Why does inflammation occur?

Inflammation has many different causes. Everyone experiences some form of inflammation– redness, pain, and swelling in an injured or infected tissue. It is produced as a result of the body’s healing response.

Inflammation follows a scratch or abrasion, a bruise, cellulitis (infection of the skin), muscle strains, tendon strain or overuse, sprains (ankle, knee, wrist, etc.), joint dislocations, broken bones, and burns (sunburn, fire, gasoline, electrical). Inflammation complicates conditions like asthma, allergies (such as hay fever, bee stings, poison ivy), arthritis, gout, and diseases such as Crohn’s disease. Inflammation may also be caused by neurological misfiring.

Regardless of the source of inflammation, all inflammation results in five characteristic external markers:

  1. Redness
  2. Swelling
  3. Heat
  4. Pain
  5. Loss of function

Inflammation may be so minor that you are unaware of it (such as the negligible inflammation around a paper cut), or it may be crippling (such as arthritis). It becomes a problem when it impairs a person’s normal ability to function. In these situations, there are several treatment options depending on the type of inflammation and the tissue involved.

Inflammation can be treated with steroidal or nonsteroidal medications. These medications can be applied topically, taken orally, or inhaled either through the mouth or nose. Some nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs are available as over-the-counter (OTC) medications. These OTC medications include oral drugs (such as ibuprofen or naproxen), topical creams, ointments and gels, or prescription oral or topical drugs.

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