What is Inflammation?

What is Inflammation?
Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 

Inflammation is a normal body response to outside pathogens or irritants. It frequently occurs when allergens enter the body. In response, the body releases histamine that causes inflammation, water retention and higher white blood cell counts in an effort to flush away the invading allergen. Although most kinds of inflammation will resolve on their own, some cases may need the assistance of a doctor or medication to be treated.

Inflammation involves a complex series of biological responses in the body. When a pathogen or irritant is present, the body reacts by changing the vascular tissue. This results in increased pain, swelling and heat within the affected area. Inflammation naturally occurs within the body as a protection mechanism. The body wants to get rid of any harmful stimuli and begin healing. Through inflammation, it can carry out this process. If the harmful substance remains, the inflammation will not go away. When inflammation is chronic, it can lead to arthritis, cancer, periodontitis or atherosclerosis. Due to this, chronic inflammation should be treated by a medical professional.

What are the Types of Inflammation?

The main types of inflammation are chronic and acute inflammation. With acute inflammation, the problem is temporary and disappears after the harmful stimulus is removed. When the inflammation is chronic, the ailment will be ongoing. Some of the most common types of inflammation include appendicitis, RSD, vasculitis, bursitis, tonsillitis, colitis, rhinitis and cystitis. Dermatitis and phlebitis are also types of inflammation.

What Causes Inflammation?

Inflammation can be caused by a wide range of issues. One of the most common causes is an allergy. When someone is allergic to something, their body produces an immune reaction to drive away the invader. Histamine is created. Once this chemical is released, it floods the tissue with fluid and white blood cells in an attempt to drive away the allergen. This ultimately causes inflammation and water retention. Other conditions that cause inflammation include an infection, chemical irritant or toxin. Individuals may experience inflammation due to a physical injury, frostbite, stress or trauma. A splinter or dirt can cause inflammation. In ionizing radiation, patients may experience inflammation as a side effect of their exposure.

How are Inflammatory Diseases Diagnosed?

When a patient visits their doctor, they will begin with taking a complete medical history from the patient. Common family illnesses may be hereditary. Knowing someone’s genetic predisposition makes it easier for the doctor to spot potential illnesses or factors. After taking the medical history, the doctor will proceed to do a complete physical exam. They will exam the joints and see if any of them are painful. Stiff joints in the early morning can be a sign of inflammation. In addition, the doctor will evaluate any other symptoms. If they believe there is an underlying cause of the inflammation, the doctor may order further exams, X-rays or blood tests.

Can Inflammation Affect Internal Organs?

It is possible that inflammation can affect internal organs. Normally, this occurs when there is an autoimmune disorder present. The heart may become inflamed and lead to chest pain and water retention. If the kidneys become inflamed, it can lead to renal failure and hypertension. Inflammation within the lungs can make it difficult to breathe while eye inflammation can weaken the vision. If the blood vessels are inflamed, it may lead to damage within the internal organs, rashes or headaches. Muscle inflammation typically causes pain, weakness or achy muscles. Many of the organs in the body do not contain nerves that are sensitive to pain. In these instances, the inflammation may not always cause pain.

How Does Inflammation Relate to Water Retention?

The same body response that causes inflammation also causes water retention. Often, these two ailments occur concurrently. In order to treat* either problem, individuals have to treat* both medical issues. Avoiding allergens, treating infections and drinking water can help speed up the recovery process.

What are Treatment Methods for Inflammation?

Inflammation may be treated using a number of different methods. Before using medication, a doctor may recommend rest or exercise. If the condition is severe, they may recommend surgery to correct any joint damage or prescribe a medication. Ideally, a brace or cane can help to remove* pressure from the affected area. Anti-inflammatory drugs can be used like ibuprofen. These drugs can help treat* swelling and remove* some of the pain. With other forms of inflammation, a doctor may prescribe narcotic pain relievers, corticosteroids, NSAIDS or chemotherapy drugs. These medications are often used to treat* other illnesses, but are ideally suited for dealing with inflammation.

The easiest treatment for individuals to use at home is to rest and take an ibuprofen. If the inflammation is due to allergies or an infection, drinking water and avoiding the allergen will help. In addition, some types of anti-histamine can help to reduce* the body’s response to allergens.

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Author

Expert Author : Emily Clark (Consumer Health Digest)

Emily Clark is a medical writer with years of experience. She can be found residing in Maywood, Illinois, researching and writing on recent advances in medicine.