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This lesson will focus on the different types of diseases that a person may develop or contract. We’ll discuss the differences between acute, chronic, primary, secondary, local, and systemic diseases.

The Different Types of Disease

If you were to take a cube and look at it, you’d notice it has six sides. Each side has a side directly opposite of it. If we were to take this cube and roll it on the floor it would land on one side but not the other.

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In a similar fashion, a disease can be categorized as one type or another depending on certain factors involved in its development.

Acute vs. Chronic Disease

For example, let’s take that cube and roll it on the floor. The side facing up has a word written on it, and that word is ‘acute.’ An acute disease is a disease that is rapid in onset, short in duration, and often severe and rapidly changing. If you were to turn the cube 180 degrees, or directly opposite from the side facing up, you’d see that the word ‘chronic’ is written on it. A chronic disease is a disease or condition of long duration that takes a long time to develop and progress.

What you must understand is that both of these terms are also relative. For example, an acute condition, if left untreated, may lead to a chronic problem. Also, a chronic condition, such as osteoporosis, a condition that weakens the bones, can lead to an acute condition, such as a break in the bone, and so on.

Primary vs. Secondary Disease

Now, let’s move on, take that cube off of the floor and roll it again.

It ends up rolling on another one of its sides. This one says ‘primary disease’ on it. A primary disease is a disease that is not associated with or helped along by a previous injury or disease, meaning this is a disease that just occurred on its own and that’s it. For example, if you were happy and healthy and got infected with the flu, that would be called a primary disease. The side of the cube directly opposite the primary disease side has ‘secondary disease‘ written on it.

This is a disease that results after and as a consequence of a primary disease.Continuing along with our example, many times a viral infection, such as the flu, may predispose one to develop a bacterial infection, such as strep throat, due to the immunosuppression the virus produces. The strep throat occurred as a result of the primary disease, the flu, and it is therefore considered to be a secondary disease. Nevertheless, don’t think that a secondary disease is any less important, as sometimes it is actually more of a concern than the primary disease.

Local vs.

Systemic Disease

Okay, so now we have two more faces of our cube left to look at. One side of the cube has the words ‘local disease’ written on it. A local disease is a disease that is confined to a certain area or system of the body. For example, if you have something like an abscess on your leg, that’s a manifestation of a local disease process.

Or, if you have a broken wrist, that’s also a manifestation of a local problem.However, local disease is in contrast, or direct opposition, to the last side of the face of our cube, located opposite that of the local disease side. This side reads ‘systemic disease‘.

This is a disease that affects the body as a whole. For example, the flu is a systemic disease since it causes you aches and pains all over your body. Diabetes is a systemic disease since it affects multiple organ systems and functions all over the place.

However, do keep one thing in mind: a local disease can become systemic. A prime example of this is cancer. If a tumor grows in one place and stays there – for example, a small growth on your skin – that’s a local disease process. However, if the cells in the local tumor then spread to other parts of your body, the cancer has now become a systemic disease.

Lesson Summary

As you can tell, even though the cube we were tossing around has six sides to it, there are a lot of nuances to each pair of opposing sides. For our purposes, however, let’s just focus on reviewing the basics of each one of the terms in this lesson:

  • An acute disease is a disease that is rapid in onset, short in duration, and often severe and rapidly changing.

    This is in direct opposition to a chronic disease, which is a disease or condition of long duration that takes a long time to develop and progress.

  • A disease can also be a primary disease, which is a disease that is not associated with or helped along by a previous injury or disease, or a secondary disease, which is a disease that results after and as a consequence of a primary disease.
  • Finally, a disease can be a local disease, which is a disease that is confined to a certain area or a system of the body, or a systemic disease, which is a disease that affects the body as a whole.

Learning Outcome

After watching this lesson, you might be able to compare the different types of diseases, including acute and chronic.

Your enhanced knowledge could also help you note the differences between primary and secondary diseases as well as local and systematic diseases.

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