Acute (medicine)

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In medicine, an acute disease is a disease that has either or both of:

  1. a short time to take effect, as in acute infection
  2. a short "course" (as opposed to a chronic course, which is something which lasts a long time).

This is an adjective. It is part of the definition of many diseases. Because of this, it is in their name, for example, severe acute respiratory syndrome, acute leukemia.

The word acute may often be confused by the general public to mean 'severe'. This is different and something can be acute but not severe.

Acute hospitals are hospitals which are meant for short-term medical and/or surgical treatment and care. The related medical speciality is called acute medicine.

Subacute is described as between acute and chronic. An example is subacute fever symptoms or subacute endocarditis. Another example is subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. This is a rare brain disease. One of the symptoms of this disease is less intellectual function, which means someone's brain does not work as it should.

Chronic is the opposite of acute. Chronic means a long term condition, for example chronic bronchitis. Chronic may also be confused by people who do not work in medicine to mean severe. Again, this is a different thing medically and something can be chronic but not severe.