What is a chronic disease?

It is important to start by understanding what the term “chronic” means. Chronic means that something stays there over a long period of time. It means that there is usually not much change, or if there is, there can be a very slow change over time.

So, a chronic disease is a disease that lasts for a long time, like months or years –often for someone’s whole life. The symptoms are sometimes less serious than for someone who gets an acute disease (which happens really suddenly).

The causes of chronic diseases are often things like an unhealthy diet, not getting enough exercise and smoking. The signs and symptoms of chronic diseases depend on the disease. Examples of chronic diseases are cancers, asthma, arthritis, HIV/AIDS, diabetes (sugar), hypertension (high blood pressure), etc.

The first important step to treat a chronic disease is to get the medical help you need. A doctor (GP) is usually the first person you see if you have a chronic illness, and, along with other primary health professionals like nurses they can help people to manage these chronic conditions. If you or someone you know has been sick for a long time, make sure you seek help – it’s worth it! For more about health issues, go to our Health Issues section


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