Stages of Inflammation
Stages of Inflammation
Everyone in their life at some point has experienced inflammation. As a child you may remember this as falling over and grabbing your leg, feeling it become very red and swollen. This reaction is called the inflammatory response.
The inflammatory response is a natural body process which occurs when there is damage caused to the body. Inflammation initially attempts to prevent any further injury to the area, and then works to repair and heal the body.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is defined by three main functions:
- Protection: preventing against further damage.
- Waste removal: aids in removing dead or dying tissue caused by the damage.
- Repair/Healing: promotes repair and creation of new tissue.
These three functions are all important in promoting an environment in which the body can repair and heal itself quickly and effectively.
What are the signs of inflammation?
- Colour: the damaged area and nearby surroundings will be red in colour due to the rush of blood to the area, caused by vasodilation, to provide extra oxygen and nutrients.
- Size: swelling will be seen due by an increase in fluid to the area.
- Pain: the area will be very painful to touch.
- Temperature: the area will be slightly warmer than usual due to an increase in blood to the area.
- Function: depending on the area of damage, you may experience a decrease in functionality. For example an inflammed knee may be very difficult to bend.
The 3 Stages of Inflammation:
Inflammation is a process which not only happens immediately after damage has occurred, but is also a rapidly occurring process in itself. A sequence of events can be listed to describe the process of the inflammatory response, although due to the rapid rate at which it occurs, these events are somewhat more simultaneous in nature.
However, they can be categorized into three main stages as listed below.
- Damage: damage to the tissue can be caused by a number of things. Two common examples are direct impact or as a result of an overuse injury.
- Chemical reactions: the injured cells release an array of chemicals to help with increasing blood flow and pain sensitivity. They also initiate chemotaxis, which attracts nearby defense cells to the damaged area.
- Repairing and healing: The initiation of chemotaxis consequently results in an influx of white blood cells. These cells aid in removing any waste, predominantly by macrophages (a form of white blood cell) which absorbs and digests any dead or bacteria cells, making room for new cell growth. Another form of white blood cells, neutrophils, assist in the repair by neutralizing the site of damage.
Why Inflammation is Important:
Inflammation is a positive process in the body used to naturally protect and heal the body if damaged. Although, sometimes there are times when the reaction causes a negative side effect for the individual, such as for those suffering a sprained ankle, which has become greatly inflammed, causing it to be very difficult for the individual to walk on it.
Treatment of Inflammation:
To relieve inflammation, it is advised to rest, protect, compress, elevate the damaged area and to apply a cold pack for up to 15 minutes every hour or two whilst the injury is still in the acute phase, to reduce the negative effects of inflammation, such as swelling.