Inflammation is a part of the body’s defence mechanism that holds a significant role in the healing process. When the body identifies a trespasser, it sets in for a biological response to eliminate it. The attacker can be a foreign substance, such as a thorn, an irritant, or a pathogen. Bacteria, viruses, fungus, and other microorganisms are some of the pathogens that cause infections. At times the body mistakenly identifies its own cells or tissues as harmful, and this reaction results in autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes. Medical experts state that inflammation can lead to the development of an extensive range of chronic diseases including metabolic syndromes, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
Types Of Inflammation
There are two types of inflammation -acute and chronic.
Any injury or illness can trigger acute or short-term, inflammation. There are five vital signs of acute inflammation which include:
Pain: It occurs recurrently or when a person touches the affected region.
Redness: This develops due to increased blood flow to the capillaries in the affected area.
Loss of function: A person may find it difficult to move a joint, breathing, sensing odour and many more.
Swelling: A condition called oedema that results in fluid build-up.
Heat: Increased blood flow resulting in a feeling of warmth in the affected region.
However, these signs are not always seen and sometimes inflammation is silent, without any symptoms, where a person may feel tired, usually sick and may have a fever. Signs and symptoms of acute inflammation may last for a few days.
Chronic inflammation may extend for months or years and it either has or may have an association to several diseases such as:
Arthritis and other joint diseases
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
The symptoms of chronic inflammation will depend on the type of associated diseases but may also include generalised fatigue and pain.
Inflammation occurs when a physical factor stimulates an immune reaction. Inflammation does not really mean that there is an infection, however, an infection can cause inflammation.
Acute inflammation can result from:
Exposure to a bee sting, dust, or other substance
When the body identifies a pathogen, the immune system triggers several reactions:
The tissues start accumulating plasma proteins, leading to fluid build-up that results in swelling.
The system releases neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, which travel toward the affected area. These white blood cells contain molecules that combat pathogens.
Signs and Symptoms
Generally, signs of acute inflammation appear within hours or days, depending on the cause and how they develop and how long they last will also depend on the cause, which part of the body they affect and individual factors.
Some factors that can lead to acute inflammation include:
Acute bronchitis, appendicitis and other illness ending with itis
An ingrown toenail
A sore throat from a cold or flu
Chronic inflammation can develop if a person has:
Sensitivity: Hypersensitivity to an external trigger that may result in an allergic reaction.
Exposure: Long-term exposure or low-level exposure to an irritant like an industrial chemical can result in chronic inflammation.
Autoimmune disorders: The immune system mistakenly attacks normal healthy cells.
Continuous acute inflammation: In rare cases, a person may not get completely recovered from acute inflammation and this can lead to chronic inflammation.
Factors that may elevate the risk of chronic inflammation include:
Low sex hormone levels
Long-term health conditions that doctors associate with inflammation include:
Chronic peptic ulcer
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
When an inflammation is active in the human body, there will be a higher level of elements circulating in the blood known as biomarkers. One such biomarker is C- reactive protein (CRP). The healthcare provider may assess CRP levels to diagnose any inflammation in the body. Generally, CRP levels tend to be elevated in elderly people and those with comorbid disease conditions like cancer and obesity.
Generally, treatment for inflammation depends on the cause and severity. In most cases, acute inflammation may not need any treatment. However, sometimes not treating inflammation may result in life-threatening symptoms.
The doctor may prescribe medications to remove the cause of inflammation, manage symptoms or both. For bacterial or fungal infection -antibiotics or antifungal medications are prescribed.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed that may help relieve pain, swelling, fever and other symptoms, but will not remove the cause of inflammation. A person should only use these medications for a specific duration as suggested by the doctor, as they can result in adverse effects.
Pain relievers help to ease the pain but do not lessen inflammation.
Corticosteroids are prescribed to manage several conditions, including:
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Further, treatment for diseases that involve long-term or chronic inflammation will depend on the condition. Some drugs may work to curb the body’s immune reactions. These can help alleviate symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and other similar autoimmune reactions. However, they can also make a person less able to combat an infection if it occurs. People who had undergone transplant surgery need to take immunosuppressant drugs to avert the system from rejecting the new organs. They need to take extra care to avoid any exposure to infections.