Common Medical Conditions

Inflammation

Written by Dr. K Sneha and medically reviewed by Naresh Kumar Monigari

 

Contents


Inflammation

When some foreign organisms like bacteria or viruses enter the body, inflammation is the body’s immune response to such invasions. It is a vital part of the body’s immune system. During inflammation, the body produces white blood cells, antibodies, proteins, and other substances that protect the body from the infection, injuries, and toxins.

In some autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system gets triggered without any foreign invasion, which results in inflammation. Such inflammatory response causes damage to the body’s tissue. Here, the body attacks their cells thinking they are abnormal.

How does Inflammation Occur?

During an inflammatory response, the sequence of events varies depending on the type, site, and cause of injury and the state of the body. The usual series of events is:

  1. The inflammatory response is initiated by injury or entry of pathogens.

  2. The small blood vessels in the area dilate to increase the blood flow.

  3. The vascular permeability to protein increases.

  4. Swelling results from the fluids moving into the tissues.

  5. Then the white blood cells like neutrophils and monocytes reach the tissue from the blood vessels.

  6. These white blood cells engulf and destroy the microbes.

  7. This initiates tissue repair.

What Causes Inflammation?

Many factors and conditions can cause inflammation. They are:

  • Any infection or injury.
  • Autoimmune disorders.
  • Exposure to chemicals and other irritants.
  • Smoking.
  • Obesity.
  • Alcoholism.

What are the Signs of Inflammation?

The cardinal signs of inflammation are:

  1. Dolor (pain) - As released chemicals stimulate the nerve endings in the inflamed area, the area is painful to touch.

  2. Calor (heat) - The warmth is due to increased blood flow to the area.

  3. Rubor (redness) - The inflamed area looks red as the capillaries in the area are filled with more blood.

  4. Tumor (swelling) - The fluid buildup causes swelling.

  5. Functio 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.

Common Symptoms are seen during Inflammation

Apart from the signs, some symptoms are usually seen during chronic inflammation, which depends on the organ or body part affected. The symptoms are-

  • Fatigue.
  • Fever.
  • Rash.
  • Joint pain.
  • Chest pain.
  • Pain in the stomach.

What are the Types of Inflammation?

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-

  • Acute tonsillitis.

  • Acute bronchitis.

  • A scratch or bruise on the skin.

  • Dermatitis.

  • Sprained ankle.

  • Acute Appendicitis.

  • Sinusitis.

  • Infective meningitis.

  • 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 or 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.
  • Asthma.
  • Tuberculosis.
  • Hepatitis.
  • Ulcerative colitis.
  • Psoriasis.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.

How is Inflammation Diagnosed?

Inflammation is usually 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 test, and X-rays.

How is Inflammation Treated?

Medicines:

There are many medicines available that are used to treat and prevent the progression of inflammation. Some of the drugs used are-

  • 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.

Rest:

Strenuous activities should be avoided. Rest and give your body time to heal.

Exercise:

Physiotherapy and some exercises help maintain muscle strength and joint mobility. You can try,

  • Cycling.
  • Tai Chi.
  • Water exercise.
  • Yoga.
  • Acupuncture.
  • Walking.

What to Eat and Avoid During Inflammation?

  1. Foods to Avoid During Inflammation:

Food that causes or aggravates inflammation are-

  • Sugar.
  • Trans fat.
  • Refined carbohydrates.
  • Alcohol.
  • Vegetable and seed oils.
  • Processed meat.
  • Fried food.

2. Anti-Inflammatory Food:

Foods rich in antioxidants are helpful to reduce free radicals, which can cause inflammation. The following foods should be consumed-

  • Vegetables.
  • Fruits.
  • Olive and coconut oil.
  • Fatty fish like salmon.
  • Nuts.
  • Bell and chili peppers.
  • Dark chocolate.
  • Turmeric and other spices.
  • Green tea.

Normally, acute inflammation gets better with rest and specific treatment of the cause. Chronic inflammatory disease is detrimental to health and needs prompt evaluation and management. To know more about inflammation and how it can affect your health, consult a doctor online today.

Last reviewed at: 15.Mar.2019

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