What is a chronic illness?


A chronic illness (chronic disease; being chronically ill) is one that lasts for a long period of time and typically cannot be cured. It is, however, sometimes treatable and manageable. This means that with some chronic illnesses, you or your loved one can return to everyday activities.

With other chronic illnesses, it may be difficult to participate in everyday activities or the condition may be progressive, getting worse with time.

It’s important to understand that some people with chronic illnesses face invisible obstacles and may look completely healthy on the outside.

Learning to manage the effects of a chronic illness can go a long way toward helping you cope with the diagnosis, the side effects, and the complications, regardless of the degree of severity of your condition.

Many chronic diseases are caused by a short list of risk behaviors:

  • Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Poor nutrition, including diets low in fruits and vegetables and high in sodium and saturated fats
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Excessive alcohol use.

How is ‘chronically ill’ defined?

According to CDC, chronic diseases are defined broadly as conditions that last 1 year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both.

Legal definitions are often different than everyday meaning. In the case of chronic illness, the legal definition may be used to determine eligibility for certain services.

Legally in the United States, someone who is chronically ill must fit these criteria to be considered eligible for certain services and care:

  • They’re unable to fulfill at least two activities of daily living (bathing, eating, toileting, dressing) for at least 90 days
  • They have a level of disability that is similar to the above criteria
  • They require substantial supervision and assistance in order to protect themselves against health and safety threats because of physical or cognitive impairment.

Are there certain things everyone with chronic illness has in common?

Each person’s experience with chronic illness is different, and it can change over time. However, these characteristics are commonly shared among people who are chronically ill:

  • Long-term condition without a present cure

Treatment and lifestyle changes may help improve symptoms of the chronic illness, but there is no cure for any of the most common chronic illnesses. That means, unfortunately, there is no way to eliminate the symptoms and illness entirely.

  • Masked chronic pain

For many individuals, chronic illness goes hand in hand with chronic pain. As your pain may not be visible to others, it’s considered “invisible” or “masked.” You may not experience pain in the early stages of the illness, but it may develop.

  • Chronic, worsening fatigue

Each type of chronic illness causes its own unique set of symptoms, but many share a few common ones, including fatigue and pain. You may tire easily, and this may force you to stick to your body’s own “schedule” and rest when it tells you to.

This may also mean you can’t keep all your social engagements as you once did. It can, in some cases, also make holding down a job difficult.

  • Requires multiple specialists

To treat the chronic illness and symptoms, you may need to see a variety of healthcare providers. This includes doctors who care for the underlying illness or disease, pain care specialists, and other experts who can help you overcome the symptoms and side effects.

  • Unchanging symptoms

Day-to-day life with a chronic illness may consist of monotonous, unchanging symptoms. That means you may face aches, pains, stiff joints, and other issues day in and day out. These symptoms may also get worse during the day and become quite unbearable by evening.

  • High risk for depression

Depression may be more common in people with long-term illness. In fact, as many as one-third of individuals with a chronic illness have been diagnosed with depression.

  • May progress to functional impairment or disability

Chronic illness persists throughout your lifetime. There is no permanent cure. Over time, the illness and other symptoms related to it may lead to disability or an inability to complete daily activities.

Conditions often considered to be chronic illnesses

Many diseases may be considered chronic or long term. However, they may not all cause disability or prevent you from completing your daily activities. These are among the most common chronic illnesses:

  • asthma
  • arthritis
  • colorectal cancer
  • depression
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • chronic kidney disease
  • heart disease
  • lung cancer
  • stroke
  • type 2 diabetes
  • osteoporosis
  • multiple sclerosis
  • cystic fibrosis
  • Crohn’s disease.

If you have a friend or loved one who is chronically ill

A chronic illness can be difficult on a daily basis. If someone in your life has been diagnosed with a long-term condition or chronic illness, these techniques may be helpful for you and that person:

  • What not to say

Many individuals with a chronic illness face a lot of questions. While it may be well-intentioned, it’s better to not quiz them on their symptoms, doctors’ reports, or medical theories. If they wish to volunteer this information, they will.

Instead, carry on conversations that don’t require the reminder of their illness. They will appreciate the break.

  • How to deal with canceled plans

People with chronic illnesses often experience unavoidable fatigue. That means they may not have the energy for lunches, dinners, or happy hours.

If they call to cancel plans, be understanding. Offer to bring them dinner instead. Empathy can go a long way.

  • Listen

Each day with a chronic illness can be different and difficult. Often, a person living with a chronic illness needs someone who is sympathetic and open, who will listen but not make suggestions or ask questions.

  • How to offer support

Volunteer to help your friend with tasks that may be draining.

You can also encourage them to find support in the form of a therapist or group therapy session. You may even volunteer to attend a group session together. Friends and family also need support in this time.

What’s the outlook?

Life with a chronic illness can be challenging. The physical and emotional aspects can take a serious toll.

However, with the help of healthcare providers and your friends and family, you may be able to find a treatment plan and lifestyle changes that make day-to-day life more comfortable and easier.


Source: Health Line, US CDC



Stellapharm is one of leading generics pharmaceutical companies and strong producer of anti-viral drugs in Vietnam. The company established in Vietnam in 2000; and focuses on both prescription drugs and non-prescription especially in cardiovascular diseases, antiviral drugs, anti-diabetics drugs, etc. and our products are now used by millions of patients in more than 50 countries worldwide.

The company is globally recognized for its quality through our facilities have been audited and approved by stringent authority like EMA, PMDA, Taiwan GMP, local WHO and others.

Additional information for this article: Stellapharm J.V. Co., Ltd. – Branch 1
A: 40 Tu Do Avenue, Vietnam – Singapore Industrial Park, An Phu Ward, Thuan An City, Binh Duong Province, Vietnam
T: +84 274 376 7470 | F: +84 274 376 7469 | E: info@stellapharm.com | W: www.stellapharm.com

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