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What Is the Relationship between Inflammation and Disease?

Article Details
  • Written By: Erik J.J. Goserud
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Inflammation and disease have an interesting relationship. They are like water and ice in the sense that they can create each other. Inflammation can be both a result of and a cause for disease, making their dynamic even more complex. Exploring the nature of inflammation and disease independently can result in a better understanding of the relationship between them.

Disease is a term that is regularly thrown around without being defined. It has come to mean many different things but should, by definition, only describe characteristics of health. Disease refers to any irregularity of the body that has harmful effects. These effects can range from mild to severe, from physical to psychological, and everywhere in between. While medicines can help combat disease, the human body is lucky to have its own built-in medical mechanism: the immune system.

The immune system is the body's line of defense against potentially harmful microbes that roam the face of the earth. When an infection occurs or trauma is experienced, the immune system quickly acts. It does so by sending a plethora of combative cells to the problem area. These cells are usually suspended in fluid. A combination of thousands to millions of cells carried by fluid results in an increased size of the body part or region, leading to inflammation.

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This mechanism is proof that disease can be prevented or fought through inflammation. This type of inflammation therefore is generally good, resulting from an acute, or short-term, immune response. Inflammation and disease are also related in a relatively negative way too. Chronic inflammation can cause many diseases.

Chronic inflammation and disease are complexly linked in many ways. One example of this is edema. Edema can result from genetics, lifestyle, or medication. This is an excessive fluid buildup in a particular area. Edema can cause cells to spread out, preventing healing.

Edema may also sometimes cause a loss of nervous function. The excessive inflammation characteristic of this disease forces the heart to work harder against increased bodily pressure, while the trapped fluid decreases the amount of potential blood the cardiovascular system has to use. This link between inflammation and disease has affected millions of people globally.

Inflammation and disease are also linked through joint pain. Sometimes, joints become swollen and inflamed. This not only decreases mobility but also results in pain for many sufferers. The relationship between inflammation and disease is basically twofold; disease can cause inflammation, and inflammation can lead to disease.

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