Acute Disease vs. Chronic Disease

Key difference

The difference between acute and chronic disease is that acute disease is sudden and severe in onset and of longer duration while the chronic disease is progressive in onset, comparatively less in severity and of longer duration.

Acute Disease vs. Chronic Disease
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An acute disease is sudden in onset and has a short duration while a chronic disease is usually progressive in onset and has a longer duration of course. The time disease for every disease to label chronicity is different but usually, 3 months is the cut off time after which a disease is labeled as chronic.

The time duration of acute disease is short usually a few days or one or two weeks while a chronic disease extends over a long period of time usually months or years.

Pain development in the acute disease is sudden as a result of any injury, infection or any other sudden insult while pain in the chronic condition develops persistently usually due to an underlying pathological cause, e.g., congestive cardiac failure develops over a longer period of time due to genetic factors, sedentary lifestyle, smoking or any other cause.

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Acute diseases are more common than chronic conditions.

Acute diseases occur due to a virus or bacterial infection, any injury, for example, an outfall or any road traffic accident or by the misuse or toxicity of medicines. Chronic diseases develop due to unhealthy behavior that enhances the risk factors for a particular disease, e.g., not adequate physical activities, poor diet and nutrition, drug abuse or overuse of alcohol. Genetic, environmental, social and emotional factors also play a role in the development of chronic diseases.

Prevention from acute diseases is not possible because they are sudden in onset. There are no warning symptoms or predisposing factors but chronic diseases can be prevented by lifestyle and behavior modification, and this approach is called primordial prevention, i.e., to avoid a disease before its happening.

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Acute diseases are treated by medicines only which are given for a short period of time while for the chronic diseases, the drug regimen is given for a longer time and in some cases life; long therapy is given. Also, the plan contains dietary modifications, physical therapy, occupational therapy, exercise and sometimes complementary treatments like acupuncture.

Examples of acute diseases can be given as an asthma attack, fracture of a bone, burn, common cold, flue, myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular accident, pneumonia, and respiratory infection. While the examples of chronic diseases can be given as Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, chronic bronchitis, depression, diabetes, hypertension,  chronic heart failure, obesity, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Comparison chart

Basis Acute Diseases Chronic Diseases
Onset Acute diseases are sudden in their onset and severe in nature. Chronic diseases are slow and gradual in onset and have a long course.
Time period Acute disease extends over a short period of time, and then they subside. Chronic diseases extend over a longer period of time and sometimes run throughout life.
Underlying cause The cause of this type of disease is a bacterial or viral infection, trauma or accident. Chronic diseases occur due to poor lifestyle, malnourishment, sedentary habits, smoking, genetic, social and environmental factors.
Prevention Prevention from acute diseases is usually not possible because there are no alarming signs. Prevention from chronic diseases is possible by dietary and other lifestyle modifications and by adopting healthy behavior.
Common They are more common than chronic ones. They are less common than chronic ones.
Pain development Pain development is rapid. Pain development is slow
Treatment They are treated by medicines which are used for a short time. They are treated by medical therapy for a long time, lifestyle change, occupational therapy, and physiotherapy.
Examples Examples are fever, flue, heart attack, brain stroke, acute attack of asthma and a road accident. Examples are chronic liver disease, chronic kidney disease, congestive heart failure, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression, hypertension, and diabetes.

What are Acute Diseases?

Acute diseases are such type of diseases which are sudden in onset and severe in nature. They are of short duration after this, they subside. Typically there are no alarming signs and symptoms for acute diseases so they cannot be prevented. The underlying cause may be a viral, bacterial or fungal infection, trauma or any injury, roadside accident, or any other sudden insult.

Acute diseases are more common than chronic one, and there is no role of genetic or environmental factors in the happening of such types of diseases. Their treatment consists of drug therapy of short course and they resolve usually after the conventional treatment. Examples of acute diseases can be given as an acute attack of asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, heart attack, cerebrovascular accident, burn, roadside accident and a sudden fall.

What are Chronic Diseases?

Chronic diseases are such type of diseases which are slow or gradual in onset and progressively worsening if not treated. They take place over an extended period of time. The cutoff value to label a disease as chronic is different for every disease, for example, if diarrhea occurs for 14 days, it is called as acute diarrhea while after 14 days it is called as subacute and after 28 days it is termed as chronic diarrhea.

Hepatitis is labeled as chronic after 6 months of its happening. Usually, 3 months is taken as a cut off value, and after this time the disease is called as chronic. Underlying causes of chronic diseases are a lifestyle or dietary factors, emotional factors, environmental or occupational factors. Prevention from such type of diseases is possible by lifestyle modifications. Examples of chronic diseases are chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive cardiac failure, occupational lung diseases, chronic liver or kidney diseases, diabetes, and hypertension.

Key differences

  1. Acute diseases are sudden in onset while chronic diseases are gradual or slow in onset.
  2. Acute diseases are severe in nature while chronic diseases are comparatively less severe in nature.
  3. Acute diseases subside after a short course of time while chronic diseases extend over a long period of time
  4. Underlying causes of acute diseases are infections or sudden injuries while the underlying causes of chronic diseases are genetic, social or environmental factors.
  5. Examples of acute diseases are burn or flow while examples of chronic diseases are hypertension or diabetes.


Types of diseases are broadly classified into two types, i.e. acute and chronic type. These are commonly used terms in the medical profession and even in the common life. It is compulsive to know the difference between both of them. In the above article, we knew the clear differences between acute and chronic diseases.

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