A chronic disease is a disease that affects health over a longer period of time or will be present for life. Although the disease can and usually must be treated by a doctor, it cannot be cured. Some illnesses are already called chronic from the moment of diagnosis, because according to the current state of research it is not yet possible to treat the cause of the illness.
These are often congenital diseases. Other diseases only become chronic in the course of time. If a disease does not heal from an acute condition, for example through inadequate treatment or if the treatment does not respond, it becomes a chronic process.
For example, an acute hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) can turn into a chronic hepatitis. Even pain that has existed for a long time can change into a chronic pain syndrome. At what point in time one speaks of a chronic disease varies from disease pattern to disease pattern.
However, it is often defined that an acute course of disease changes into a chronic course after 14 days. Sometimes, however, four or six weeks are also drawn as a limit. A colourful picture of diseases belongs to the chronic diseases. A chronic disease can be, for example, organic diseases such as heart failure, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, tumour diseases, mental illnesses such as depression or a congenital genetic disease. Alcohol dependence is also a chronic disease.
Overview of chronic diseases in Germany
In Germany, the most common chronic diseases include diseases related to the cardiovascular system. This is caused by various risk factors such as smoking, overweight, poor diet and lack of physical activity. The most common chronic disease in Germany is high blood pressure.
This is followed by lipid metabolism disorders, such as elevated cholesterol levels. Both diseases increase the risk of a heart attack. Both diseases are followed by chronic back pain, due to different causes.
Back pain is the most common reason for consultation with orthopaedic surgeons and tends to become chronic. In fourth and fifth place among the ten most common chronic diseases in Germany, there are again two diseases that have an impact on the cardiovascular system, namely type 2 diabetes (adult-onset diabetes) and coronary heart disease (CHD). In coronary heart disease, various risk factors cause the coronary arteries to become narrowed due to vascular deposits, so that the heart cannot be supplied with oxygen and works worse.
This can also lead to a heart attack. Enlargement of the thyroid gland is also a common chronic disease. It should also not be forgotten that being overweight is a chronic disease and can lead to further chronic diseases.
Besides cardiovascular disorders, respiratory diseases also play a major role. The most common chronic respiratory diseases are asthma and COPD (= chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). COPD is caused by high chronic nicotine consumption.
It does not regress even after nicotine consumption has ceased. Liver diseases are among the most common chronic diseases; these are often caused by excessive alcohol consumption or a high-fat diet. Mental illnesses must not be forgotten in chronic diseases.
Depression in particular plays a major role here. In the course of the last few years there has been a drastic increase in the incidence of the disease. It is assumed that the number of depressions will increase in the coming years and that cardiovascular diseases will displace the leading positions. Dementia and Parkinson’s disease are also among the chronic diseases that occur not infrequently in Germany.