When your body activates your immune system, it sends out inflammatory cells. These cells attack bacteria or heal damaged tissue. If your body sends out inflammatory cells when you are not sick or injured, you may have chronic inflammation. Inflammation is a symptom of many chronic diseases, such as arthritis or Alzheimer’s disease.
When your body encounters an offending agent (like viruses, bacteria or toxic chemicals) or suffers an injury, it activates your immune system. Your immune system sends out its first responders: inflammatory cells and cytokines (substances that stimulate more inflammatory cells).
These cells begin an inflammatory response to trap bacteria and other offending agents or start healing injured tissue. The result can be pain, swelling, bruising or redness. But inflammation also affects body systems you can’t see.
There are two types of inflammation:
Acute inflammation may cause:
Chronic inflammation symptoms may be harder to spot than acute inflammation symptoms. Signs of chronic inflammation can include:
Chronic inflammation is involved in the disease process of many conditions, including:
The most common reasons for chronic inflammation include:
Some lifestyle factors also contribute to inflammation in the body. You may be more likely to develop chronic inflammation if you:
Inflammation does not always require treatment. For acute inflammation, rest, ice and good wound care often relieve the discomfort in a few days.
If you have chronic inflammation, your healthcare provider may recommend:
You may choose to follow an anti-inflammatory diet. Some research shows that people who follow a Mediterranean diet have lower levels of inflammation in their bodies.
You may choose to eat more foods that have anti-inflammatory properties, such as:
Eating too much of certain foods may increase inflammation. If you have chronic inflammation, you may feel better if you avoid:
You may decrease your risk of chronic inflammation by developing healthy lifestyle habits. Some of these habits include:
Check in with your healthcare provider if you experience a worrisome injury. Also talk with your provider if you have ongoing pain, swelling, stiffness or other symptoms. A healthcare expert can narrow down the cause and find ways to help you feel better.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Inflammation is an essential part of your body’s healing process. It occurs when inflammatory cells travel to the place of an injury or foreign body like bacteria. If inflammatory cells stay too long, it may lead to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a symptom of other health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Your healthcare provider may recommend medication or at-home management. You can reduce inflammation by eating anti-inflammatory foods and managing stress.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/28/2021.
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