Acute inflammation is the body's immediate response to an injury, like a sprained ankle or an illness, like the flu. It usually lasts for a short period of time and is key to the healing process.
However, inflammatory disease or disorder occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own cells or tissues, even though there is no outside danger. As a result, you experience chronic inflammation that can last for years or the rest of your life.
Many symptoms of chronic inflammation aren't as noticeable as those associated with acute inflammation.
Signs of chronic inflammation depend on the disease but may include:
Fatigue or loss of energy
Joint pain or stiffness
Some factors may put you at a greater risk of developing chronic inflammation, including:
Excessive drinking of alcohol
Diet high in added sugar and unhealthy fats
Lack of exercise
Low levels of testosterone or estrogen
High levels of unmanaged stress
Chronic inflammation is linked to several chronic diseases, affecting millions of people worldwide each year.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia that affects memory, thinking, and behavior. It is a progressive disease that causes symptoms to get worse over time and eventually interfere with the person's ability to do daily tasks.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer's. However, ongoing research is being done to determine what causes plaque buildup and its role in the disease's progression. Many recent studies have connected inflammation with Alzheimer's.
Asthma is obstruction and chronic inflammation of the airways or bronchial tubes. It causes the passages that allow air to and from the lungs to become inflamed, narrow, swollen, and produce extra mucus.
Research has shown that chronic inflammation can cause DNA damage and cell division. As a result, inflammation has been linked to certain cancers and the spread of cancer to other parts of the body.
Other studies indicate that around 20% of cancers are caused or influenced by chronic inflammation. These include:
While more research is needed to determine the exact correlation between heart disease and inflammation, many experts believe it may be due to the fatty, cholesterol-rich plaque that builds up in the blood vessels (atherosclerosis).
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune, chronic inflammatory disorder that causes painful swelling, stiffness, deformity in the joints, and bone erosion. The inflammation caused by RA leads to symptoms circulating throughout the body often to the wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, hips, and shoulders.
Genetics plays a big role in developing RA. However, researchers believe certain factors, including smoking cigarettes, stomach and intestinal illnesses, and obesity, may lead to the inflammation that triggers RA.
IBD is a life-long condition that can have periods of flares and remission (no symptoms). Symptoms often vary from person to person but include abdominal pain, diarrhea, bowel urgency, constipation, bloating, loss of appetite, and bloody stool.
Researchers are learning the link between chronic inflammation and chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes. However, studies show that obesity increases the risk of developing inflammation and conditions that promote inflammation, like diabetes.
Chronic inflammation is also a complication of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes makes it difficult for the body to break down glucose in food and increases blood sugar. As a result, the body's inflammatory response activates, causing ongoing inflammation in the body.
Most of these inflammatory conditions are life-long, so treatment involves managing the symptoms rather than curing the disease. Treatment options depend on the specific inflammatory disorder but may include a combination of lifestyle changes and medications.
Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet
Addressing and managing stress
Your doctor may recommend medicine to ease inflammation, pain, swelling, and other symptoms. Medications may also slow down or prevent inflammatory diseases.
Medicines often recommended for certain inflammatory conditions include:
Always consult your healthcare provider before starting or stopping any medication, changing your diet, or starting a new exercise routine.
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