Difference Between Acute and Chronic Illnesses

Acute conditions are sudden, often with rapid or immediate symptoms and a short duration (e.g. the flu). Chronic conditions are more permanent. They can become worse over time (e.g. Crohn's disease). These descriptions may vary depending on the person you talk to and what sources you refer to.

Although these terms might be applicable in certain circumstances, they may not always apply to all situations. They also often fail to describe what may happen if you are given a chronic or acute diagnosis. If you are diagnosed with an acute health problem, you can take help from acute health problem specialists in Charlotte, NC and avoid these occasional illnesses.

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General Definitions

A majority of illnesses can be classified as either acute or chronic. These terms can indicate the type of treatment needed, how long it can last, and whether treatment is necessary.


  • Rapidly develop symptoms
  • Expected to be short; usually resolved in less than six months


  • The symptoms can be slow to manifest and may worsen over time.
  • Persists beyond six months

Although acute does not necessarily mean new, many diseases are now being diagnosed with acute symptoms. It does not necessarily mean that the symptoms are severe. This simply means that the symptoms are rapidly developing and that medical intervention is required.

Similarly, chronic should not be construed to mean fatal or something that will inherently shorten your life. It simply indicates that the condition is not curable. Chronic conditions can often be managed (like diabetes or high blood pressure).