Health: illness and disease

Common problems

Note: For these illnesses, you can either buy something from the chemist, or go to your doctor, who may give you a prescription (= a piece of paper with an order for some medicine) that you get from the chemist.

Aches and pains

Nouns: We only use ache with the following: I’ve got toothache (U), a stomach-ache, backache (U), earache (U) and a headache. For other parts of the body we use pain, e.g. I woke up in the night with a terrible pain in my chest.
Verbs: You can use ache for some things, e.g. my back aches; but hurt is more common to
describe real pain, and it can be used with or without a direct object:
She hurt her foot when she jumped off the bus and fell over, (also injured here) or
She hurt herself when she jumped off the bus and fell over.
I hit my leg against the table and it really hurts. (= gives me a terrible pain)
Adjectives: The only common adjective is painful painless):
I had an injection yesterday and it was very painful.
A: Did it hurt when you had your filling? (= when the dentist fills a hole/cavity in the tooth)
B: No, it was painless.

Serious illnesses

Doctors believe smoking is the major cause of lung cancer.
He had a heart attack and died almost immediately.
Hepatitis is a liver disease.
Asthma (chest illness causing breathing problems) has become more common.
Note: Illness and disease are often used in the same way, but disease is used for a serious condition caused by an infection e.g. a liver disease. Illness is a more general word.