What is inflammation? The word comes from the Latin word inflammare, which means to set on fire. Inflammation is a protective response involving host cells (your cells), blood vessels and proteins. Its goals are to:
- Eliminate the initial cause of cell injury
- Remove necrotic cells and tissue
- Initiate the process of repair
Inflammation is also a potentially harmful process, since its components are capable of destroying microbes and can also injure bystander normal tissue.
Why is controlling inflammation so important? Inflammation is the final common pathway for cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disease, autoimmune disease, diabetes mellitus and obesity.
The components of the inflammatory process include white blood cells and plasma proteins that are normally present in the blood. The goal of an inflammatory reaction is to bring these to the site of infection and/or tissue damage. Chemical mediators including cytokines produced by damaged host cells induce inflammation, which is normally controlled and self-limited.
An inappropriate inflammatory response occurs when there are no foreign substances to fight off and leads to autoimmunity, where an individual’s own tissue is destroyed, such as autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s Disease).
The inflammatory process must be tightly regulated by the immune system to avoid excessive tissue damage and spillover to normal tissue.
-itis (- after name of tissue) e.g.
Appendix – Appendicitis
Dermis – Dermatitis
Gallbladder – Cholecystitis
Duodenum – Duodenitis
Meninges – Meningitis, etc.
What are the body’s natural defenses against inflammation?
The first line of defense is the skin and mucus membranes.
The second line of defense is phagocytosis, inflammation, fever and antimicrobial substances.
The third line of defense is immunity or specific resistance, which refers to defenses (antibodies) against specific microorganisms.