Inflammation often is associated with chronic pain, illness and life-threatening diseases. Acute inflammation, however, is not necessarily a bad condition. The word inflammation derives from the Latin inflammatio and translates to “setting on fire.”
It is important to realize that inflammation is the body’s normal response to injury, infection or allergic reaction in which the body goes through a process of repairing the damaged cells. The classic symptoms of acute inflammation include redness, swelling, pain and decreased mobility or function.
How Acute Inflammation Works
Through the inflammation process, the body can determine the severity of the injury or condition and damaged tissue, eliminate toxins and fight infection accordingly. There are adjustments made for minor injuries such as abrasions and bruises, as well as major injuries like a severe burn or amputation.
Stimulating factors for inflammation:
• Physical agents
• Tissue death
• Inappropriate immunological response
The Stages of Inflammation
1. Activation of resident cells, as well as granulocytes entering in response to an injury. Granulocytes are an important part of the immune system. They are a type of white blood cell with microscopic granules containing enzymes within tiny sacs. These enzymes digest harmful microorganisms.
2. Recruitment of macrophages. Macrophages are white blood cells found in connective tissue and the blood stream. Their function is to devour foreign particles and infectious microorganisms.
3. Lymphocytes. Effectors that enable immune responses.
4. Recruitment and reactivation of mesenchymal to form new blood cells. Mesenchymal are cells that are capable of developing into connected tissue as well as lymphatic cells and blood cells. They are often mentioned in stem-cell discussions and are a critical component of healing.
5. Tissue remodeling. While the first function of the inflammation process is to destroy offending microorganisms and fight or avoid infection, the next stage of the process is focused on regeneration of damaged tissue.
The Process of Inflammation Triggered by Tissue Damage
1. The release of chemical mediators. An injury, allergic reaction, or infection will bring about a chemical and vascular change, originating in the blood plasma. Histamines then trigger a vascular reaction. As the plasma coagulates, the Kinin system kicks in, causing pain and swelling.
2. Vascular changes. The small blood vessels immediately constrict for a very short period, usually just a minute or two. The blood vessels then dilate and allow protein-rich fluid, water and salt to the damaged areas, thereby fighting infection. During this process, the blood flow will be sluggish. The vascular changes take 15 minutes to six or seven hours.
3. Cellular. The cellular changes are the most important part of the process. At the cellular level, various types of white blood cells take action as dictated by the degree of the injury or infection. Within an hour, the neutrophils begin to work. If the injury is minor, the neutrophils needed are found in the blood. If more neutrophils are needed, reserves may be obtained from bone marrow. If there is an allergic reaction due to a parasite, the eosinophils will release a protein to deal with the threat. If the injury or infection is not healing sufficiently, with 48 hours the monocytes will come into play. The monocytes will become macrophage blood cell if the injury or infection is not healing within days or weeks. A condition that persist more than a week is usually a sign of chronic inflammation and possibly an inflammatory disorder or more severe condition.
Acute Inflammation Relief
It is important to observe and listen to your body when inflammation occurs. Typically, the pain or swelling of an injury or allergic reaction can be treated by icing it at the sight. If inflammation persists more than a few days in the form of joint pain or a skin condition, it is advised you seek medical attention.
Chronic inflammation is present in conditions such as arthritis, IBS, asthma, auto-immune diseases such as lupus and vasculitis, and acne vulgaris. These conditions can negatively impact a person’s quality of life and even be life-threatening. It is important to consult with a medical professional for the management of pain and inflammation.