
- Acute conditions are often caused by a virus or an infection, but can also be caused by an injury resulting from a fall or an automobile accident, or by the misuse of drugs or medications.
- Chronic conditions are often caused by unhealthy behaviors that increase the risk of disease—poor nutrition, inadequate physical activity, overuse of alcohol, or smoking. Social, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors also play a role. As people age, they are more likely to develop one or more chronic conditions.