Ways Inflammation Can Affect Your Health
Once the cycle of acute inflammation goes overboard the chemical mediators of inflammation lead to multiple organs being affected which is a dreaded complication of any infection or toxic injury
Inflammation is an essential part of the body’s functioning and is a normal biological response. Inflammation is basically a process wherein the body activates its immune system against an offending agent such as a virus, bacteria, microorganism or even a toxin leading to the building up of inflammatory or chemical responses which protect the body. Inflammation is thus, an integral part of the body’s healing process and is essential at the cellular level to maintain the health and functioning of each and every organ system of the body.
As an initial response to a noxious stimulus, the body produces a local response with activation of the white blood cells and the release of chemical mediators to prevent further damage. If the invading microorganisms or toxic insult goes beyond the initial inflammatory response, the body releases larger amounts of cellular mediators which include interleukins, cytokines, platelet-activating factor, prostaglandins, and free oxygen radicals. These set up a cycle of chemical and physical reactions at the microvascular level including the lining of the blood vessels called endothelium.
This process further leads to capillary injury leakage of fluid into the tissues, occlusion of small blood vessels and changes in the microcirculation and clotting mechanisms of the blood Although the primary aim of this inflammatory cycle is to heal, when the delicate balance between the pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory mediators gets disrupted, it leads to a vicious cycle of tissue damage which further accelerates organ injury and organ dysfunction.
Chief Signs Of Inflammation And Complications
The external appearance of an inflamed area usually shows what are called the cardinal signs of inflammation including redness, tumour or swelling, color or warmth of the affected part and dolor where an inflamed area becomes painful or tender. These are what we label as acute inflammatory responses, most of which lead to the subsequent healing process and later recovery and normal functioning of the part affected.
Once the cycle of acute inflammation goes overboard, the chemical mediators of inflammation lead to multiple organs being affected which is a dreaded complication of any infection or toxic injury This leads to multi-organ failure also known as multi-organ dysfunction syndrome in critically ill patients. Hence, these are the effects of the acute inflammatory responses in the body.
In-depth studies have been conducted about the effects of chronic, low grade inflammatory responses which are being implicated in a variety of diseases involving various organ systems of the body. Some of these diseases include the following:
- Cardiac ailments including hypertension (initial inflammation of the smaller arteries), ischemic heart disease leading to heart attacks and heart failure, valvular heart disease and cardiomyopathies (some of which are related to toxin induced inflammation).
- Neurological diseases including strokes (the inflammation in the arteries of the brain), neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s disease, dementia, spinal cord, and nerve-related diseases.
- Autoimmune diseases like SLE, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. where the inflammatory responses against the body’s own tissues get activated and these mediators end up damaging the body’s own organs.
- Lung disorders including interstitial lung diseases, airway inflammations leading to asthma and COPD.
- Gastrointestinal involvement and hepatic disorders where conditions like severe gastritis, ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease, toxic hepatitis, and chronic liver diseases are caused by inflammatory responses.
- Renal disorders causing renal dysfunction secondary to either infection or direct inflammatory responses.
- Peripheral vascular diseases where inflammation of the blood vessels in the limbs can lead to narrowing, reduced circulation and subsequent gangrene.
- Connective tissue disorders including joint-related inflammation being the process of initiation of joint damage leading to arthritis.
- Skin and soft tissue disorders leading to external changes including pigmentation, excessive dryness and wrinkling Of Skin.
- Metabolic and hormonal related diseases including diabetes mellitus, thyroid illnesses, etc.
- Malignancies in which a small focus of inflammation at the cellular level leads to unregulated multiplication of abnormal or cancerous cells leading to malignancies.
Note: The list of illnesses caused by chronic inflammation is much longer.
Since inflammation is an essential healing process when kept regulated by the body itself, the question is can we avoid these ill effects of inflammation? Lifestyle changes probably help in containing this process from going overboard and this could include healthy eating with maintaining the maximum possible intake of fresh vegetables and fruits including dry fruits like walnuts and almonds (good antioxidants) as part of one’s daily diet.
Furthermore, maintaining a physically active lifestyle, maintaining ideal body weight and avoiding consumption of additives and toxins including smoking and intoxicants are highly recommended. These modifications help to reduce the free radical injury to the body’s cells and protect against organ damage too.
Inflammation being a protective mechanism is an innate response of the body with far-reaching effects which are generally meant to repair and heal the tissues, but which can also have a harmful effect on the body’s organs.