What is inflammation?
Inflammation is part of the body’s immune system’s response to stimulus.
The five signs of inflammation are:
- Swelling (e.g. the swelling of a wound)
- Loss of function (e.g. the inability to smell properly when you have a head cold).
Severe inflammation can cause you to feel sick, exhausted and even to have a fever. It also causes an increase in the number of defense cells in the body. Feeling chilled, very ill, and having a very high fever can also be signs of blood poisoning. In this case, seek urgent medical assistance.
A rare complication of an inflammation is called sepsis (e.g. if bacteria multiply and the body fails in fighting them locally and they enter the bloodstream in large quantities).
What’s the difference between inflammation and infection?
Infection is the invasion of the body by disease-causing agent (which sometimes multiply), and the reaction of the body to these organisms and the toxins they produce. An infection can cause inflammation. For example, infection is caused by a bacterium, virus or fungus, but inflammation is the body's response to it.
What causes inflammation?
Common causes of inflammation are:
- Pathogens like bacteria, viruses or fungi.
- External injuries like scrapes or foreign objects (e.g. a thorn).
- Exposure to chemicals or radiation.
Inflammation can also be caused by diseases or conditions (they often end in “-itis"):
- Cystitis - inflammation of the bladder
- Bronchitis - inflammation of the bronchi
- Otitis media – inflammation of the middle-ear
- Dermatitis – inflammation of the skin.
What does inflammation involve?
As part of the inflammation process, a variety of immune cells can be involved. They release tissue hormones “bradykinin” and “histamine”. These expand the tissue’s blood vessels so that more blood and defense cells can reach it. That’s why it can appear red and warm to the touch. These hormones can also have the side effect of irritating the nerves and thus cause pain signals to be sent to the brain.
The defense cells help with the healing process. They also carry more fluid into the inflamed tissue, which is what causes some of the swelling.
The mucus membranes can also release more fluid as a result of inflammation (e.g. when you have a head cold). The nasal secretions help to flush the viruses out of the body.
When is an inflammation not helpful?
Sometimes the immune system fights against its own cells by mistake when there isn’t an infection, causing harmful inflammatory responses. These diseases are called “chronic inflammatory diseases” and “autoimmune disorders,” and some of these include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis - where many joints are permanently inflamed (see Amrita's page Essential Oils For Arthritis for more details)
- Psoriasis – a chronic skin inflammation (see Amrita's page Essential Oils For Psoriasis for more details)
- Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis - inflammations of the bowel.
These diseases can last for years or even a lifetime in varying degrees of severity. They can also affect the internal organs and because some of these do not have pain-sensitive nerves, pain may not always be present.
Disclaimer: The statements made on this page have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are not intended to diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. If a condition persists, please contact your physician or healthcare provider. The information provided is not a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare provider, and should not be construed as medical advice.