Inflammation: The Dangers
The origin of the word “inflammation” is the Latin word for “set afire.” The link is apparent for people who have some conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis. People suffering from RA experience heat, pain, redness and swelling of their tissues. But in other health conditions in which inflammation is complicit, the connection is not obvious. The inflammation only reveals itself through blood tests.
Inflammation does serve a purpose in the short term. When your immune system rushes to heal an injury or fight an infection, inflammation is one of its tools. But inflammation is designed to be temporary. When it persists and becomes chronic, it can lead to a number of diseases.
Inflamed arteries are now regarded as the underlying cause of heart disease. When fats accumulate in the walls of your coronary arteries, the body perceives this an an injury and produces inflammatory chemicals. The inflammation can then create a blood clot which causes a stroke or heart attack.
Type 2 diabetes has also been linked to inflammation, although researchers do not know if it causes the disease. One theory is that obesity triggers inflammation, which then interferes with your body’s ability to use insulin. It is known that losing weight is important in lowering your vulnerability to type 2 diabetes.
Inflammation and type 2 diabetes are linked. Doctors don’t know yet if it causes the disease, but some experts believe obesity triggers the inflammation, making it harder for your body to use insulin. That may be one reason why losing extra pounds and keeping them off is a key step in lowering your chance of getting type 2 diabetes.
Patients with Alzheimer’s disease often have chronic inflammation in their brains, although its exact role is unknown. Scientists are experimenting with the use of anti-inflammatory medicines to fight this type of dementia. Results thus far have been mixed.
Chronic inflammation is present in both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, two types of inflammatory bowel disorders. When your body’s immune system goes awry and the healthy bacteria in your intestines, the inflammation often persists. Symptoms of these disorders include belly pain, cramping, and diarrhea.
Inflammation can strike suddenly, as when your body is battling an infection. If it does not resolve quickly, consult your doctor. We’ll talk about how you can fight chronic inflammation in our next article.