Acute diseases are those diseases that come on abruptly and run a short, severe course, while chronic diseases last for a prolonged time and may come and go. An acute disease requires immediate medical attention due to life-threatening possibilities. Types of acute diseases include organ failure, breathing difficulties, rapid-spreading infections and tissue death, or necrosis.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

The Merck Manual states that SARS spreads through direct contact with the droplets of contaminated cough secretions. The virus will not respond to treatment with antibiotics and eventually goes away. Breathing assistance with an oxygen mask or respirator may be required in extreme cases.

Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis

Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis is an attack by the immune system on the myelin, or covering, of the brain and spinal cord. Children's Hospital Boston reports that the attack often occurs following some type of viral infection. The immune system confuses the infection with healthy cells and attacks the healthy cells, which causes inflammation in the brain or spinal column. Symptoms include the rapid onset of a headache, weakness, visual disturbances, confusion and seizures. Treatment consists of anti-inflammatory medications, such as methylprednisolone, to reduce brain swelling.

Acute Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis is an infection of the airways to the lungs that lasts a few weeks or less, according to 1. The infection that causes acute bronchitis is most often the same type of virus that causes the common cold 1. Other causes include air pollutants, fungi and smoking as major contributors for getting acute bronchitis 1. Symptoms, such as:

  • fever
  • congestion
  • wheezing
  • chills
  • shortness of breath
  • usually disappear within a few days
  • but the cough lingers

Treatment consists of rest, fluids and over-the-counter medications for cough and inflammation.

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

ARDS presents with difficult, rapid breathing that fails to produce oxygen-rich blood levels. The tiny air sacs in the lungs leak fluid that interferes with the ability of the lung to fill with air. Organ failure begins to occur due to the lack of enough oxygen in the bloodstream. The American Lung Association reports that ARDS affects about 190,000 Americans every year.

Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia

Acute lymphocytic leukemia is a rapid-growing cancer that starts in the bone marrow. The lymphocyte cells in the bone marrow remain immature and replace mature cells, which require immediate treatment for the chance of a cure. The American Cancer Society reports that most acute leukemia patients live only a few months without treatment.