Redness, swelling and pain are all common symptoms of how inflammation affects the body. Inflammation is usually a normal immune response in our bodies. It’s an alarm system that lets us know that our white blood cells and chemicals are helping to protect our body from infection and foreign substances. Inflammation occurs with non-life threatening injuries such as cuts, deep bruises or even mild burns. In these cases, its a good response. The inflammation is localized, and lasts usually 6- 10 days before peace is restored.
In some cases, however, the body’s defense system (immune system) triggers an inflammatory response even when there are no infections or foreign substances to fight off. This occurs in autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and the body’s normally protective immune system causes damage to its own tissues. This is a bad response in our body.
How to recognize inflammation
In the case of inflammation in our joints, symptoms may include redness, a swollen joint that is tender and warm to the touch, joint pain, joint stiffness and loss of joint function. The increased number of cells and inflammatory substances within the joint can cause irritation, wearing down of cartilage, and swelling of the joint lining. But inflammation may also be associated with general “flu”-like symptoms, including fever, chills, fatigue/loss of energy, headaches, loss of appetite, and muscle stiffness.
When we should we worry about inflammation
Sometimes inflammation can cause further inflammation; becoming self-perpetuating. More inflammation is created in response to the existing inflammation. The inflammation experienced in rheumatoid arthritis and lupus is chronic and not limited to one area. It is thought to be an altered immune response. Because rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease, in addition to affecting the joints, it can also affect organs, including the heart, lungs and eyes.
The challenges of living with inflammatory arthritis are many, and range from the physical (disability, pain, fatigue, joint damage and organ damage) to the emotional (depression, anger and anxiety).
Treating inflammatory joint diseases
There are a number of treatment options for inflammatory joint diseases including medications, rest, exercise, and surgery to correct joint damage. Treatment options include avoiding or modifying activities that aggravate pain; relieving pain through pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs; maintaining joint movement and muscle strength through physical therapy and exercise; and decreasing stress on the joints by using braces, splints, or canes as needed. The type of treatment prescribed depends on several factors including the type of disease, the person’s age, type of medications he or she is taking, overall health, medical history, and severity of symptoms.
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