When some foreign organisms such as bacteria or viruses enter the body, inflammation is the body's immune response to such invasions. The below article details this process.
Inflammation is a vital part of the body's immune system. When the body encounters a foreign agent (such as viruses, bacteria, or toxic chemicals) or suffers an injury, it triggers the immune system. As a result, the immune system sends its first responders: inflammatory cells and cytokines (substances that encourage more inflammatory cells). These cells start an inflammatory response to entrap foreign agents or heal injured tissue, resulting in pain, swelling, bruising, or redness. Such an inflammatory response causes damage to the body's tissue. In some autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, the body's immune system gets triggered without any foreign invasion, which results in inflammation. Here, the body attacks its cells, thinking they are abnormal.
During an inflammatory response, the sequence of events varies depending on the type, size, cause of injury, and state of the body. The usual series of events is:
The inflammatory response is initiated by injury or entry of pathogens.
The small blood vessels in the area dilate to increase the blood flow.
The vascular permeability to protein increases.
Swelling results from the fluids moving into the tissues.
Then the white blood cells like neutrophils and monocytes reach the tissue from the blood vessels.
These white blood cells engulf and destroy the microbes.
Many factors and conditions can cause inflammation. They are:
Any infection or injury.
Exposure to chemicals and other irritants.
The cardinal signs of inflammation are:
Dolor (Pain) - As released chemicals stimulate the nerve endings in the inflamed area, the area is painful to touch.
Calor (Heat) - The warmth is due to increased blood flow to the area.
Rubor (Redness) - The inflamed area looks red as the capillaries in the area are filled with more blood.
Tumor (Swelling) - The fluid buildup causes swelling.
Function Laesa (Loss of Function) - There might be some loss of function as a result of lack of use due to pain.
These signs are only seen in inflammation of the skin. Some of these signs might not be evident if the inflammation occurs in an internal organ. Apart from the signs, some symptoms are usually seen during chronic inflammation, depending on the affected organ or body part. The symptoms are-
Pain in the stomach.
The two types of inflammation are:
Acute Inflammation: Inflammation that starts rapidly and lasts for a few days to weeks is called acute inflammation. It is usually seen after injury or bacterial infection. Some of the examples are-
A scratch or bruise on the skin.
Any physical trauma.
Chronic Inflammation: Inflammation that lasts for months or years is called chronic inflammation. It is usually seen in pathogens that cannot be broken down, viruses or foreign body that stays in the body, or in cases of an overactive immune response or exposure to low levels of irritants over a long period. Some of the examples are-
Chronic peptic ulcer.
Inflammation is generally diagnosed on physical examination. The redness, swelling, pain, heat, and restricted motion are characteristics of inflammation. Inflammatory diseases are diagnosed on the basis of physical examination, signs and symptoms, blood tests, and X-rays.
Inflammation usually does not always require treatment. Home remedies and good wound care often relieve the discomfort in a few days for acute inflammation. However, for chronic inflammation cases, the healthcare professional may recommend the following treatments:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen, Aspirin, and Naproxen.
Corticosteroids like Prednisone.
Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) like Methotrexate, Sulfasalazine, Azathioprine, and Cyclophosphamide.
Biologic drugs like Infliximab, Etanercept, Tocilizumab, and Rituximab.
Home Remedies: Some useful ways to reduce long-term inflammation include:
Keep a healthy weight.
Get regular physical activity.
Take supplements like omega-3 fatty acids, curcumin, white willow bark, or green tea. Magnesium and vitamins B6, C, D, and E also have anti-inflammatory effects. Talk with a healthcare professional before embarking on any supplement.
Surgery: Surgery is needed if the inflammation has severely damaged the joints. Common surgical procedures include:
Arthroscopy: The surgeon makes small cuts around the affected joint and inserts thin instruments to fix tears, repair damaged tissue, or remove pieces of cartilage or bone.
Osteotomy: The surgeon removes part of the bone near a damaged joint.
Synovectomy: All or part of the joint's lining (called the synovium) is removed if it is inflamed or has grown too much.
Arthrodesis: The procedure involves fusing bones permanently together with pins or plates.
Joint Replacement: The surgeon replaces a damaged joint with an artificial joint made of plastic, metal, or ceramic.
1. Foods to Avoid During Inflammation:
Food that causes or aggravates inflammation are-
Vegetable and seed oils.
2. Anti-Inflammatory Food:
Foods rich in antioxidants help reduce free radicals, which can cause inflammation. The following foods should be consumed-
Olive and coconut oil.
Fatty fish like salmon.
Bell and chili peppers.
Turmeric and other spices.
Normally, acute inflammation improves with rest and specific treatment of the cause. Chronic inflammatory disease is detrimental to health and needs prompt evaluation and management.
Inflammation is a vital part of the body's healing process. It typically occurs when inflammatory cells move to the place of an injury or foreign agents like bacteria. If these inflammatory cells stay too long, it may cause chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation can be a symptom of many health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis. The healthcare professional may recommend medications or at-home treatment. Surgery is necessary for severe inflammation. One can also reduce inflammation by consuming anti-inflammatory foods.
- Vegetable oils.
- Oils produced from seeds.
- Artificial trans fat.
- Sugary foods.
- Foods that contain high fructose like corn syrup.
- Excess alcohol.
- Refined carbohydrates.
- Processed meat.
- Reducing the intake of foods that induce inflammation.
- Increasing the consumption of anti-inflammatory foods.
- Controlling blood sugar level.
- Avoiding stress.
- Doing regular exercises.
- Maintaining ideal body weight.
Cherries, salmon, turmeric, hot peppers, and garlic help overcome inflammation and manage pain associated with inflammation.
- Green leafy vegetables.
- Fruits like strawberries, oranges, blueberries, cherries, etc.
- Almonds and walnuts.
- Salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, and other fatty fishes.
- Olive oil.
Acute inflammation is characterized by pain, redness, and swelling, whereas chronic inflammation is often left unnoticed because of its subtle nature. Any pain which occurs without an injury can be suspected of inflammation.
Depending on the type of inflammation, duration varies. Acute inflammation lasts for less than two weeks, subacute inflammation lasts between two to six weeks, and chronic inflammation takes about months to years to subside.
The most common and reliable anti-inflammatory drugs are the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), including Aspirin, Indomethacin, Naproxen, Meloxicam, Celecoxib, Ibuprofen, etc. Few of the medicines can be availed over-the-counter, whereas the rest need a prescription.
Dolor (pain), calor (temperature), rubor (redness), loss of function, and tumor (swelling) are the four initial signs of inflammation.
Inflammation is diagnosed by the presence of few inflammatory markers in blood with the help of tests like serum protein electrophoresis, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, C-reactive protein, plasma viscosity, etc. Based on the symptoms present, imaging tests like MRI and X-rays may also be used. In addition, gastrointestinal conditions can be diagnosed with the help of colonoscopy, endoscopy, and sigmoidoscopy.
Bananas are anti-inflammatory foods that help in reducing inflammation. Furthermore, they aid in the optimal function of the cells of the immune system by an anti-oxidative effect.
Systemic inflammation is characterized by whole-body inflammation and is a severe condition that requires immediate medical intervention. Causes of systemic inflammation include bacterial infection that has resulted in sepsis, pancreatitis, trauma, etc.
Last reviewed at:
05 Aug 2022 - 5 min read
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