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Chronic Inflammation: All About This Silent Killer

Chronic inflammation is usually harder to diagnose than its acute counterpart and is a symptomatic outcome of underlying health conditions

Inflammation is not a disease in itself but usually a symptomatic manifestation of some health condition

Written by Kashish Sharma |Updated : September 7, 2022 11:04 AM IST

You have probably heard that bad cholesterol or a poorly managed blood pressure can make your heart sick. You might have also have heard that regular smoking and bad lifestyle choices make you cancer prone. But, what you must have not heard that often is the word inflammation, which might be a cause behind many deadly health conditions.

As per the Harvard Medical Journal, chronic, low-grade inflammation can turn into a silent killer that contributes to cardiovascular disorders, cancer, type 2 diabetes and other conditions. The journal states that three out of five people around the world die from a disease linked to inflammation. This fact makes it an alarming concern.

COVID makes it all the more relevant

Knowing about the condition becomes all the more relevant in the COVID era when the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention reported about a multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) affecting some children and adults suffering from COVID. The inflammatory syndrome, as described by the health body, is a rare but serious condition associated with COVID in which different parts of the body become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, or gastrointestinal organs.

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Before proceeding forward, it will be a good idea to understand what inflammation is and how it can turn into a problem.

Know what 'inflammation' means

To start with, you must know that inflammation is not a disease in itself but is often a symptom of some chronic health conditions. In order to understand the term, you can visualize some pathogens attacking your body. If you happen to be infected, your body will activate the immune system, which in turn will send out inflammatory cells to attack the bacteria or virus that has found a way inside your body. Well, this situation is absolutely healthy and there is nothing to be worried about.

How inflammation becomes a problem

Going ahead with the above-mentioned example, if your body sends out inflammatory cells when you are not sick or injured, then there is a little to be worried about. But if this goes on a while, maybe months or years, then there is lot to be worried about.

Well, most of us have some idea about how inflammation looks like - the painful, swollen, elevated bruise on skin that you see after getting injured. However, you must know that inflammation can also affect systems that you can't see.

Types of Inflammation

Inflammation on grounds of intensity and time finds itself clinically bifurcated into two categories acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is usually due by tissue damage caused by sudden injury or microbial invasion. It starts off rapidly, becomes severe in a short while and its symptoms may usually last for few days. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, can last for prolonged periods. Chronic inflammation is usually harder to diagnose than its acute counterpart.

What makes inflammation last so long

Chronic inflammation usually happens when a person is suffering from autoimmune disorders where the person's immune system turns against the healthy tissue, or the person has regular exposure to toxins, like pollution and industrial pollutants. Sometimes, untreated acute inflammation from injury or infection can also lead to chronic inflammation.

Some studies claim that chronic stress, regular smoking and alcohol consumption can also cause contribute to the same.

Symptoms of chronic inflammation

Chronic inflammation can manifest itself in many covert symptoms. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is not a bad idea to get tested for inflammation and the underlying condition causing it. However, some of the symptoms may or may not be due to inflammation:

Chronic abdominal pain

Chronic chest pain

Chronic fatigue

Frequent fever

Chronic skin rashes, sores and others

Chronic inflammation and deadly diseases

As per a report in John Hopkins Medicine Journal, researchers have discovered high levels of inflammation associated with an increased chance of having a heart attack or stroke. The clinical study titled CANTOS proved that targeting inflammation without changing cholesterol levels can have a significant impact. The study showed that people treated with anti-inflammatory drugs were 15 per cent less likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes. Researchers say that treating inflammation while treating heart disease is essential.

The road ahead

Once identified, the usual treatment for chronic inflammation includes intake of supplements like vitamins , anti-inflammatory herbs or spices, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and in some cases steroid injections.

One must know that inflammation is an essential mechanism of the body, chronic inflammation is not.

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