Large or small, inside or outside, wherever injury occurs the body’s defenses set off a cascade of players to deal with the tissue damage (inflammation system) and keep strangers out (immune system). Whether you bump your elbow, get a splinter, or have an autoimmune disorder, the same sequence unfolds, aimed to restore order and heal you, naturally.
This series will cover the major components present where injury to tissue occurs. It’s a fascinating, complex process, with a lot of moving parts in a rapid sequence of events. We begin with a discussion of inflammation, and move on to immunity, inflammatory conditions, health tips, and related topics in future posts.
Inflammation is characterized by four cardinal signs:
The inflammatory response serves to stop bleeding and wall off the injured area to prevent further damage to the local tissue. This unfolds as a natural process beginning with acute-phase and transitioning into chronic-phase responses.
1. Acute-phase response has active two stages, the vascular stage and the cellular stage.
a. During the vascular stage, the blood vessels first respond by constricting, then rapidly dilate (enlarge). The blood vessels that supply the area also dilate to allow fluid and plasma proteins to move out of the vessels and into the surrounding (interstitial) spaces, causing the swelling, heat, pain, and redness associated with acute-phase inflammation.
b. During the cellular phase, the capillaries become permeable for the delivery of immune factors, nutrients, and blood-clotting factors.
Chemical mediators produce the signs and symptoms of inflammation at both the vascular and cellular stages. These mediators perform an array of functions that keep the intricate process moving forward step-by-step, with the ultimate purpose of stopping the damage and returning the system to homeostasis. We will cover some of these in future posts.
2. Chronic-phase responses can become long-lasting if not treated. Some chronic-phase injuries are local (shoulder pain) and some are systemic (autoimmune disease). Foreign substances, both living (viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites) and non-living (example: splinters) can also underlie chronic inflammation.
Chronic-phase responses put an additional demand on the body’s resources, hence the reason why we stress the importance of quality nutrition that supplies the raw material for all the body’s functions.
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