Acute (medicine)
In medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

, an acute disease is a disease with either or both of:
  1. a rapid onset, as in acute infection
  2. a short course (as opposed to a chronic
    Chronic (medicine)
    A chronic disease is a disease or other human health condition that is persistent or long-lasting in nature. The term chronic is usually applied when the course of the disease lasts for more than three months. Common chronic diseases include asthma, cancer, diabetes and HIV/AIDS.In medicine, the...


This adjective is part of the definition of several diseases and is, therefore, incorporated in their name, for instance, severe acute respiratory syndrome
Severe acute respiratory syndrome
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome is a respiratory disease in humans which is caused by the SARS coronavirus . Between November 2002 and July 2003 an outbreak of SARS in Hong Kong nearly became a pandemic, with 8,422 cases and 916 deaths worldwide according to the WHO...

, acute leukemia
Leukemia or leukaemia is a type of cancer of the blood or bone marrow characterized by an abnormal increase of immature white blood cells called "blasts". Leukemia is a broad term covering a spectrum of diseases...


The term acute may often be confused by the general public to mean 'severe'. This however, is a different characteristic and something can be acute but not severe.

Acute hospitals are those intended for short-term medical and/or surgical treatment and care. The related medical speciality is called acute medicine
Acute medicine
Acute medicine is that part of internal medicine concerned with the immediate and early specialist management of adult patients with a wide range of medical conditions who present in hospital as emergencies. It developed in the United Kingdom in the early 2000s as a dedicated field of medicine,...


Subacute is defined as between acute and chronic, for example subacute fever symptoms or subacute endocarditis
Endocarditis is an inflammation of the inner layer of the heart, the endocardium. It usually involves the heart valves . Other structures that may be involved include the interventricular septum, the chordae tendineae, the mural endocardium, or even on intracardiac devices...

An example is subacute sclerosing panencephalitis
Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis
Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis is a rare chronic, progressive encephalitis that affects primarily children and young adults, caused by a persistent infection of immune resistant measles virus . No cure for SSPE exists, but the condition can be managed by medication if treatment is started at...

, a rare brain disease characterized by diminished intellectual function and loss of nervous function.

Chronic is the opposite of acute - meaning a long term condition, for example chronic bronchitis
Chronic bronchitis
Chronic bronchitis is a chronic inflammation of the bronchi in the lungs. It is generally considered one of the two forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease...

. Chronic may also be confused by the general public to mean severe. Once again, this is a different definition medically and something can be chronic but not severe.

Acute Medicine is defined as the early and specialist management of adult patients suffering from a wide range of medical conditions requiring urgent or emergency care usually within 48 hours of admission or referral from other specialties.
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