Disease – Sickness – Illness Difference


A lot of the time, the nouns disease and sickness can be used interchangeably. However there is a difference between the two words and in certain situations one noun may be more appropriate compared to the other noun. Let’s take a look at the two nouns and you will see what I mean.

Sickness is a generic term that refers to any suffering due to poor health such as nauseousness, the state of being sick or of being affected by an illness, an infection or a disease, for example.

As you can see sickness can be used to in general terms when we want to talk about a suffering of any type of illness, infection or other health issues. It is often used to refer to a discomfort, agitation or pain suffered by someone.

Whereas the noun disease is a lot more specific. In medical terms, a disease refers to a condition that can affect a person, animal and other living things such as plants. This condition prevents the body or living organism from functioning as it usually would.

When we can identify the sickness or illness it becomes a disease. For example, if a person is suffering with a bad cough and has pains in their chest, they may think it is just a cough. However, if the person decides to go to the doctor, the doctor may look at the symptoms and diagnose it as the disease Tuberculosis because the person is feeling weak, suffering from weight loss, coughing up blood.

Common diseases are:

  • Scarlet Fever
  • Tuberculosis
  • Hepatitis
  • Smallpox
  • Yellow Fever
  • the Flu

Some of these diseases are contagious meaning that the disease can be spread from one organism to another. Once you can identify a disease, you may be able to find an appropriate treatment. However there are some diseases that are not treatable or cannot be cured. 


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