Being diagnosed with a chronic disease or illness could mean a lifetime of challenges. It also prompts many health questions, a quest for answers, and connecting with peers and professionals who can help you. Living with a chronic illness might not be what you expected or hoped for, but your life can still be absolutely amazing. Because even without perfect health, our lives can still be satisfying and joyful.
What is chronic illness?
Illnesses are often described as being either chronic or acute. A chronic illness is one that lasts at least three months, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Also, chronic illnesses usually cannot be cured and don’t go away on their own. Many can cause disability and death if not properly treated and managed. And chronic illness is common: recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show there were 117 million people in the United States living with one or more chronic illnesses—one in four adults. By the way, the terms chronic illness and chronic disease are essentially interchangeable, with chronic illness more common.
Examples of chronic illness include arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer. The CDC says arthritis is the most common reason for disability, with more than 22 million arthritic adults struggling with daily activities. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, blindness, and lower limb amputation in American adults. Moreover, chronic illnesses are the leading causes of death in the U. S., with heart disease being number one.
By contrast, an acute condition lasts for only days or weeks, and usually responds well to treatment. Many can be cured. Acute conditions might be anything from a common infection to a heart attack.