Lesson Plan - Get It!
If inflammation on the skin causes swelling, pain, and redness, what might inflammation inside the body cause?
Have you ever had an infection that turned red and swollen?
Inflammation is the body's immune response to infections, injuries, and irritation. This immune system response helps you fight off diseases and illness from the environment. When an invader attacks your body, the immune system responds by sending special cells to the area to destroy the harmful pathogen. This causes the inflammatory response that leads to the wound's healing.
Sometimes, the body is unable to stop the immune response in the body, causing a cycle of inflammatory responses to already existing inflammation. This can lead to acute or chronic inflammation in the body. Acute inflammation occurs quickly and lasts a couple of days or weeks. Symptoms include pain, redness, heat, and swelling. These symptoms may lead to an inability to use the injured body part. A sore throat, swelling, and redness from a cut on the knee, and most appendicitis cases, are good examples of acute inflammation.
Sometimes, this immune response can last for a longer period of time because the body is unable to fight or remove the trigger for the acute reaction. Notice how many issues can arise from chronic inflammation:
Chronic inflammation, lasting multiple months to years, can cause disorders and damage in the body by impacting healthy tissues. Examples of chronic inflammation disorders and diseases include Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma. These conditions can cause serious damage in the body, leading to the development of cancer or atherosclerosis, where blood vessels harden and narrow as pictured by the vessels in the image below:
Some chronic inflammation disorders are considered autoimmune. In an autoimmune disorder, the body attacks its own tissues and cells, because it is unable to differentiate between healthy cells and foreign invaders. While it is unclear what causes autoimmune disorders, they do tend to occur at higher rates in women. Examples of autoimmune disorders include Celiac disease, Lupus, and Multiple Sclerosis. Individuals with Celiac disease must avoid all food products containing wheat. The symptoms are similar to an acute inflammatory response, including redness, high temperature, swelling, and muscle pain. Changes in the skin can be one of the first indications of an autoimmune disorder -- red patches or rashes like the one below can indicate an autoimmune response:
Chronic inflammation and autoimmune disorders can be managed through medical treatment. Anti-inflammatory medications include aspirin, antihistamines, steroids, and drugs like naproxen. These drugs block inflammatory reactions in the body through various methods. In addition, lifestyle changes may also assist in the management of inflammatory disorders. For one thing, avoiding certain foods and chemicals can reduce their impact on the digestive system. Many doctors believe that issues in our digestive system can lead to higher rates of inflammation throughout the body, causing an increased risk of disease.
In review, our body has many systems that operate to keep you healthy. One of the most important is the immune system, which uses special cells to identify and destroy invading pathogens. As the body responds to attackers, it causes an inflammatory response with redness and swelling. Acute inflammations occur quickly and last only a few days, while chronic inflammations can last years. When the body cannot regulate the inflammatory response, it can lead to more issues in the body.
- How might an autoimmune disorder cause daily irritation and inconvenience? Discuss what you have learned with a parent or teacher.
In the Got It? section, you will learn more about specific types of autoimmune disorders that can attack the body.