Contributed by- Dr. Snehal Singh
Have you heard of anti-inflammatory medicines or diets? Sure, you must have! But what is inflammation? What are the effects of inflammation in the body? There are so many questions around it. It is necessary to know about it, as inflammation is now believed to be the primary cause of many illnesses.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is simply your body’s natural reaction to an external or internal stimuli. So, if there is an injury or an infection, your body takes the necessary steps to fight it off. While inflammation is necessary to promote normal healing and immunity, excess and continuous inflammation can affect your health.
The traditional names for signs of inflammation come from Latin:
- Dolor (pain)
- Calor (heat)
- Rubor (redness)
- Tumor (swelling)
- Functio laesa (loss of function)
These signs makes identification of inflammation easy and accurate. The presence of all 5 signs is vital for a true inflammation case.
When is inflammation harmful?
Inflammation can be acute or chronic.
Acute inflammation lasts for a short duration (e.g. after an injury), which is necessary for normal healing. This may include response to acute infections, injuries, burns, and is present with pain, redness and swelling. Some of the harmful effects of acute inflammation include
- Severe swelling of soft parts, which can cause pressure on neighbouring structures or excessive joint swelling that affects normal movements.
- Abnormal heightened responses to certain stimuli like severe allergic reactions, or asthma episodes.
Chronic inflammation remains in the body for long and continues to affect various organs. As it is persistent, it makes the immune system remain pumped-up, causing many health problems. The effects of chronic inflammation are a rising concern, as it can increase the risk of several dangerous disorders.
What does chronic inflammation do to the body?
Let us understand some of the side effects of inflammation in the body. Inflammation that stays for long or repeats often can have negative impact of many organs.
Here are 11 ways in which inflammation affects your health.
1. Inflammation can harm your bones and joints
Arthritis is a known condition of the joints, rheumatoid arthritis, an auto-immune inflammatory condition, is also fairly common. Inflammation of joints can cause pain, swelling, stiffness and restricted joint movements. It can affect bone growth and joint function to a great extent, if proper treatment is not given. Check your bone health with bone mineral densitometry (BMD) test. For joint inflammation, tests to detect inflammation, auto-immune conditions, rheumatoid factor, etc. are done.
2. It increases your risk of heart diseases
Chronic inflammation is related to faulty dietary and lifestyle habits in some. As it can interfere with metabolism, it also increases the risk of obesity and diabetes, which are linked with heart diseases. People with auto-immune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, etc. have chronic inflammation, which can also increase the risk of heart diseases. Tests for inflammatory markers can determine risk of heart diseases.
3. Persistent inflammation is linked to cancer
An important answer to why is chronic inflammation bad is that it links with cancer. As chronic inflammation can cause gradual changes in the cell, it can eventually cause cancer at the site of inflammation. Where there is long standing inflammation, either due to infection, injury or immune disorder, the risk of various types of cancers is high.
4. It can interfere with your sleep
Inflammation is often a result of some kind of stress, injury, illnesses or pain in the body. These are often associated with disturbances in sleeping patterns too. Some studies have found that chronic inflammation and sleep are interrelated. It is likely that chronic inflammation and the suffering attached to it can interfere with your sleep causing further problems in healing.
5. Inflammation shows up on your skin
Chronic inflammation can easily affect your skin, which shows up in the form of skin problems. Some may note over sensitive skin, skin rashes, rough, itchy, scaly and dry skin. The skin may easily react to various changes and also show early signs of ageing. Autoimmune disorder like psoriasis is common in many due to inflammation.
6. You may find weight loss difficult
Inflammation can affect hunger signals and your body metabolism, making it difficult to lose weight. Those who are overweight, may find weight management a daunting task, while being overweight or obese can again trigger more inflammation.
7. It can give you gum disease
Inflammation can severely affect your oral and digestive health. Persistent inflammation can cause gum inflammation or periodontitis, which results from accumulation of germs. It can cause gum disease and even loss of tooth.
8. Inflammation can give you digestive problems
Some people, with an over active immune system can have chronic inflammation in the gut. This can cause indigestion, cramps, diarrhoea and even ulcers. Conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are seen in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Proper test to know the actual cause of digestive disorders is required.
9. Inflammation can trigger allergies
A hyped up immune system can launch attack on every change, whether external and internal. This can raise the chances of various allergies, which can present in different forms. You may have allergic cold and cough more often, due to chronic inflammation. Intolerance or allergies towards certain foods is also common due to chronic inflammation. You may note skin allergies too. Get yourself tested for allergies.
10. It can cause lung diseases
Inflammation of lungs is common and seen in severe illnesses like bronchitis, asthma and lung infections. It can cause cough, fever, accumulation of fluid, breathing difficulty and reduced lung capacity.
11. It can make you feel depressed
If you have a bad mood often, blame chronic inflammation! Feeling low or being depressed most of the times can be seen in conditions related to chronic inflammation and auto-immune disorders.
Now that you are aware of the harmful effects of acute inflammation and the various effects of chronic inflammation, you surely want to be more careful. Get to know your inflammation levels with relevant tests. Follow medical advice, as appropriate.
It is believed that having a healthy diet, maintaining ideal weight and regular exercises can help prevent inflammation. So, take charge, chalk a healthy plan for yourself. Have regular health-checks. Get going!
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