Inflammation is a key component of the body’s immune system. When the immune system detects injury, illness, or a threat, it triggers an inflammatory response.
This inflammatory response works to heal wounds, fight infection, defend against bacteria and viruses, heal joint injuries, and mend muscle and tissue damage. For example, when you have a cut, the skin around the cut becomes red and a bit sore, this is the body’s inflammatory response to help heal this cut.
However, there are times when the inflammatory response in the body can be too reactive. This overly reactive response can result in autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, fibromyalgia, muscular injury, and other inflammatory conditions.
There are two types of inflammation:
- Acute: this is the inflammatory response that happens when you have a cut, injury, or illness. Acute inflammation is short-term and last only while you’re healing.
- Chronic: this is long-term inflammation that causes damage to your body. Chronic inflammation can cause an autoimmune disease or result in other problems such as constantly sore joints and reduced mobility.
In this article, we’ll look at chronic inflammation, digging into the causes of inflammation, the diseases connected to inflammation, and how joint health is impacted by inflammation. We do urge you to get medical attention if you are living with chronic inflammation or have concerns about your health.
What Causes Inflammation?
Inflammation is caused when the body’s immune system response sends chemicals from white blood cells into the bloodstream. These chemicals travel to the impacted tissue, organ, or injury and work to protect and heal you from foreign invaders (viruses and bacteria) and injury (cuts, sprains, sore throats, pulled muscles).
When these chemicals are released into the blood stream and reach the injury or illness, you may notice redness at the injury site or have a feeling of warmth. These are signals that your body is working hard to heal and protect you. These same chemicals can cause swelling in your joints and tissues, this is a protective and healing mechanism.
However, there are instances when this swelling and over-activity of chemicals causes injury and illness in your body. Persistent swelling in your knee for example, results in irritation and pain, with the swelling wearing down the protective cartilage on your bones, eventually causing joint discomfort and mobility problems.
In autoimmune diseases, the body’s immune system becomes over-protective, sending too many chemicals into the bloodstream. This unnecessary inflammatory response can result in the body attacking otherwise healthy organs, joints, tissues, and body systems.
What Diseases Are Linked to Inflammation?
Arthritis is one of the most common diseases associated with inflammation. In fact, arthritis is used as a common way to describe joint inflammation and soreness. Rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and gouty arthritis are some examples of inflammation-related arthritis.
Inflammation can also cause other debilitating joint, muscular, skeletal, organ and autoimmune diseases including: osteoarthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis), lupus, asthma, fibromyalgia, and nephritis.
Diagnosis of these and other inflammatory diseases requires an exhaustive medical review. Your doctor and health specialists require a range of tests and health analysis including (but not limited to):
- Blood tests
- Physical exam to look for painful areas, swelling, soreness, stiff joints, and more.
- Procedures and scans including endoscopy, colonoscopy, CT scan, x-rays, MRI, and more.
Typically, people suffering from chronic inflammation related diseases are diagnosed by a specialist such as a rheumatologist, gastroenterologist, or other specialist.
What Are the Symptoms of Inflammation?
The signs and symptoms of acute inflammation are easy to notice but, symptoms of chronic inflammation can be much harder to identify. Acute inflammation symptoms include redness at the site of cut, swelling in a sprained joint, sore muscles after a tough work-out, or a fever when you have a cold.
Symptoms of chronic inflammation and inflammation-related disease can appear to be rather benign. Pay attention to the signals your body is giving you and be aware of these symptoms of inflammation:
- High blood glucose levels.
- Digestive problems including bloating, constipation, gas, bloody stool, or diarrhea.
- Persistent and constant fatigue.
- Skin problems such as rashes, unexplained redness, blotchy patches, psoriasis, or eczema.
- Extremely sore and stiff joints with unexplained swelling, tightness, and discomfort.
- Problems sleeping.
- Brain fog.
Because these symptoms can seem to be rather minor or difficult to explain, it’s very easy for the underlying reason to be missed or for it take a long time to receive a correct diagnosis. The key is that you do not let your symptoms minimized by your healthcare team. Speak up and get the attention you need until you have a diagnosis and effective treatment plan.
How is Inflammatory Joint Disease Treated?
The treatment for inflammatory joint disease really depends on the scope, type, and severity of the disease. Your healthcare specialist will likely discuss a range of options including rest, medication, dietary changes, exercise, natural joint supplements, and surgery.
When treating inflammatory joint disease and other types of chronic inflammation, it’s important that the treatment plan focus on key goals including:
- Reducing the chronic inflammation to enable a long-term remission from the disease.
- Learning which activities, foods, or other lifestyle habits exacerbate and ease symptoms.
- Achieving pain relief. This can happen with natural supplements, anti-inflammatory drugs, and other specialized medications designed to target specific inflammatory chemicals in the body.
- Exercise and activity that allows you to strengthen your joints, muscles, and cardiovascular system.
There is a range of medications available to treat inflammatory joint disease and other autoimmune diseases. It’s important you discuss the pros and cons of these medications with your doctor and that you do take the medication as prescribed.
Learning More About Inflammation
The following resources can help you learn more about inflammation: