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CONCEPT OF INFLAMMATION

The word inflammation has been derived from a latin word inflame which means I set alright, I ignite.  It is the response of an organism on exposure to certain stimuli.  Stimulus is any change which evokes the innate immune system of an organism.  In case of inflammation, this stimulus could be a bee sting, a wound etc.  The immune system (both innate and acquired) of our body recognizes between the self and non-self proteins of the body, and elicits inflammation.  It can be easily understood with the help of an example, suppose a person gets an injury, this causes the immune system to become active and release of histamine, a vasodilator at the wounded site, this chemical will increase the diameter of the blood vessels so that more blood reaches at wounded site and ultimately more WBC (white blood cell), so that they can fight against any foreign particle.  The first reaction at the wounded site because of the release of histamine is rubor (redness), followed by color (heat), tumor (swelling) and dolor (pain), the last three symptoms show that a fighting reaction is going on at the injured site.  Pus at the injured site shows the dead WBCs, which got killed in the fighting reaction with the foreign particle.  If WBCs are unable to resist the infection then site specific cytokines are released to kill the foreign particles with are accompanied with the wound.

CAUSES OF INFLAMMATION

These could be the following causes of inflammation:

1. Microbial Infections:  This is the utmost reason of inflammation in majority of the cases.  Microbial or micro-organism entry into the body elicits the immune system of our body, by releasing an important vasodilator, histamine, which dilates the blood vessels to increase blood flow at the suspected site, more blood means more WBC, means more phagocytosis reaction at the site, which could be characterized by the symptoms like redness, heat, pain and swelling.  These symptoms subside on its own as the microbial protein becomes dysfunctional.

2.Physical Agents:  Enormous rise in the various types of pollution like air, soil, water and noise is also one of the major causes of inflammation.  Pollutants of these different types of pollution make our innate immune system active and fight against them.  Initially, these pollutants show the symptoms of acute inflammation, but due to weak immune system it transforms into chronic inflammation (Both acute and chronic inflammation is described ahead).

3. Exposure to certain chemicals:  People employed in factories as workers are exposed to various toxic chemicals, which also starts the inflammation process.  Many a times, exposure to these leads to cancer too as these chemicals acts as carcinogenic agents.

4. Hypersensitive Reactions:  Certain individuals when exposed to dust, pollen etc (which act as allergens) elicits a hypersensitive reaction in the body by producing allergy.  It is also one of the symptoms of inflammation.

5. Tissue Necrosis:  Dead tissue sometimes produces toxic chemicals which can evoke inflammatory response in the healthy cells.

SYMPTOMS OF INFLAMMATION WITH REGARD TO ITS CATEGORIZATION

The main symptoms of inflammation are redness, heat, swelling and pain. But as inflammation can be of two types, according to the type the symptoms will vary.

It includes:

1. Acute Inflammation:  Inflammation could be of variable sites in the body, acute inflammation is usually a short-termed inflammation i.e. it sustains only for a short period of time.  In medical terminology, the word -its is added as a suffix to the organ or the site where inflammation has occurred.  For example- bronchitis means inflammation of the lungs, dermatitis means inflammation of the skin, and tonsillitis means inflammation of the tonsils.

So, acute inflammation can be of-

  • Skin- Acute Dermatitis
  • Lungs- Acute Bronchitis
  • Tonsils- Acute Tonsillitis
  • Sore throat

Our immune system fights on its own to subside acute inflammation, but, if our immunity is weak then this acute inflammation transforms into chronic inflammation.  Thus, lingering of acute inflammation should be avoided by proper medical treatment.

2.      Chronic Inflammation:  As acute inflammation transforms into chronic inflammation, the size of inflammatory site increases, which could lead to a very destructive symptom of inflammation known as Function laesa (loss of function).  It includes:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Asthma
  • Tuberculosis or T.B.

Chronic inflammation is considered to be the prime factor for causing various heart diseases and cancer too.

TREATMENT OF INFLAMMATION

1. Heat Therapy:  Inflamed muscles are treated with this therapy.  The stiffness is relieved to a large extent by using hot packs, infra red radiations etc. as they increase the flexibility of the connective tissue.

2. Cold Therapy:  For the slip disc problem generally this therapy is used.  In this cold packs are used, therapists limit the time of cold packs to avoid tissue damage.

3. Electrical Stimulation:  Muscles if not having proper electrical input, they are treated with electrical stimulation.  The amount of stimulation depends upon the electrical stimulus possessed by the muscle.

4.  Traction:  This process is used for chronic neck pain, ruptured disc etc with the help of especial machines at the rehabilitation centers.

5.  Acupressure:  In this treatment, especial needles at the sites which are farther from the pain site.  These needles innervate the nerves to which pain is associated.

6.   Massage:  Stiffness of the muscles can also be relieved by doing massage, which increases the blood circulation at that place and helps in normal functioning of it.

7.  Use of Antibiotics:  These are the chemicals which are prepared from the microbes and are helpful in killing the other microbes.  Acute inflammation if lingers for a longer time then it should not be left untreated as it may transform into chronic inflammation, thus, it should be cured with specific antibiotics, which will kill the antigens and will help in bringing the body to the normal state.

IMPORTANCE OF INFLAMMATION IN ACADEMIC CURRICULUM

Inflammation is a very important topic, as one has to undergo through it at any phase of the life.  Knowledge provided at the academic level will definitely help a person to get rid of it quickly and will help him/her to sustain a normal life.  Awareness will be created through academic curriculum which will help him/her in recognizing with what he/she has been going through!

INFLAMMATION ASSIGNMENTS

Various puzzles, questionnaire, seminars etc. can be conducted at the academic level to enhance the interest of students in this topic and at the same they will be aware about an important topic of the biological world...

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