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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Chronic Illness: Home

This guide provides resources on chronic illnesses.

What is Chronic Illness?

According to the World Health Organization, noncommunicable diseases (or chronic diseases) are marked by their long term duration and generally slow progression. These types of diseases are not passed from person to person. The four main types of chronic illness are cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructed pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes. Just to show an example of the breadth of chronic illnesses, some other types of chronic illness include:

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Conditions that cause chronic pain
  • Arthritis
  • Lyme Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Chronic illnesses can cause pain and fatigue, stress, and be generally disrupting to a person's life. Many times, chronic illnesses are invisible, which means that, to an outsider's perspective, it is not obvious that a person is dealing with a disease. This can result in feelings of isolation in individuals who have a chronic illness. With the right care, many people can cope with the symptoms of their chronic illness. Some chronic illnesses are preventable with the help of appropriate education and health care.

Who is Affected by Chronic Illness?

Statistics from the Center for Disease Control show that, in the United States:

  • In 2012, about half of adults had one or more chronic health conditions
  • About 117 million adults have one or more chronic health conditions
  • Chronic disease is number seven in the top ten causes of death
  • Women in all age groups are more likely than men to have a chronic condition

A tablet with the word "chronic" in bold, surrounded by synonyms like "persistent"

Subject Guide

JJ Pionke

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