What is Inflammation?

Inflammation refers to a process where the white blood cells protect your body from the risk of infection. Whether it’s a viral infection or bacterial infection, inflammation can occur due to different reasons. It is widespread among people nowadays. From young sports professionals to older adults, everyone’s body is susceptible to inflammation. It may arise due to an underlying disease, injury, or infection to protect the body from further harm. Therefore, it serves the purpose of healing the body to fight against illness. Moreover, the symptoms of inflammation may increase due to an underlying health condition, leading to further damage within the body. Therefore, it is best to understand the process of inflammation for a healthy body.

 Types of Inflammation

Two types of inflammation can occur in the human body.

 Acute Inflammation

It refers to a severe inflammation that lasts for a short time (two weeks at maximum), and its symptoms arise very soon. Once treated, it helps restore the body to its original form.

 Chronic Inflammation

It comprises a less severe form of inflammation that slowly invades your body. It may last more than six weeks. Moreover, chronic inflammation can arise without any potential illness or injury within the body. As a result, it may remain in the body after the injury or infection heals. It has a connection with prolonged stress and autoimmune disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis, where the immune system attacks healthy cells within the body.

Chronic inflammation can occur due to other underlying conditions such as asthma, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, gouty arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, or diabetes.

 Signs and Symptoms of Inflammation

Here are some common symptoms of inflammation.

  • Swelling in the joint area
  • Heat
  • Fatigue
  • Redness
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Chills
  • Pain
  • Joint stiffness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Loss of function within the joint

The affected part of your body determines the symptoms of inflammation according to its specific cause. However, if left untreated, the symptoms of inflammation can persist for the long term leading to chronic inflammation within the body. It may include the following signs and symptoms.

  • Anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses
  • Body pain
  • Gastrointestinal issues such as acid reflux, constipation, and diarrhea
  • Constant fatigue and insomnia
  • Frequent infections
  • Weight gain

The symptoms of inflammation may vary according to the body. If there is an autoimmune condition within the body, your immune system can impact your skin, causing rashes. It may attack specific glands within the body in certain situations, which can further fluctuate your hormone levels in the body. For example, if you have rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system may attack your joints, leading your body to experience the following symptoms.

  • Fatigue
  • Limited range of motion
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of joint function
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Swelling or stiffness

In the case of inflammatory bowel disease, your digestive tract may become inflamed, causing the following symptoms.

  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss and anemia
  • Stomach pain, bloating, or cramping
  • Bleeding ulcers

Similarly, in the case of multiple sclerosis, your immune system may attack the protective covering of your nerve cells called the myelin sheath, which may result in the following symptoms.

  • Fatigue
  • Balance problems
  • Cognitive issues such as brain fog
  • Double vision, blurry vision, or partial vision loss
  • Numbness and tingling within the legs, arms, or one side of the face

In some cases, inflammation arises in the body without any symptoms. The affected person may end up feeling tired, feverish, and physically unwell.

 Causes of Inflammation

Several factors can contribute to inflammation in the body. Here is the list of potential causes of inflammation.

  • Exposure to allergens such as dust or irritants such as bee stings or foreign materials that can’t eliminate from your body
  • Chronic and acute conditions
  • Certain medications

Inflammation may worsen in people with autoimmune disorders upon consumption of certain foods within the body. Such foods may include the following.

  • Alcohol
  • Trans fats
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Processed meats
  • Sugar

If acute inflammation persists for a longer time, it may further cause a chronic inflammatory response.

 Factors that Can Increase the Risk of Chronic Inflammation

Here is the list of factors that can contribute to chronic inflammation in the body.

  • Sleeping problems
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Older age
  • Consuming foods that contain unhealthy fats and sugar
  • Low sex hormones

Your chances of developing inflammation may increase if you have the following health conditions.

  • Periodontitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Asthma
  • Chronic peptic ulcer
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Tuberculosis

Effects of Inflammation

During inflammation, the chemicals within your white blood cells enter the bloodstream or tissues to protect the body from foreign objects. As a result, the blood flow within the affected area increases, leading to warmth and redness. The chemicals in your blood may further cause the fluid to leak into your tissues leading to swelling and pain.

If the inflammation occurs due to an autoimmune disorder, it can potentially affect your internal organs in the body in the following ways.

Inflammation in your heart is called myocarditis. It can result in fluid buildup or shortness of breath.

Inflammation in your kidneys is called nephritis. It can lead to high blood pressure or even kidney failure.

Inflammation in the bronchi is called bronchitis. It can further cause shortness of breath.

How is Inflammation diagnosed?

The diagnosis of inflammation and its cause is not based on a specific test. However, your doctor can recommend some tests to figure out your condition according to its symptoms. The list of tests may include the following.

Blood Tests

Specific blood tests can help expedite the diagnosis of inflammation. Abnormal results of these tests may signify an underlying condition leading to inflammation in the body. Here is the list of blood tests to conduct to diagnose the issue.

C-reactive protein (CRP)

CRP is released in the liver in case of inflammation. If your test signals a high CRP level in your blood, there is a chance of several inflammatory conditions within the body. This test helps understand the situation of your body; however, it may not distinguish acute inflammation from chronic inflammation as CRP within your body may rise in both cases. Once your test results and symptoms are known, a high CRP level can help the doctor diagnose an underlying condition.

Plasma Viscosity

Plasma viscosity helps comprehend the thickness of blood within the body. If your body is undergoing an infection or inflammation, the plasma within your bloodstream can thicken up.

Serum Protein Electrophoresis (SPE)

Your doctor may conduct an SPE test to confirm chronic inflammation. It checks the levels of particular proteins in the blood to detect any issue. A fluctuation in these proteins can indicate inflammation or any other underlying conditions.

Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)

ESR is conducted to indirectly check the level of inflammation while measuring the rate of red blood cells sinking in a tube of blood. A high rate of sinking indicates inflammation in the body. It is also used to monitor the condition of the patient while the inflammation occurs.

If your doctor suggests other blood tests, it may be due to the inflammation caused by bacteria or viruses.

Other Methods

Symptoms such as numbness on one side of your face or chronic diarrhea may require specific imaging tests to determine the condition of certain parts of the body. It may include X-rays and MRI tests. Similarly, your doctor may perform colonoscopy, upper endoscopy, or sigmoidoscopy to diagnose inflammatory gastrointestinal issues. These procedures are performed under sedatives or anesthesia to check the functioning of your digestive tract to determine the cause of it.

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Alt-Text: An instant remedy for inflammation

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Remedies to Reduce Inflammation

The process of fighting inflammation requires you to change your diet. While adding healthy and nutritious foods to your daily intake, it is best to stay away from unhealthy foods. You need to avoid consuming processed foods, sugary delights, and trans fats, as they will slow down your recovery process. The inclusion of anti-inflammatory foods can expedite your treatment. It may include the following fruits, vegetables, beverages, and condiments.

  • Broccoli
  • Green tea
  • Mushrooms such as Shiitake and Portobello
  • Tomatoes
  • Berries and cherries
  • Avocados
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger and clove
  • Fatty fish such as Mackerel and Salmon

Besides a good diet, you need to make significant changes to your lifestyle to reduce inflammation. Here are some ways to speed up the process.

  1. Avoid a sedentary lifestyle and include physical activities, including exercise and yoga.
  2. Intake supplements upon your doctor’s prescription.
  3. Stay calm and lower your stress levels.
  4. Start the treatment for your mental and physical health conditions.
  5. Reduce swelling and discomfort caused by physical injuries using hot or cold therapy.
  6. Avoid smoking.

Treatment for Inflammation

Your doctor will decide which treatment plan will work out for your inflammation. Depending on your condition, your treatment options may vary from the rest of the cases. For example, your doctor will prescribe a different method to start your treatment if you have an autoimmune disease.

Most of the time, doctors may recommend the use of the following methods for your treatment.

NSAIDs

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are considered one of the best options to treat inflammation and the pain it may cause. They are highly effective over-the-counter drugs; hence, readily available at any nearby pharmacy. Ibuprofen (Advil, Midol, Motrin), aspirin, and naproxen (Aleve) are the most commonly used NSAIDs across the world. Some doctors may recommend using diclofenac to treat acute inflammation and other underlying conditions.

Sometimes, the intake of NSAIDs for a long time may cause some side effects. It will help if you share your concerns with your doctor to prescribe another treatment plan that suits your situation in such cases.

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are a type of steroids that can treat inflammation, swelling, and allergic reactions. However, using them for a long time may lead to some side effects. They are available in the form of oral tablets and nasal sprays. It is recommended to have regular visits to your doctor for a follow-up after consuming corticosteroids.

Analgesics and Other Creams

Topical analgesics are commonly used for treating acute or chronic pain as they don’t pose any severe side effects compared to their oral form.

Other topical creams may contain various medications as prescribed by your doctor. It may consist of NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or diclofenac to relieve inflammation and pain in the affected area of the body. At the same time, some topical creams may consist of natural ingredients and herbs to reduce inflammation. Be sure to check the purpose of your topical cream, as using creams such as capsaicin can only reduce your pain.

Inflammation is a regular issue that indicates the natural response of your body’s immune system. However, if left untreated for a long time, it can turn into chronic inflammation with damaging effects on your body. In some cases, such inflammations are interlinked with autoimmune diseases. On the other hand, acute inflammation occurs in response to your body’s healing process. It can arise even if you have a sore throat or a bruise or cut on your skin. It goes away after a few days with a proper treatment plan.

If you notice that you are experiencing some signs and symptoms of long-term inflammation, you need to visit your doctor as soon as possible. After conducting a few tests and understanding your concerns regarding symptoms, your doctor will prescribe a proper treatment plan for your inflammation and underlying conditions.

 


 

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