When your body encounters an offending agent (bacteria or toxic chemicals) or gets an injury, it will activate your immune system and send out its first responders, inflammatory cells, and cytokines. Cytokines are substances that trigger an inflammatory response. Inflammatory cells will start a reaction so they can trap bacteria or begin to heal the tissue damage. Inflammation is essentially caused as a reaction when your body sends cells to defend itself against an external irritant. This entire process can be painful and can cause redness, swelling or bruising, and even unseen internal damages that you may not feel in the short-run but will need tests to detect.
The method that inflammatory cells use to defend your body against irritants is the key aspect of the body's immune system.
Inflammation can be short-lived or long-term, acute or chronic, respectively. Acute inflammation occurs when your body responds to sudden damage, like a finger cut. Whereas chronic inflammation is your body sending cells even in the absence of an external threat, causing long-term painful effects that come and go.
In this article, we will draw our focus toward the acute causes, effects, and treatment of inflammation.
Biological Causes of Inflammation
We understand that toxins and autoimmune diseases may be the reason for chronic inflammation, but let's examine the biological factor behind inflammation in general.
The causes of inflammation are classified into two groups, namely, exogenous and endogenous inducers.
This type of inducer can be further divided into Microbial and Non-microbial inducers subgroups.
Microbial inducers are pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) carried by all microorganisms, or they are viruses that activate the inflammatory response because of the effects of their activity.
On the other hand, non-microbial includes allergens, irritants, toxic compounds, and foreign bodies that the body struggles to digest, causing phagosomal damage. This type of inducer is more in line with acute inflammation.
These are tissues releasing signals that are damaged, stressed, malfunctioned, or dead. This type of inducer also has two classifications of its own; infectious factors and non-infectious factors.
Infectious factors consist of viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms, while non-infectious factors are caused due to physical trauma or injury. Some examples are burns, frostbite, trauma, chemical compounds like glucose, fatty acids, alcohol, toxins, and chemical irritants like nickel.
Untreated Acute symptoms may lead to chronic symptoms, so it's always wise to consult your doctor and get treated as soon as possible.
Specific factors in your life may cause your inflammatory cells to act up and thus cause inflammation.
Lifetsyle-related causes include alcohol in excess, having a high BMI that is not a result of muscles, exercising at your individualistic maximum intensity or not exercising enough, sore throat, an ingrown toenail, chronic stress, or finally, smoking.
While alcohol usage, etc., in moderation or rare cases, will not do irreparable harm, it's a good idea to cut down on some of these potentially dangerous habits by integrating some lifestyle modifications.
Effects and Symptoms
When the body detects pathogens or damage in acute inflammation, the immune system reacts by triggering different reactions.
Tissues may accumulate plasma proteins, causing a build-up of fluid resulting in tissue damage or swelling.
The body may release a type of white blood cell called neutrophils which will move toward the affected area.
Small blood vessels may enlarge, enabling leukocytes and plasma proteins to access the injury site at a quicker rate.
Depending on the cause, small but noticeable signs of acute inflammation may start to appear within hours or days. As mentioned above, they tend to slowly become severe, turning it into a chronic condition. The rate at which they develop and in what form all depends on the causes, the pattern of the body it targets, and other individual factors.
There are five key symptoms of acute inflammation
● Pain: This may occur continuously or upon touching the affected area
● Loss of function: This may occur when you encounter difficulty breathing, smelling, moving a joint, etc.
● Swelling: the condition called Edema may develop during a fluid build-up.
● Redness: An increase in blood supply to the capillaries in the area may cause redness.
● Heat: If an area is warm to the touch, it may be a symptom of acute inflammation.
● Flushed skin: you might experience flushed skin at the site of the affected area.
These symptoms may not be present because inflammation also occurs without symptoms. They may come in the form of flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, fatigue/loss of energy, headaches, loss of appetite, and muscle stiffness.
Symptoms of acute inflammation will last a few days, while sub-acute inflammation lasts around 2–6 weeks. Medication can be avoided as long as the inflammation stays acute so you can use simple methods like ice packs.
Treatment and Prevention
Acute inflammation does not require much treatment, and you can be good as new as long as you get rest, use ice and have good wound care for a few days, which will relieve your discomfort.
However, not treating inflammation may lead to life-threatening symptoms, so if you still wish to follow anti-inflammatory measures for better care of your pain, you can incorporate food that contains anti-inflammatory agents as its ingredients. Research shows following a Mediterranean diet will leave you with lower levels of inflammation in your body.
Other foods with anti-inflammatory properties are oily fish, like mackerel, salmon, or sardines, leafy greens like spinach and kale, olive oil, and tomatoes.
If you wish to avoid foods that can worsen your inflammation, watch out for fried foods, cured meats with nitrates like hot dogs, highly refined oils and trans fats, and refined carbohydrates like sugar or white bread.
Sometimes, if you get an allergic reaction, inflammation may cause swelling close to your airways, cutting off your breath. In these cases, it's essential to have treatment available.
Doctors will generally prescribe treatments to manage symptoms or entirely remove the cause.
For instance, doctors may prescribe antibiotics or antifungal treatment for a bacterial or fungal infection.
Some medical treatments are:
● Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which help relieve pain, fever, swelling, and other symptoms.
● Corticosteroids which is a steroid-like hormone. It helps manage arthritis, temporal arteritis, dermatitis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), systemic lupus, hepatitis, asthma, allergic reactions
It is wise to avoid inflammation overall to prevent yourself from going through pain and internal damage. You can decrease your risk of chronic inflammation by developing healthy lifestyle habits. Some of these habits include maintaining your health, avoiding smoking, exercising, limiting alcohol intake, and managing stress through healthy mediums.
Acute inflammation is temporary and is generally not life-threatening, whereas chronic inflammation is more long-lasting. This indicates that acute inflammation is easily treatable through proper care, diet, and an ice pack to lower visible swelling. Some flu-like symptoms, along with pain, swelling, heat, etc., are symptoms of inflammation and should be treated because acute inflammation can turn into chronic if left unattended. Fortunately, acute inflammation will not cause you many problems, and most of the time, there is not much to worry about. We hope this article helped.
Can infections cause acute inflammation?
Yes, since one of the causes of inflammation is exposure to a microorganism. Inflammation occurs as a response of the organism to the pathogen.
Essentially, acute inflammation will occur in various situations that cause tissue damage. This can include infection, physical or chemical agents, hypersensitivity reactions, and tissue necrosis.
What are the typical symptoms of acute inflammation?
The common, most occurring symptoms of acute inflammation are pain, loss of function, heat, swelling, redness, flushed skin, and some common flu-like symptoms.