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Arthritis Inflammation: Signs, Types, Causes, and Treatment

Learn about the causes and signs of inflammation

Your body uses inflammation as a kind of infection and damage protection. Pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function are the five primary indicators of inflammation. However, not everyone who has inflammation exhibits any symptoms.

The two types of inflammation—acute and chronic—and the five symptoms are covered in this article. Additionally, it covers other inflammatory symptoms, consequences, and both acute and chronic inflammation treatments.

5 cardinal Signs of inflammation

1. Types of Inflammation

Acute or chronic inflammation can occur over a short or lengthy period of time.

Acute Inflammation

Acute inflammation aids the body's defences against bacteria and other foreign substances, which is a beneficial and essential role. The inflammation lessens once the body has healed.

Heat or warmth in the affected area can result from acute inflammation. A wounded area of your body, for instance, could feel heated to the touch. A fever may occasionally be the cause of the heat.

Here are a few instances of typical circumstances that might result in acute inflammation:

  • acute bronchitis, which is an airway (lung) airway inflammation.
  • a physical part with an infection, such as an ingrown toenail.
  • a painful throat brought on by the flu or another virus.
  • Dermatitis (which encompasses skin disorders like poison ivy or nickel-induced contact dermatitis).
    a physical injury.
  • The membranes lining the sinuses and nose may temporarily become inflamed due to sinusitis,
  • which is typically brought on by a viral infection.
    Skin abrasions and wounds.

Chronic Inflammation

If chronic inflammation doesn't "turn off," it can keep harming healthy tissues. Perhaps it is not as obvious as acute inflammation.

Here are a few instances of chronic inflammatory conditions:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and psoriatic arthritis are examples of inflammatory arthritis, a category of disorders characterised by inflammation of the joints and tissues.
  • Inflammation brought on by asthma affects the airways that deliver oxygen to the lungs. These airways become congested due to inflammation, making breathing challenging).
  • Periodontitis is a condition that makes the gums and other tooth-supporting structures inflamed. The microorganisms that cause it are set off by localised inflammation.
  • IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), manifests as GI tract inflammation in the same way as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
  • Eczema is a persistent skin condition that causes red, itchy, inflamed rashes in places where the skin flexes, such as behind the knees and inside the elbows.

2. Three Categories of Inflammation

The three types of inflammation are classified according to how long they last:

  • Hours to days can pass between acute inflammation.
  • Inflammation that is subacute lasts a few days to a few weeks.
  • Inflammation that is chronic can last for weeks, months, or even years.

3. The 5 Signs of Inflammation 

Different regions of the body might be affected by the five cardinal indications of inflammation. Some bodily system symptoms coexist.


Inflammatory substances can stimulate nerve endings in both acute and chronic inflammation, making the affected areas seem more sensitive.

Muscle and joint discomfort can be brought on by inflammation. A person will experience significant levels of pain sensitivity and stiffness when inflammation is chronic. Touch sensitivity may be seen in the inflamed areas.


It is because more blood is flowing to inflamed parts of the body that they feel heated

People who have arthritic problems may have warm-to-the-touch inflammatory joints. The skin around the joints, however, might not be as heated. Due to the inflammatory response the body has when battling an infection or illness, whole-body inflammation may result in fevers.


Because their blood arteries are wider than usual, inflamed bodily parts may seem red.


When a body component is inflamed, swelling (also known as oedema) is frequent. It is brought on by fluid accumulation in tissues, either all across the body or just in the affected location. Pain might result from swelling pressure on the skin and other tissue.

With injuries, swelling can sometimes happen without inflammation.

Loss of Function

Loss of function resulting from an injury or sickness may be brought on by inflammation. For instance, a joint that is inflamed may not move properly, or lungs that are inflamed due to a respiratory infection may make it difficult to breathe.

An injury begins with acute inflammation, which lasts for a few days. It consists of two parts:

  • the biological process by which leukocytes and macrophages, the first line of defence against damage, are recruited and activated
  • the vascular phase, during which blood arteries enlarge (dilate) to allow for the rapid inflow of immune cells and antimicrobial substances, and tissues expand

4. What Are Cytokines?

Your cells can interact with one another thanks to a chemical called a cytokine. To enhance molecules' capacity to travel via blood vessels and reach tissues, they are discharged into the bloodstream. Although cytokines are necessary for a functioning immune system, having too many of them in your blood can indicate a problem (such as an infection or sickness).

5. Additional Signs and Complications

Inflammation that is severe may result in other indications and symptoms, such as:

  • Exhaustion
  • Fever
  • A general feeling of sickness 
  • Trouble sleeping

A hazardous consequence, such as sepsis, may result from inflammation brought on by an infection. This disorder develops when the immune system overreacts to a serious infection, seriously harming the body's organs and tissues in the process.

6. What Causes Inflammation?

The following categories roughly classify the causes of inflammation:

  • biological (for example, illnesses, infections, and aberrant immunological reactions, such as autoimmune disorders, atopy, allergies, and medication hypersensitivity)
  • Chemical (for instance, toxins, poisons, and alcohol)
  • Physical (e.g., radiation exposure, burns, frostbite, or wounds)

Inflammation that is both acute and chronic can have various causes.

7. Acute Inflammation

Acute inflammation may be brought on by:

  • Injuries
  • Acute infections or illnesses (e.g., skin infection, insect bites or stings, colds and flus)
  • Allergens
  • Toxin exposures 
  • Foreign body ingestion 

8. Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation may be brought on by:

  • Rejection of an organ transplant
  • Chronic illness (such as cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and diabetes)
  • Recurrent or untreated infections
  • Lifestyle factors, such as smoking, drinking, excessive activity, and obesity

9. How to Measure Inflammation

Inflammation and the disorders that produce it cannot be diagnosed using a single test. Instead, your healthcare practitioner will take into account your symptoms while determining the best course of action.

Your doctor will begin by thoroughly documenting your medical history and performing a physical examination. To look for particular disorders that might be causing inflammation, they might also want to perform imaging tests and blood tests.

10. Blood Tests

Biological indicators that indicate the presence of inflammation in the body can be found through blood testing. However, rather than being diagnostic, these tests are regarded as informative. Although they can help your doctor understand what's going on, they don't always point to a single cause.

Your healthcare provider could order the following tests to check your level of inflammation:

  • C-reactive protein (CRP): In reaction to inflammation, the liver naturally produces CRP. People with acute inflammation, inflammatory disorders, and chronic inflammation frequently have high levels of CRP.
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) testing is frequently carried out to determine whether inflammation is present. With certain chronic inflammatory disorders, like lupus, this level is typically high.

11. Imaging

Imaging tests can occasionally be performed to search for certain injuries or issues within the body that could lead to inflammation.

These imaging procedures could be used by your healthcare practitioner to check for internal inflammatory causes:

  • MRI with gadolinium enhancement
  • Ultrasound with power Doppler
  • Nuclear imaging

12. How Is Inflammation Treated?

The type of illness being treated will depend on its specifics as well as how severe its symptoms are.

Acute Inflammation

Your healthcare professional might advise the following for acute general inflammation:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs): For acute pain and inflammation, NSAIDs are frequently used as the first line of treatment. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are among the majority of these medicines, which are sold over-the-counter (OTC). For some inflammatory diseases, your doctor may also recommend prescription-strength NSAIDs. People with a history of chronic renal disease or those using blood thinners (anticoagulation therapy) should not use NSAIDs (including OTC NSAIDs).
  • The steroid class known as corticosteroids is frequently used to relieve swelling and inflammation. You can get corticosteroids as injections and pills. Due to their potential for severe side effects, these medications are only ever provided temporarily.
  • Topical drugs: Without the negative effects of oral medications, topicals, such as analgesics and steroids, can help with acute and chronic pain as well as joint and skin inflammation. When they contain an NSAID, such as diclofenac or ibuprofen, they are also beneficial for controlling chronic inflammation.
  • Antibiotics: If a bacterial infection is the cause of the inflammation, antibiotics may be required. The infection will determine the antibiotic administered and the period of treatment.

13. Chronic Inflammation

Medications for inflammatory illnesses can assist in reducing the progression of the disease or perhaps stop it from growing worse in addition to relieving joint pain and inflammation. Some possible medications are:

  • DMARDs, or disease-modifying anti-rheumatic medications, include leflunomide (Arava), methotrexate (Rheumatrex), and sulfasalazine (Azulfidine).
  • biologic medications like Humira (adalimumab), Orencia (abatacept), and Enbrel (etanercept)
  • Drugs used to treat malaria, such as hydroxychloroquine Statins
    medicines for diabetes
  • When taking inflammatory disease medications, it's crucial to visit your doctor frequently because many of them have adverse effects.

14. Ways to Reduce Inflammation

Chronic inflammation can alter organs over time, raising the risk of cancer, heart attacks, and other age-related disorders.

Chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, COPD, or HIV are linked to chronic inflammation.

Fortunately, there are a number of lifestyle adjustments you can do to stop and treat chronic inflammation, like:

  • Getting 20 minutes or more a day of moderate exercise
  • using methods to reduce stress, such as mindfulness meditation
  • Giving up smoking
  • keeping your weight at a level that promotes your health
  • consuming a diet low in inflammatory foods
  • Limiting sugary beverages and sodas (red wine in particular) and substituting them with water, tea, coffee, milk, acidic juices, and healthy smoothies In moderation, there may be anti-inflammatory advantages.

15. Summary

In reaction to something like an illness or damage, your body goes through a process called inflammation where it produces defence mechanisms (such as white blood cells). Acute or chronic inflammation might be present for a brief period of time. The primary indicators of inflammation include discomfort, heat, redness, oedema, and functional loss. Inflammation that is chronic can also make you feel worn out and interfere with your sleep.

Without consulting your doctor, you might not be able to determine exactly what is causing the irritation. Knowing the underlying reason can allow you to reduce inflammation and perhaps even prevent it.


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