The doctor is in: Insight on inflammation | The Financial Express

The doctor is in: Insight on inflammation

What is chronic inflammation and how do we know if we are suffering from it?

The doctor is in: Insight on inflammation
Inflammation in the body is also caused by some lifestyle factors.

By Dr Tarun Sahni

Inflammation (from Latin: inflammatio) is part of the complex biological response of body tissues to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants. It is a protective response involving immune cells, blood vessels, and molecular mediators. The function of inflammation is to eliminate the initial cause of cell injury, clear out necrotic cells and tissues damaged from the original insult and the inflammatory process, and initiate tissue repair.

Chronic inflammation is also known as slow, long-term inflammation that lasts for several months to years. In general, the severity and duration of chronic inflammation vary, depending on the cause of the injury and the body’s ability to repair and overcome the damage.

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Because it happens internally, the symptoms may be subtle at first. The following are some of the most common symptoms of chronic inflammation:

  • Joint stiffness, tendonitis, muscle pain are symptoms of body discomfort
  • Insomnia, sleep apnea, and chronic fatigue are all examples of sleep disorders
  • Weight gain/loss without explanation
  • Psoriasis-like skin rashes and frequent infections
  • Pain in the abdomen, acid reflux, and other digestive system issues
  • Unknown cause of fever
  • Depression and anxiety are examples of mood disorders

What are the tests to diagnose this?

There are no specific tests for determining inflammation. However, certain blood tests, such as those that detect C-reactive protein (CRP), are a good place to start. A CRP test may be used to aid in the detection or monitoring of inflammation in acute or chronic conditions such as:

  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, intestine disorders such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and vasculitis are examples of autoimmune diseases
  • Asthma and other lung diseases.

Who is at risk for chronic inflammation?

Chronic inflammation has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, according to research. Inflammation in the body is also caused by some lifestyle factors. You may be more prone to chronic inflammation if you:

  • Indulge in excessive alcohol consumption
  • Have a high BMI that falls within the ranges for obesity, unless this is due to being very muscular
  • You either exercise at your maximum intensity too frequently or not enough
  • Suffer from chronic stress
  • Smoking

Is it treatable?

Inflammation does not always necessitate medical attention. Rest, ice and good wound care can often relieve acute inflammation within a few days. If you have chronic inflammation, your doctor may advise you to use:

  • Supplements: Certain vitamins (A, C, D) and supplements (zinc) may reduce inflammation and improve repair. For example, your doctor may recommend a fish oil supplement or a vitamin (s). You can also use anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric, ginger or garlic
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These OTC medications reduce inflammation. Your doctor may advise you to take ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen
  • Corticosteroid injections: Corticosteroid injections reduce inflammation in a specific joint or muscle. For example, if you have rheumatoid arthritis in your back, your doctor may administer a steroid shot to your spine. Each year, you should not have more than three to four steroid injections in the same body part.

Do medicines alone help?

Inflammation can be treated with both OTC and prescription medications. The best medication is determined by the individual as well as the cause and severity of the inflammation. Before beginning any new medications, a person should consult with a healthcare professional.

Natural products such as turmeric and garlic are also known to have an anti-inflammatory response.

Are lifestyle changes beneficial?

Chronic inflammation can be managed through lifestyle changes, and good daily habits can be implemented to keep it under control. Avoiding alcohol, tobacco, sugary and deep-fried foods, and increasing consumption of green leafy vegetables, spices, herbs and nuts may help to reduce inflammation. Exercise, adequate sleep and stress management are also beneficial in reducing inflammation.

Dr Tarun Sahni is senior consultant, internal medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi

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First published on: 04-12-2022 at 01:45 IST