A generally understood and clinically applicable definition of secondary conditions is still in development.
Secondary conditions have been defined as "Those physical, medical, cognitive, emotional, or psychosocial consequences to which persons with disabilities are more susceptible by virtue of an underlying condition, including adverse outcomes in health, wellness, participation, and quality of life" (Hough, 1999, p. 186). Although some secondary conditions can be prevented or decreased by a combination of health maintenance practices, removal of environmental barriers, and improved access to effective medical care, others are inevitable components of certain types of disabilities and can be managed but not prevented. Some of the more common secondary conditions include depression, hypertension, chronic pain, skin sores, fractures, contractures, urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, unwanted weight gain, excessive fatigue, and social isolation (Simeonsson & McDevitt, 1999 book). In general, the average number of secondary conditions in one study of women with physical disabilities was 13 per woman, 5 of which were rated as severe or chronic.