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The Diversity of Chronic Illnesses

Because of the large number of chronic diseases, only a fraction of them can be listed here as examples.

When is a disease considered chronic?

When someone has a chronic illness it means that the symptoms occur repeatedly and typically cannot be cured.

Chronic illness can affect many different areas of the body and can be associated with pain or be pain-free.

Below are a few examples:


There are various diseases of the respiratory system. However, the best known is probably chronic bronchitis.

This type of disease includes strokes and aneurysms. In a stroke, there is a circulatory disorder or haemorrhage in the brain. As a result, one or more areas of the brain are affected which can result in neurological deficits. Aneurysms can occur in different parts of the body (e.g. the stomach or head). An aneurysm is a permanent bulge in the blood vessel.

These include, for example, arthritis, gout and osteoporosis. However, a subgroup also includes spondylolisthesis and slipped discs.

Chronic pain is certainly to be mentioned here. Chronic pain is when a person experiences persistent pain over a long period of time (6 months). Here, chronic pain is no longer connected to a warning function, but has developed into permanent state of pain and thus into a disease in its own right. Another chronic mental disorder is chronic depression. If a depressive episode lasts at least 6 months it is termed chronic. There are many different types of depression which may take different amounts of time to treat.

Addiction is also considered a chronic disease, because a person with an addiction is no longer able to exercise their free will, but is compelled to use substances or engage in harmful behaviours although they have negative consequences. The best-known types of addiction include alcoholism, nicotine addiction and gambling addiction. The fact that an addiction is a chronic disease is made clear, for example, by the fact that a recovering alcoholic is directly exposed to the danger of becoming addicted again even with the smallest drop of alcohol - e.g. in a sauce.

The Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians of North Rhine (Kassenärztliche Vereinigung Nordrhein) has compiled a list of chronic diseases (PDF) from which the headings have been taken.

Further information on chronic pain and its consequences can be found on the homepage of the German Neuropathic Pain Research Association (Deutschen Forschungsbund Neuropathischer Schmerz).

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