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What is the Inflammatory Process?

By Kaiser Castro
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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When the body is invaded by germs or a bacterial infection, the body’s immune system will respond to it by creating antibodies and sending white blood cells to fight the germs or infection. As the immune system interacts with the invading pathogen, the infection site will go through the inflammatory process. This process will vary, depending on area that is being affected. It usually will consist of an injury response, an immune response, tissue healing and wound repair.

As the body goes through bacterial or physical trauma, it will immediately respond by sending white blood cells to the area. Produced in the lymph nodes and in bone marrow, white blood cells are released into the bloodstream, devouring and cannibalizing the invading pathogens. As part of the inflammatory process, the localized area usually will become tender and particularly sore. If the trauma is on the skin, then the area also will be prone to discoloration.

The inflammatory process is closely linked to the immune system. The immune system will dilate the blood vessels, forcing blood that is rich with oxygen and white blood cells to surround the trauma area. Inflammation is the accumulation of white blood cells as they surround and kill the invading pathogen.

Blood clotting usually will occur during the inflammation process. Clotting is the body’s way of preventing ruptured blood vessels from continuously spewing blood. As the clot forms around the trauma area, platelets and fibrin begin to form and accumulate. The fibrin acts like an organic mesh, slowly healing the trauma area with healthy cells.

As the trauma area heals, there will be a certain amount of pus. The pus is a collection of dead cells from the invading pathogen as well as cells produced by the immune system. Some swelling usually will occur during the inflammatory process. Protein and water will surround the area, making the area inflamed and slightly disfigured. The protein will contain antibodies to protect the area from being re-infected and will encourage tissue growth and healing.

Pain can be an ongoing component of the inflammatory process. As the physiological aspects of the trauma area change, the area can be continuously painful and tender. The inflammatory process usually ends as soon as the invading pathogen is eradicated or as soon as the trauma area heals. Pus formations will usually stop, the area will become stable, and inflammation will subside.

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Discussion Comments

By bluedolphin — On Mar 23, 2014

@ysmina-- Swelling is a symptom of inflammation. That's why we apply cold packs to injuries, to slow down the inflammatory process and reduce swelling.

Inflammation is not a bad thing, but too much of it causes discomfort and pain, so it's a good idea to keep it under control with medications and cold packs as necessary.

By turquoise — On Mar 22, 2014

@ysmina-- Usually, it doesn't. Inflammation is what naturally happens during healing, when foreign intruders are killed and removed and when injuries heal. The process usually does not cause any damage to regular cells.

There are certain cases of systemic or chronic inflammation however, where the body's own health cells may be damaged. This is particularly true if the inflammation is the result of a faulty immune system response. Certain diseases and disorders may cause the immune system to work over time or attack the body's own cells. Other times, constant inflammation may cause damage to tissues over the long term. This type of damage is often seen with arthritis, where constant inflammation causes problems in the joints.

By ysmina — On Mar 22, 2014

I always thought that inflammation meant swelling. I just learned that technically, inflammation is the accumulation of white blood cells.

Does inflammation cause damage to the body's cells and tissues?

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