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What is Inflammation?

By Debra Durkee
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Inflammation is a sign that the body's immune system is active in a certain area. When white blood cells go to an area to fight an infection, they release a number of chemicals that cause the area to swell and often become tender. Outward signs of inflammation depend on where it is located, but can include the area being warm to the touch, stiff, and swollen.

When joints become inflamed, they can be difficult to move, stiff, and sore. Pain may accompany movement, and in extreme cases it can become impossible to move the joint because of the swelling. When other areas become inflamed, there may be redness to the skin tone as well as a noticeable warmth in that area.

With a severe infection and immune system reaction, there may also be other symptoms that go along with the localized one. The individual may feel achy, and the muscles of the body can become tired and sore. With a major immune system response, there may be fatigue and a fever that spreads beyond the immediate area of infection.

When the condition develops in the joints, it can cause the painful condition known as arthritis. This usually occurs when the immune system overreacts and attacks healthy tissues, a condition known as an autoimmune disorder. These disorders can take a number of different forms and create problems throughout the body, depending on what the immune system is attacking. For example, colitis occurs when an autoimmune response causes inflammation and swelling in the large intestine, disrupting the function of the gastrointestinal system.

There is also a type of mild inflammation that is not as noticeable and yet potentially dangerous. Atherogenesis is a form of inflammation that develops in an individual's arteries. Behaviors such as smoking and conditions such as high blood pressure increase the chances of this inflammation of the arteries happening. When it does happen, it constricts the vessels and makes it more difficult for blood to flow. As a result, deposits can build up and place the individual at risk for developing heart disease.

Depending on the location and type of swelling,individuals may be treated in a variety of ways. Anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce areas of swelling. Some types of mild steroids can also be prescribed to help speed up the body's response to the treatment. In some cases, pain may be managed with other medications, or there may be a specific treatment to eliminate the ailment causing the issue.

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Discussion Comments
By BrickBack — On Jun 15, 2011

@Sunshine31 -I think that cholesterol screenings are important because it tells you how much fat you have in your arteries which are a precursor to an inflammation disease like heart disease or strokes.

I had cholesterol reading the other day and I was shocked that it was 221. The normal range is 200 or below. My husband had the same problem and within two months was able to drop his cholesterol down to 187 with just changing his diet and eating more oatmeal.

It was really important for him because heart disease runs in his family.

By sunshine31 — On Jun 12, 2011

@GreenWeaver - I am so sorry about your loss but at least you learned a good lesson about preventive screenings. I think that it is really important because when you are suffering from chronic inflammation it takes awhile for you to start to feel the effects which are why you need to see a doctor regularly so when something is irregular it could be caught right away.

I also think that if you modify your diet, exercise and keep your weight down it will help you significantly with most of these chronic conditions. You should also see your doctor for regular checkups because you will have a better chance of catching a chronic condition early and can do more about it.

I also read that you should have cholesterol screenings beginning at age 30 which will help with heart disease prevention.

By GreenWeaver — On Jun 10, 2011

@SauteePan - I wanted to add that being obese raises a women’s risk of uterine cancer by eight times that of a normal weight women. I know this because my mother died of uterine cancer and she was very overweight which was one of the risk factors.

Abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding are also symptoms of the disease. In fact my mother had such strong abdominal pain that she wanted us to take her to the hospital. This was rare because my mother did not like going to the doctor which is another reason why the doctors could not do much for her when she went to the hospital.

She had stage four uterine cancer and died within three weeks of initially entering the hospital. The sad thing is that this condition is very treatable when caught early. So please get your cancer screening regularly because if my mom had she probably would have been alive today. She had stomach inflammation for a while and really ignored it.

By SauteePan — On Jun 08, 2011

I was reading that chronic inflammation is really the leading cause to many diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and even Alzheimer’s.

What is really scary is this chronic inflammation can occur inside the body and you won’t even know that you are at risk. The immune system shuts down and there are inflamed proteins that create mutations that lead to these diseases because these abnormal cells create the perfect condition for serious diseases to develop.

The sad thing is that there isn’t a blood test that tells you if you have inflammation. People that are obese, smoke, or have constant infections are the most at risk. They also say that gum disease is another risk factor.

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