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Acute Illness | An Overview

Mahmud Hassan, Ian Lord
  • Author
    Mahmud Hassan

    Mahmud has taught science for over three years. He holds a Master's of Science from the Central University of Punjab, India. He is also an assessment developer and worked on various STEM projects.

  • Instructor
    Ian Lord

    Ian is a 3D printing and digital design entrepreneur with over five years of professional experience. After six years of aircrew service in the Air Force, he earned his MBA from the University of Phoenix following a BS from the University of Maryland. He is also a real estate investor, board gamer and homebrewer.

Understand what is meant by acute illness along with its definition. View acute disease examples and discover what is meant by chronic illness. Updated: 03/03/2022

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Acute Illness

Illnesses can be divided into two categories:

  • Acute Illness
  • Chronic Illness

The word acute refers to sudden onset with regard to injury and illness. Acute illness means abnormal body condition with sudden, rapid onset. An illness that occurs suddenly without any existing symptoms is known as acute illness. It usually remains for a short period of time. Acute illness can be cured on its own or it may need some medication. For example, the common cold resolves on its own. Some acute diseases come suddenly and might have severe, life-threatening symptoms over a short duration, such as asthma attacks, heart attacks, strep throat, organ failure, etc. Acute illness neither means new nor severe. Although, a newly diagnosed illness has acute symptoms.

Acute illness is also referred to as the abrupt onset of disease within the short course that required urgent care to recover. Viruses and infections can be the cause of acute illness; but sometimes it can occur as a result of injury from an accident or fall, or by drug misuse. Acute diseases can become chronic if not treated properly and persist for a long period of time.


An injured person.

Illustration of a person with an injured leg.


The type of illness that progresses slowly for a long period of time, has mild symptoms, and might have fatal health effects is known as chronic illness. Medications may or may not cure chronic illness. Chronic illness is also termed as a health condition that lasts more than three years (possibly even for a lifetime). Chronic diseases happen slowly over a long period of time and may get worse with time, such as diabetes.

Unhealthy lifestyles, aging, education level, obesity, gender, and socioeconomic status are some of the risk factors involved in chronic disease. Smoking, excessive drinking, and lack of physical activities are the habits that lead to chronic illness. Chronic diseases are more common in adults. If the chronic diseases are left untreated, it may lead to acute illness. For example, if proper treatment is not taken to reduce blood pressure, then atherosclerosis can cause a heart attack.

A chronic condition can set a patient up for greater chances of injury. For example, a patient may be weakened by a chronic condition and thus is more likely to break a bone or get a cut than if they did not suffer from the chronic condition. An acute injury can also occur without a pre-existing condition, such as by an unrelated accident or trauma. Acute does not refer to how dangerous a condition is.

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  • 0:00 Acute Illness Definition
  • 1:41 Examples
  • 2:05 Illnesses
  • 2:38 Injuries
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Acute vs. Chronic Illness

Acute illness Chronic Illness
Acute illness occurs rapidly. Chronic illness occurs slowly.
It lasts for a short period of time. It lasts for a long duration, even persists for a lifetime.
It causes sudden injury and pain. It causes slow and long-term harm.
Curable and usually not considered fatal. It progresses slowly and may lead to greater damage to the body organs and death.
Symptoms occur, change, and worsen rapidly. Symptoms appear and worsen over a long period of time.
For example, Burn, cold, typhoid, malaria, heart attacks, etc. For example, tuberculosis, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, kidney disease, atherosclerosis, renal failure, arthritis, etc.

Acute Disease Examples

Examples of acute illness include:

  • Cold
  • Flu
  • Strep throat
  • Burn
  • Accidental kitchen knife cut
  • Stab wound
  • Broken bone
  • Heart attack
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome

These conditions occur immediately, but will improve in a short time when care is provided. Self-medication is used to prevent the occurrence of acute disease; but if these diseases become unavoidable, medication is needed on an early basis.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the causes of acute illness?

Viruses and infections can be the cause of acute illness. Sometimes, it can occur as a result of injury from an accident or fall, or by drug misuse.

What is an example of an acute medical condition?

Examples of acute illness include:

  • Burn
  • Accidental kitchen knife cut
  • Stab wound
  • Broken bone
  • Cold
  • Flu
  • Strep throat

These conditions occur immediately, but will improve in a short time when care is provided.

What is acute illness?

Acute illness means abnormal body conditions with sudden, rapid onset. The type of illness that occurs suddenly without any existing symptoms is known as acute illness.

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