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What does "chronic" mean in healthcare terms?

Within the healthcare field, the term “chronic” describes conditions that last one year or more and require ongoing medical attention, limit daily living activities, or both.

Some examples of chronic diseases include:

  • cancer
  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • stroke
  • lung disease
  • kidney disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Chronic diseases are considered to have multiple factors contributing to their onset. Additionally, they often have a long development period during which the patient experiences no symptoms, and they worsen as the disease progresses.

How do chronic diseases impact health?

Many chronic diseases are the leading cause of death and disability in the United States. In addition to the way these conditions affect someone’s health, chronic diseases can also lead to other health complications.

Knowing about a chronic condition helps doctors craft a treatment plan that addresses the disease and prevents or slows its progression. Additionally, those with chronic conditions may take multiple medications or undergo many treatments to manage their condition. For those with two or more chronic conditions, chronic care management is a care option.