My uncle has DDD (Degenerative Disc Disease). He took treatments you know therapy, medication and stuff and has been all well for a year and now he's complaining about the same pain he had a year ago because he picked up a heavy load last week.

What English verb can be used to describe a disease coming back (usually after an improvement)? I'd be glad to put an example here to provide the context but I'm not sure how this verb is used in a sentence i.e. with a personal subject here my uncle or an impersonal one like DDD here.

  • 2
    – user3169
    Commented Aug 20, 2016 at 18:48
  • @user3169 Perfect :) thank you. I checked the example in LDOCE and I tried to use it in my own context. Is "my uncle relapsed into DDD" natural to a native ear?
    – Yuri
    Commented Aug 20, 2016 at 18:53
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    You can also say "my uncle suffered a relapse".
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Aug 20, 2016 at 19:38
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    "He suffers a relapse" is good, or it recurs, it flares up again...
    – stangdon
    Commented Aug 20, 2016 at 19:56

1 Answer 1


"Relapse", as several have already mentioned in comments, is the natural word to use. It's specifically medical, and while it's a reasonably technical term, it's also familiar to most laymen, so you don't need to worry about it sounding unusual.

In the case of some ailments like cancer or cysts, "relapse" is not usually used; rather, the cancer "recurs" after a "remission" in which the cancerous growths are reduced in size and effect. I suspect it's because relapse carries a bit more of the connotation of a systemic or broader effect returning, while a recurrence has to do with the existence of something specific. But this is not a hard and fast rule; fevers can recur as well.


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