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Chronic inflammation is a tough, progressive opponent – Ogden Clinic provided source, Standard-Examiner Health & Wellness 6/27/2015

OGDEN - Inflammation is a natural part of our immune system, but like anything else, too much of it can damage the body and lead to several different diseases.

Dr. Christopher Davis, a family physician at Ogden Clinic’s Davis Family Physicians, said inflammation helps recruit and direct the activity of different cells in our body which in turn promote healing.

“The body is under attack daily and it needs the inflammatory response to recover from the many types of injuries it receives each day,” Davis said. “Inflammation becomes a problem when there’s either too much or it lasts too long.”

For example, Davis said, a strong inflammatory reaction to a bee sting could lead to a potential lethal anaphylactic shock. On the other hand chronic inflammation in the nasal passages could trap mucous in the sinuses, thus promoting infection instead of clearing it.

Dr. Andrew Coles, a physician specializing in pain management at Tanner Clinic, said cells that are involved and activated in the process of inflammation release ‘help’ signals throughout the body. Over time, however, your body can become on high alert all the time, causing chronic inflammation. This prolonged alert can cause lasting damage to many of your organs.

Chronic inflammation comes in many forms, which leads to a variety of diseases, said both physicians.

“Some chronic inflammation is obvious and usually leads to a quick diagnosis,” Davis said. “Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory process in the colon that leads to pain, diarrhea and bleeding. These patients see a doctor quickly to find out why they are suffering. But other forms of chronic inflammation are more subtle, such as plaque buildup in arteries, which is actually a chronic inflammatory process in the vessel itself. It is a silent and painless process that often goes undiagnosed until it leads to heart attack or stroke.”

Researchers have also recently linked chronic pain and inflammation with anxiety and depression.

The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, examined the growth of immune cells in the brains of mice and rats with chronic pain. They discovered that inflammation in the brain caused by chronic pain increased the rate at which specific immune cells, known as microglia, set off signals in the brain that inhibit the release of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter. The pain and inflammation was closely linked to depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

The American Academy of Pain Medicine reports more than 100 million Americans experience chronic pain and inflammation. That’s more than the number of people with diabetes, cancer and heart disease combined.

“There are multiple ways to treat inflammation and the effects of chronic inflammation,” Coles said. “Steroid and NSAID drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen directly act to calm the chemical effects of inflammation.”

Physical therapy and exercise may be helpful as well to remove the stimulus that causes inflammation to become chronic, he said. Injections and other medications are used to treat the pain that is associated with chronic inflammation and increase mobility and functionality.

Davis said if you have any symptoms lasting longer than four to six weeks, those are considered chronic symptoms.

“It could be joint pain, feeling tired all the time, trouble breathing, abdominal pain or any other symptom that is not improving. You should consult your doctor to determine the cause,” Davis said. “They can help tailor a treatment plan that addresses your type of inflammation before it causes further problems.”

Of course, sometimes the best offense is a good defense. Davis said. You should also minimize your risk of chronic inflammation by doing things we know prevent disease. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight and be sure to get annual checkups. Your doctor will be able to provide a list of things you can do to protect yourself from chronic inflammation and help increase your chances of living a long, productive life.