Inflammation, known as inflammation, is a reaction that occurs in everyone and is created by the immune system to protect the body against various diseases or injuries. Inflammation is the basis of many healing processes in the body. The cause of inflammation in some people may be autoimmune diseases caused by immune system cells producing antibodies against other healthy cells and tissues of the body. There is an autoimmune event in the formation of some conditions such as arthritis (joint inflammation) and inflammatory bowel disease.
Inflammation is examined by dividing into 2 groups as acute and chronic. Acute inflammation usually describes a severe inflammation state that occurs in a short time. In acute inflammations, the duration is less than 2 weeks and the symptoms develop very rapidly. Inflammation that occurs in new onset diseases and injuries is acute inflammation.
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is an inflammatory state that usually lasts longer than 6 weeks, develops slowly but has a severe course. This condition, which may not be associated with any injury, tends to persist even if the underlying cause is treatment. Prolonged stress situations and autoimmune diseases are among the causes of chronic inflammation.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is an important medical term with a history dating back thousands of years and with various characteristic symptoms. Today, inflammation is defined as tissue response due to harmful chemicals, environmental agents, trauma, overuse or infectious diseases. This tissue response is an important step in wound healing and control of infectious diseases.
In naming diseases with inflammation, the suffix -it is added to the end of the name of the relevant organ. For example, inflammation of the liver, hepatitis, inflammation of the pancreas, pancreatitis or inflammation of the appendix are called appendicitis.
What are the Symptoms of Inflammation?
Inflammation in any part of the body characteristically has 5 symptoms. Pain, heat increase, redness, edema and loss of function in this area constitute 5 features of inflammation. Other specific symptoms may vary depending on the area of inflammation or the underlying cause.
Prolonged inflammation states are classified as chronic inflammation. Unlike acute inflammation, symptoms in chronic inflammation may be more insidious and may be confused with the symptoms of other diseases. Symptoms such as weakness, fever, mouth sores, skin rash, abdominal pain and chest pain are among the symptoms of chronic inflammation. Symptoms can take a moderate or severe course and may persist for a period of time, usually expressed in months or years.
Chronic inflammation can occur following 6 different health conditions:
- Inadequate immune response of the body against a microbial disease with acute inflammation
- In the presence of foreign matter that cannot be eliminated by the enzymatic reaction or defense cells
- In the course of autoimmune diseases
- In diseases such as “Familial Mediterranean Fever” caused by impairment in cellular
- functions related to the regulation of the inflammation process.
- The accumulation of oxidative stressors such as free radical molecules that increase inflammation
- There is a relationship between the underlying disease and symptoms in chronic inflammation. In rheumatoid arthritis, the defense cells of the people fight against the joints. As a result of this situation, symptoms such as pain, stiffness, edema or loss of function occur in the joints. Due to the fact that the inflammation is a chronic process, other complaints such as weakness, numbness and tingling or decreased range of motion can be added to the disease table over time.
In inflammatory bowel diseases, another inflammatory disease, inflammation is in the digestive system canal. Therefore, symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramps, bloating, weight loss, anemia or bleeding ulcer (wound) formation may occur in people with this condition.
Symptoms that may occur in case of chronic inflammation can be summarized as follows:
- Body aches, joint and muscle aches
- Chronic weakness and insomnia,
- Depression, anxiety disorder, and other mood disorders
- Digestive system complaints such as constipation, diarrhea (diarrhea) or reflux
- Involuntary weight gain or weight loss
- Having frequent infectious diseases
How is Inflammation Diagnosed?
Although there is not yet a completely specific laboratory measurement method for inflammation, the increase in the level of some substances called inflammation biomarkers in the blood circulation following the development of inflammation in the body makes these substances valuable in the diagnostic approach to inflammation.
C-reactive protein, abbreviated as CRP, is one of the first things that come to mind when inflammation markers are mentioned. CRP level can also be detected as high in elderly, obese or cancer patients. High CRP level shows an increase in both acute and chronic inflammation. For high-sensitivity CRP (hsCRP), the normal accepted value for men is below 0.55 milligrams per liter, while for women this value is considered to be 1 milligram per liter. Apart from CRP, determination of fibrinogen level is an examination that can contribute to the diagnosis of inflammation. Normal values of fibrinogen vary between 200-300 milligrams per deciliter.
The erythrocyte sedimentation rate test, abbreviated as ESR, evaluates the rate of collapse in the tube containing the red blood cells depending on the inflammation. ESR cannot reveal the underlying cause of the inflammation, but it is very valuable in monitoring the course of this condition in the patient.
Following the formation of inflammation, increases in the level of immune factors such as TNF, IL-1, IL-6 and IL-8 may also occur. Although these markers are more costly to follow up, they are very valuable in elucidating various conditions with chronic inflammation.
Serum protein electrophoresis is a very effective diagnostic tool for the recognition of chronic inflammation. In this examination, the level of some proteins in the fluid part of the blood is examined and allows the evaluation of inflammatory conditions that may be associated with a decrease or increase in their levels.
When deemed necessary by the physicians, various radiological examinations such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and X-ray can be applied, especially after the symptoms and findings related to certain areas of the patients are detected. In people with suspected inflammatory bowel disease, imaging methods such as endoscopy and colonoscopy can be used to examine the digestive tract in detail.
How is Inflammation Treatment?
Studies over the past 10 years have shown that there may be a relationship between a person’s lifestyle and the level of inflammation. The fact that individuals with high CRP levels are generally physically inactive, have high blood sugar levels and have unhealthy eating habits confirms these results. These people also have a predisposition to other health problems such as hypertension and obesity. Changing the diet plan with the Mediterranean diet and exercising moderately are among the very effective lifestyle changes in reducing the CRP level back to normal limits.
Changes related to lifestyle and diet can positively affect the course and triggering factors of chronic inflammation. Losing weight is one of the steps that can be taken to reduce the inflammation process. Establishing a low glycemic index diet plan, avoiding saturated fat or processed foods, paying attention to the consumption of fibrous foods such as vegetables and fruits, and applying a diet adequate in terms of minerals and vitamins expressed as micronutrients, a diet that can be done in order to suppress inflammation. is among the changes.
Physicians can prescribe various drugs for the underlying disease in chronic inflammation. While drugs with the active ingredient of metformin can be used in type 2 diabetic patients, it can benefit from the anti-inflammatory effects of drugs expressed as statins, especially in people with high blood fat levels. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs contribute to the suppression of inflammation in the body by acting through cellular enzyme mechanisms. Apart from these drugs, corticosteroid therapy can be used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as severe inflammatory diseases and lupus.