Inflammation is a natural process of the body that occurs in the case of various types of aggression, such as infections or tissue damage. The primary role of inflammation is to protect the body and initiate the healing process. However, in some cases, inflammation can become excessive or persist for a long time, thus becoming harmful. Chronic inflammation can contribute to the onset and progression of conditions such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes or even certain types of cancer, according to a documentary presented by Hotnews.
When the body is exposed to aggressive agents, such as viruses, bacteria, or toxic chemicals, or suffers an injury, it triggers a complex and coordinated process. The immune system reacts by sending out inflammatory cells and biochemicals called cytokines, which stimulate the activity of more inflammatory cells.
These inflammatory cells initiate a biological reaction called inflammation. The purpose of this reaction is to neutralize and eliminate invading pathogens or to begin the healing process of damaged tissues. The visible result of this process can be manifested by sensations such as pain, inflammation, bruising or redness in the affected area.
However, inflammation can also affect internal organs contributing to the onset or progression of more complex medical conditions. Thus, inflammation, despite its obvious external manifestations, can have profound and long-term effects on the body’s overall health.
There are two main forms of inflammation:
*Acute inflammation: this type of inflammation is the body’s rapid response to injury. The immune system reacts promptly, sending inflammatory cells to the affected area to begin the healing process. These inflammatory cells are mobilized to clear the area and begin the process of repairing the damaged tissue. For example, when you cut your finger, the body triggers an inflammatory response to stop the bleeding and begin the healing process of the cut.
*Chronic inflammation: In contrast, chronic inflammation persists over the long term and continues even when there is no obvious external threat. This type of inflammation can be present in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, where the immune system is overactive and attacks healthy tissues, especially joints. This ongoing attack leads to inflammation that comes and goes repeatedly, causing progressive joint damage, persistent pain, and joint deformities.
Acute inflammation can cause: reddening of the skin at the site of the injury; pain or tenderness, inflammation; the heat.
Symptoms of chronic inflammation may be more difficult to notice than symptoms of acute inflammation and may include: abdominal pain; chest pains; fatigue; fever; joint pain or stiffness; ulcers in the oral cavity; skin rash.
Given that the symptoms of chronic inflammation are non-specific, there are certain investigations recommended if the doctor suspects such a problem:
* Complete blood count: this test looks at changes in different types of blood cells, including erythrocytes (red blood cells), leukocytes (white blood cells), hemoglobin and platelets, giving clues about the functioning of the immune system, blood clotting and oxygen transport;
* The erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR): is a non-specific test that indicates the presence of an inflammatory process, being increased in various chronic or acute conditions, including autoimmune diseases;
* Fibrinogen: this is a marker of the acute phase of inflammation and is essential in the blood clotting process. Increased fibrinogen levels may indicate an inflammatory response and may be linked to cardiovascular disease risk;
* C-reactive protein (CRP): its levels rise rapidly at the onset of an inflammatory process and fall just as rapidly. It is used to monitor the response to treatment and can also be considered a tumor marker, but it can also have increased values in other situations such as pregnancy, obesity or the use of oral contraceptives;
* Serum ferritin: this protein stores iron in the body and its levels are influenced by the inflammatory process. It is useful in identifying chronic inflammation.
These tests provide crucial information about the presence and intensity of inflammation, but do not identify its cause. They are used to assess inflammatory activity, to monitor treatment, and to help diagnose and manage various conditions associated with chronic or acute inflammation.
Chronic inflammation can be caused by a number of factors, including a variety of factors, from medical conditions to lifestyle and environment. Some of the main causes of chronic inflammation include:
* Autoimmune diseases: conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus or Crohn’s disease are examples of autoimmune diseases in which the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues, triggering chronic inflammation;
* Persistent infections: some infections, such as chronic hepatitis, tuberculosis or viral infections such as HIV/AIDS, can trigger chronic inflammation due to the continuous presence of pathogens in the body;
* Chronic stress: Persistent stress can trigger the release of chemicals in the body that can contribute to chronic inflammation and affect the immune system and inflammatory response;
* Exposure to toxins and pollution: frequent contact with toxic chemicals in the environment, air pollution, or exposure to toxic substances at work can cause chronic inflammation;
* Genetic predisposition: Some people may have a genetic predisposition to certain diseases or conditions that can trigger chronic inflammation in the body.
In addition to all this, there is an increased risk of experiencing chronic inflammation in people who:
* Excessive alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol intake can trigger an inflammatory response in the body. Consuming it regularly and in large quantities can contribute to chronic inflammation and affect the overall health of the body;
* Is sedentary or overworked: lack of regular physical exercise can contribute to chronic inflammation, but excessive physical effort can also have the same effect;
* Smoking: smoking is a major factor that can trigger and maintain inflammation;
* Consumes excessively processed foods, rich in trans fats and added sugars;
* Has a high body mass index: Fat cells release pro-inflammatory chemicals. The more adipose tissue there is, the more of these substances are produced, triggering and maintaining an inflammatory environment in the body.
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