Defining and Clarifying Acute and Chronic Disease Within the Philosophy of Homeopathy
In conventional medicine, disease is most often conceived of as being contracted from the outside – an external noxious influence like a pathogen or a toxin. Disease is then classified by temporal duration. When a “disease” is first contracted and for the first (arbitrarily determined) period of time, it is classified as acute. Once the disease has lasted beyond this cut off period, this same disease becomes reclassified as chronic.
In Homeopathic medicine, “acute” and “chronic” take on entirely different meanings – meanings that have nothing to do with duration of symptom, but with dynamic origin of the disrupting factors.
An “acute” disease in Homeopathic terms is any disease process whose dynamic origin is external to the patient and whose expression of symptoms is not dependent on individual sensitivity or susceptibility. The insult of an acute disease is great enough to overcome individual resistance and manifest symptoms in the patient regardless of their internal state of health.
Briefly an acute disease is any symptom complex that arises from trauma, poisoning, or overwhelming epidemic contagion in which the entire population is similarly affected.
Since this disease process is not an inherent part of the patient, it does not have life long consequences (except in terms of lingering structural or functional pathology) for the patient. Acute disease has a period of onset, a period of symptom, and a period of spontaneous resolution, even without treatment. Unless the symptoms are so severe as to cause the death of the patient, the patient will recover from an acute disease.
Acute diseases are treated (even though they will spontaneously resolve) in order to minimize suffering, speed recovery, maximize survival, and, in agricultural applications, to minimize the negative economic impact of the disease in the individual or the herd/flock. However, since the impact of an acute disease is finite in terms of time, and since there will be spontaneous resolution (sometimes sooner, sometimes later), acute diseases are easier to treat and are more forgiving of less than perfect therapies.
“Chronic” disease, on the other hand, is every symptom complex other than those arising from acute disease (trauma, poisonings, or epidemic contagions where all the given population is similarly affected).
This disease process is an inherent, intrinsic part of the patient that has it’s origins in the susceptibility, sensitivity, and imbalances in the dynamics of the body. Chronic disease is manifest in the continuum of symptoms seen through the life of the patient, excluding those of acute origin (as defined above). In this continuum are trends and patterns of symptoms unique to the patient that often manifest in different/multiple systems during the life of the individual.
Chronic disease has a period of onset and a period of symptom but the body cannot free itself from chronic disease without an outside, dynamically curative influence. The symptoms of chronic disease may wax and wane over the life of the patient between periods of latency and active chronic disease. Sometimes the symptoms are really dramatic and “in your face” as in seizures or migraines or ear aches or hot spots (see the below discussion on the crises of chronic disease), but these are just exacerbations of the chronic disease of the patient – a dramatic crisis aspect of the continuum of chronic disease.
Since chronic disease is a reflection of the continuum of health of the patient, and since there is no spontaneous resolution as in acute disease, any manipulation of chronic disease will have influence through the remaining life of the patient – for better or for worse. For this reason, in the treatment of chronic disease there is no latitude or forgiveness for less than curative therapy. A non-curative manipulation of the symptoms of chronic disease will be reflected in deteriorating health of the patient into the future.
Chronic disease is best treated in its totality by a trained professional Homeopath since the influences of the treatment will be reflected through the remaining days of the patient. Chronic disease is often slow to respond and requires exact assessment of the effects of the remedy on the patient if the patient is to be brought to cure.
Acute exacerbations or crises of chronic disease are a bit more forgiving of treatment initially. These episodes can be treated on a first aid basis or with a more mechanical/diagnosis driven approach than you would use when treating the depths of chronic disease. With proper medical intervention and support, you can return chronic disease to latency and can get the patient out of crisis.
These crisis episodes have distinct and dramatic symptoms and will respond dramatically to the correct homeopathic remedy as well as to a variety of other therapeutic approaches. However you must recognize that you are dealing with chronic disease and that the treatment of the patient must be pursued beyond the crisis if you are to truly help the patient in the long term. After the crisis, the long term health of the patient should be entrusted to a skilled and competent homeopathic prescriber.
The first step in any therapeutic protocol should be to identify the true origins of the disease process, and to treat with the future health of the patient in mind. Before we begin to treat any set of symptoms, we must first identify if it is acute, chronic, or a crisis of chronic disease so that we can treat appropriately for maximal health into the future of the patient.