chronic inflammation

Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation is one of the body’s naturally occurring defense mechanisms – but when swelling becomes chronic, other more serious health issues can follow. 

Two types of inflammation

First, it’s important to understand that there are two kinds of inflammation, acute and chronic. 

Acute Inflammation

In cases of acute inflammation, swelling increases rapidly. Your body, in an effort to fight off harm from trauma, toxins or infections, releases chemicals that trigger an immune-system response. Blood flow increases to the impacted area, as antibodies and proteins race toward the problem. Swelling might last for a few hours, or perhaps days in the case of severe pneumonia or cellulitis.

Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation, however, leaves your body in a permanent state of alert. Research suggests that tissue and organs can be permanently damaged by these lengthy bouts with swelling: Inflammation has been linked to cancer, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. In the meantime, painful conditions like arthritis and atherosclerosis can also follow.

Symptoms of Chronic Inflammation

Symptoms of chronic inflammation include pain around the inflamed area, especially upon touch or movement. Redness and swelling may result; the area may also feel hot. A general sense of fatigue can set in. 

Range of motion will decrease as inflammation persists. A constant and steady throbbing or pulsating may also be felt. Some patients experience fever, rashes, mouth sores, chest or abdominal pain in a range from mild to severe. Symptoms can last for months, or even years.

The Diagnostic Process

Chronic inflammation can be caused by untreated cases of infection or injury, as an acute response evolves into a long-term issue. People with autoimmune disorders are also at risk, as their body’s natural defense mechanism mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. Prolonged exposure to chemicals or pollutants can cause inflammation. Symptoms can be made worse by smoking, obesity, persistent stress and alcohol.

Chronic inflammation is diagnosed using blood tests. Making a final determination can be difficult, however, because these commonly observed issues don’t always cause the condition. In fact, some cases don’t seem to have a definitive underlying cause.

Treatment of Inflammation

There are a variety of options – including medication, ultrasound guided injections, supplements, and an anti-inflammation-focused diet –  for those suffering from chronic inflammation:

ultrasound guided injections

Patients with chronic inflammation usually see a decrease in inflammation and a reduction of pain with the treatment of ultrasound guided injections. The injections give quick relief from pain and consist of cortisone, a steroid-based anti-inflammatory. These steroids decrease inflammation by suppressing the immune system, and block nerves that send pain signals. 

Ultrasound guided injections specifically target the inflamed area by delivering the medication to the precise spot with a small needle and local anesthetic. Corticosteroids promise increased range of motion, and localized pain relief, and the relief from one injection can last for weeks. There are some potential side effects, including vision problems, high blood pressure and osteoporosis, so doctors must weigh the risk with individual patients.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ( NSAIDs)

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, are available in over-the-counter form as aspirin, ibuprofen (under brand names such as Advil), and naproxen (Aleve). While they are useful in reducing inflammation and help with pain, NSAIDS present a risk when used long term. There have been increased occurrences of ulcers and kidney disease.

Diet and Supplements

Olive oil, kale and spinach, fatty fish like salmon and sardines, nuts, cherries, oranges and blueberries are foods with anti-inflammatory properties. Certain vitamins may help. Chronic inflammation may also be relieved with the use of fish oil, lipoic acid and several spices, including ginger, garlic, and cayenne. While our understanding of the effectiveness of cannabidiol is still a work in progress, some early reports suggest herbal remedies like CBD oil may help with chronic inflammation.