Inflammation is part of the body’s defense mechanism and plays a role in the healing process. When the body detects an intruder, it launches a biological response to try to remove it.
The attacker could be a foreign body, such as a thorn, an irritant, or a pathogen. Pathogens include bacteria, viruses, and other organisms, which cause infections.
Sometimes, the body mistakenly perceives its own cells or tissues as harmful. This reaction can lead to autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes.
Experts believe inflammation may contribute to a wide range of chronic diseases. Examples of these are metabolic syndrome, which includes type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
People with these conditions often have higher levels of inflammatory markers in their bodies.
In this article, find out more about why inflammation happens, its symptoms, and ways to resolve it.
TYPES AND SYMPTOMS OF INFLAMMATION
A person with acute inflammation might experience pain in the affected area.
There are two main types of inflammation: acute and chronic.
An injury or illness can involve acute, or short-term, inflammation.
There are five key signs of acute inflammation:
- Pain: This may occur continuously or only when a person touches the affected area.
- Redness: This happens because of an increase in the blood supply to the capillaries in the area.
- Loss of function: There may be difficulty moving a joint, breathing, sensing smell, and so on.
- Swelling: A condition call edema can develop if fluid builds up.
- Heat: Increased blood flow may leave the affected area warm to the touch.
These signs are not always present. Sometimes inflammation is “silent,” without symptoms. A person may also feel tired, generally unwell, and have a fever.
SYMPTOMS OF ACUTE INFLAMMATION LAST A FEW DAYS. SUBACUTE INFLAMMATION LASTS 2–6 WEEKS.
Chronic inflammation can continue for months or years. It either has or may have links to various diseases, such as:
- cardiovascular disease (CVD)
- arthritis and other joint diseases
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- rheumatoid arthritis
The symptoms will depend on the disease, but they may include pain and fatigue.
When inflammation is present in the body, there will be higher levels of substances known as biomarkers.
An example of a biomarker is C-reactive protein (CRP). If a doctor wants to test for inflammation, they may assess CRP levels.
CRP levels tend to be higher in older people and those with conditions such as cancer and obesity. Even diet and exercise may make a difference.
CAUSES OF INFLAMMATION
Inflammation happens when a physical factor triggers an immune reaction. Inflammation does not necessarily mean that there is an infection, but an infection can cause inflammation.
Acute inflammation can result from:
- exposure to a substance, such as a bee sting or dust
- an injury
- an infection
When the body detects damage or pathogens, the immune system triggers a number of reactions:
- Tissues accumulate plasma proteins, leading to a buildup of fluid that results in swelling.
- The body releases neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, or leukocyte, which move toward the affected area. Leukocytes contain molecules that can help fight pathogens.
- Small blood vessels enlarge to enable leukocytes and plasma proteins to reach the injury site more easily.
Signs of acute inflammation can appear within hours or days, depending on the cause. In some cases, they can rapidly become severe. How they develop and how long they last will depend on the cause, which part of the body they affect, and individual factors.
Some factors and infections that can lead to acute inflammation include:
- acute bronchitis, appendicitis and other illnesses ending in “-itis”
- an ingrown toenail
- a sore throat from a cold or flu
- physical trauma or wound
Chronic inflammation can develop if a person has:
Sensitivity: Inflammation happens when the body senses something that should not be there. Hypersensitivity to an external trigger can result in an allergy.
Exposure: Sometimes, long-term, low-level exposure to an irritant, such as an industrial chemical, can result in chronic inflammation.
Autoimmune disorders: The immune system mistakenly attacks normal healthy tissue, as in psoriasis.
Autoinflammatory diseases: A genetic factor affects the way the immune system works, as in Behçet’s disease.
Persistent acute inflammation: In some cases, a person may not fully recover from acute inflammation. Sometimes, this can lead to chronic inflammation.
Factors that may increase the risk of chronic inflammation include:
- older age
- a diet that is rich in unhealthful fats and added sugar
- low sex hormones
- sleep problems
Long-term diseases that doctors associate with inflammation include:
- chronic peptic ulcer
- rheumatoid arthritis
- ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
- active hepatitis
Inflammation plays a vital role in healing, but chronic inflammation may increase the risk of various diseases, including some cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, periodontitis, and hay fever.
Acute inflammation can cause pain of varying types and severity. Pain may be constant and steady, throbbing and pulsating, stabbing, or pinching.
Pain results when the buildup of fluid leads to swelling, and the swollen tissues push against sensitive nerve endings.
Other biochemical processes also occur during inflammation. They affect how nerves behave, and this can contribute to pain.
Some foods contain nutrients that may help reduce inflammation.
- olive oil
- high fiber foods
- nuts, such as walnuts and almonds
- leafy greens, including spinach and kale
- fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel
- fruit, including blueberries and oranges
Studies have suggested that people with high levels of CRP may be less likely to follow a diet that is rich in fresh products and healthy oils, such as the Mediterranean diet.
The following may aggravate inflammation:
- fried foods
- highly processed foods
- foods and drinks with added sugar
- red meat
- unhealthful fats, such as saturated and trans fats
Diet alone will not control inflammation, but making suitable choices may help prevent it from getting worse.
HOMEOPATHIC TREATMENT OF INFLAMMATION
This remedy may be helpful for pain and inflammation that comes on suddenly after exposure to cold wind and weather. The person is likely to feel fearful, panicked, or agitated.
Arnica : Chronic arthritis with a feeling of bruised soreness can indicate a need for this remedy. Pain is worse from touch, and may occur in joints that were injured in the past.
Belladonna : Sudden flare-ups of arthritis with a sensation of heat and throbbing pain indicate a need for this remedy. The joints look red and inflamed, and the surface may feel hot to the touch.
Bryonia : This remedy relieves joint pain improved by staying immobile and applying pressure.
Calcarea phosphorica : Stiffness and soreness of the joints, worse from drafts and cold, may be relieved by this remedy. Aching in the bones and tiredness are common, and the person feels worse from exertion. Calcium deposits or bone-spurs may develop, especially in the neck. A feeling of dissatisfaction and a strong desire for travel or a change of circumstances are often seen in individuals who need this remedy.
Ledum palustre : Arthritis that starts in lower joints and extends to higher ones suggests a need for this remedy. Pain and inflammation often begin in the toes and spread up through the ankles and knees. The joints may make cracking sounds and may be very swollen. Cold applications bring relief to both the pain and swelling.
Pulsatilla : Pain that moves unpredictably from one joint to another suggests a need for this remedy. The hips and knees are often affected, and pain may be felt in the heels. Symptoms are worse from warmth, and better from cold applications and open air. A person who needs this remedy often is moody and changeable, and usually wants a lot of attention and comforting.
Rhus toxicodendron : This relieves muscular and articular pains at the beginning of motion, and then improved by slow motion.
Apis mellifica : This remedy relieves swollen joints with itching and stinging pain, relieved by cold compresses.
Calcarea carbonica : This remedy is often useful for arthritis in a person who is chilly, flabby or overweight, and easily tired by exertion. Inflammation and soreness are worse from cold and dampness, and weakness or cramping in the extremities are often seen. Problems often focus on the knees when Calcarea is needed.
Caulophyllum thalictroides : This remedy relieves arthritis and rheumatic pain localized in the fingers' phalanges.
Causticum : This relieves joint pain and arthritis pain with stiffness and feeling that tendons are too short.
Cimicifuga racemosa : This remedy relieves neck pain and cramps caused by bad posture and aggravated by cold and humidity.
Dulcamara : This remedy relieves joint pain and stiffness triggered by dampness and cold.
Ruta graveolens : Arthritis with a feeling of great stiffness and lameness, worse from cold and damp, and worse from exertion often is relieved by this remedy. Tendons and the capsules of the joints may be affected. Arthritis may have developed after overuse, from repeated wear and tear.e.t.c