One of the biggest topics within health circles these days is the effects of chronic inflammation, which has been connected with a myriad of diseases, from heart disease to cancer.
With so much talk against it, it can be easy to forget that inflammation is actually a critical step in the body’s healing process! How does that work, you ask? Read on.
The first responder: acute inflammation
Inflammation is a completely healthy process of the immune system in response to an injury.
Imagine that you’ve cut your finger. Immediately, the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) in your injured digit constrict to limit blood flow while your body’s platelets (proteins in the blood) begin the clotting process.
Then, here comes our hero: Acute Inflammation! During the inflammatory process blood vessels will begin to dilate and become more permeable: this brings more blood to the injured area, and also helps to usher special cells called White Blood Cells (WBCs) into the tissue. The increased blood flow and higher cellular activity can also cause redness, and the permeability of the blood vessels can cause swelling as well (think of when you sprain your ankle).
These processes all serve to get WBCs to the injury, where they have a variety of jobs to do: clean up the site, annihilate bacteria that may have entered your body, call other cells to the area, and send chemical signals to the rest of your body.
Later on, healing– like tissue regeneration scar formation– will take place. Inflammation is the first step to healing.
The unwelcome guest: chronic inflammation
While acute inflammation is the superhero who tackles the critical immune function of healing, chronic inflammation is like a guest who overstays their welcome– by months or even years. The hallmarks of chronic inflammation are 1- a prolonged inflammatory response, and 2- simultaneous rebuilding and breaking down of tissue.
Chronic inflammation is what providers and medical scientists are talking about when they reference the negative effects of inflammation, and it’s the subject of many different studies: how to combat it, what it does, and how to avoid it entirely.
It’s clear that chronic inflammation in the body can have a systemic effect; one example is the link between gum inflammation and heart disease– who would have thought something happening in the mouth could affect your heart? Discoveries like this really demonstrate just how intricately connected our body systems are, and the importance of keeping each healthy.
Inflammation is a big topic. If you are interested in learning more about chronic inflammation may impact your health, or you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to ask your Hillsboro family doctor at your next appointment!