Difference between exacerbation and aggravation

Understand the meaning of exacerbation and aggravation. What are the definitions and the differences of these terms, and how do they impact Worker's Compensation and Personal Injury Claims.
Difference between exacerbation and aggravation

In the world of personal injury law, it is essential to distinguish between exacerbation and aggravation. Though they sound similar, these terms have very different meanings. Exacerbation temporarily worsens symptoms, while aggravation is a permanent escalation of your existing condition. Understanding the differences can help you better comprehend how they will impact your worker’s compensation or personal injury claim. So, what exactly is the difference between exacerbation and aggravation? Let’s take a closer look.

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What does “exacerbation” mean?

ex·ac·er·ba·tion (ĭg-zăs′ər-bā′shən)

Doctors use the term “exacerbation” when discussing a temporary flare-up of a pre-existing medical condition. Generally, this is some form of arthritis.

When a doctor states that you “have an exacerbation of pre-existing degenerative disc disease,” it just means that your arthritis has flared up. The real question, however, is, “When will this exacerbation subside?” In general, an exacerbation is a condition expected to resolve within two to eight weeks. It depends on the level of worsening and the level of the pre-existing conditions. So, if a diagnostic x-ray does not show many arthritic conditions, then you would be on the lower end of that scale, whereas someone with a higher degree of arthritis would be on the higher end of that scale.

What does “aggravation” mean?

ag·gra·va·tion (a-grə-ˈvā-shən)

Aggravation is another level beyond exacerbation when we talk about the worsening of pre-existing arthritis. Aggravation, in the minds of most doctors, means you have somehow escalated a pre-existing condition. This does not mean the injury pathologically changed the diagnosis and location of arthritis; it just increased the severity. When an injured person has had multiple types of treatment and weeks of therapy and the result is that they are no better off six weeks later than they were at the time of the injury, doctors will lean towards using an “aggravation” diagnosis.

Exacerbation of an Injury

Exacerbating an existing medical condition entails a short-term escalation of the injury. For example, physical states that can worsen temporarily in a motor vehicle accident could include:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Bone Spurs
  • Arthritis
  • Degenerative bone conditions

The impact of this type of accident could trigger a temporary worsening of symptoms of a medical ailment that was already affecting your health.

Aggravation of an Injury

Aggravating an already present medical condition is a step above exacerbation. In the case of aggravation, the definition of your disorder has not altered. It is simply that the severity has increased, and this escalation is permanent. 

It is expected that, at first, your condition will not be diagnosed as aggravated. It usually takes some time before aggravation can be determined. Your new injury would need to stabilise before a long-term diagnosis could be made.

How Exacerbation and Aggravation Differ

Aggravation and exacerbation describe situations in which a new injury worsens an existing medical condition. An exacerbated injury is previous damage that worsens due to a new physical impact but eventually returns to its original state. An aggravation is where further damage forever escalates the existing medical condition. 

Impact of Exacerbation and Aggravation on Injury Claims

There is a significant difference between exacerbation and aggravation for workers’ compensation and personal injury claims.

Exacerbation is when you have a pre-existing condition made worse by an injury or accident. For example, if you have arthritis and fall and injure your knee, the worker’s compensation insurance will cover the treatment for your knee injury. However, they will not cover the therapy for your arthritis because that was a pre-existing condition.

Aggravation, on the other hand, is when you are injured, making a previous injury worse. For example, if you hurt your back at work, and then aggravated that injury by lifting something heavy, workers’ compensation will cover both the original injury and the aggravation. To get workers’ compensation benefits, you must demonstrate that your job duties caused your damage. If you have a pre-existing condition, be sure to tell your doctor so that they can document it in your medical records.

Lawyers Experienced with Exacerbation and Aggravation.

A team of experienced medical professionals supports the legal cases of Splatt Lawyers. We work together to ensure you are correctly diagnosed and evaluated to access all your entitlements.

Our legal team provide a free first consultation for injured workers. Contact Us today to find out more. Call 1800 700 125.

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