Jun 28, 2022

7 Common Inflammatory Conditions

Inflammation is the immune system's response to the release of white blood cells that protect the body from harm. There are two types of inflammation; acute and chronic

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. 

Symptoms of chronic inflammation

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:

Causes and risk factors of chronic inflammation

Chronic inflammation can result from autoimmune disorders like lupus, prolonged exposure to toxins (pollution or industrial chemicals), or untreated inflammation from an illness or injury. 

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 

  • Obesity 

  • Lack of exercise 

  • Low levels of testosterone or estrogen

  • High levels of unmanaged stress 

  • Insomnia

  • Smoking 

Chronic inflammatory conditions and disorders 

Chronic inflammation is linked to several chronic diseases, affecting millions of people worldwide each year. 

Alzheimer's disease

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

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. 

Certain asthma triggers can make inflammation worse, leading to asthma attacks. These attacks cause trouble breathing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing. 

Cancer

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:

Heart disease

According to the American Heart Association, chronic inflammation is typical for heart disease or stroke patients. 

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) 

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.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of disorders that cause chronic gastrointestinal (GI) inflammation. The two most common types of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease

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. 

Type 2 diabetes

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.

Inflammation also affects how well your insulin works, causing insulin resistance and high blood sugar. This can lead to prediabetes and, eventually, type 2 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.

Treatment options for chronic inflammatory disease 

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. 

Lifestyle changes for chronic inflammatory disease 

Medications

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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