Inflammation keeps us alive. In the short term, it alerts us to an area of the body that needs attention. Typically, we treat the area and move on. But what happens when inflammation doesn't go away? When chronic inflammation takes hold, it can lead to many challenging symptoms and related conditions.
The long term effects of inflammation can dramatically impact quality of life. It’s why many Australians are seeking alternative therapies. And for some that can mean speaking with a cannabis doctor.
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a term used to describe the body's response to pain, infections, and toxins. When we come down with sickness, a sore throat presents itself. That is an inflammatory response. Those “pain signals” are the body's way of letting us know something is amiss.
There are two major types of inflammation: acute (short-term), and chronic (long-term). The immune system is responsible for regulating the process that sends out inflammatory cells in both types.
Acute inflammation lasts hours or days, and the body can return to a normal and healthy state in a reasonable amount of time. This type of inflammation is usually due to sudden body damage, like dropping a heavy object on your toe or getting a cut on your finger.
Chronic inflammation, also known as an inflammatory disease, can last months or even years. The body is unable to return to a regulated state and keeps sending pain signals where there is no danger. Chronic inflammatory conditions include but are not limited to:
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Symptoms of Inflammation
Acute Inflammation is often sudden, and pain can range from dull to sharp. Most people have experienced acute inflammation by getting a wound somewhere on their body. The area swells up, turns red, and it hurts. The five cardinal signs of this type of inflammation are:
Loss of function
Chronic inflammation symptoms can sometimes be mistaken for other conditions. You must talk to your doctor to get a proper diagnosis if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
Redness, swelling, warmth in a joint
Stiffness or reduced movement in a joint
Symptoms from acute inflammation will be gone within a few hours or a few days. The pain is usually treated at home with no complications. Chronic symptoms will not subside with over-the-counter pain medication or other types of quick treatment. Chronic inflammation usually needs to be treated by a doctor.
Causes of Inflammation
There are four major categories of inflammation: physical, immune response, chemical agents, and biological inflammation. Each of these has many contributing factors respectively.
Determining the exact cause of inflammation can take some deeper digging. Acute inflammation is typically physical and is seen or felt in response to sudden damage to the body. Sunburn or an allergic reaction are examples of this.
However, when inflammation occurs due to a chronic disease, the cause of inflammation can be more difficult to nail down. The symptoms can mock acute inflammation, but usually cannot be seen by the naked eye.
Chronic inflammation can be caused by autoimmune disease, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, brain cancer, and many more conditions that a doctor can help diagnose. The way the inflammation presents itself here can help in determining the root cause.
Risk factors for chronic inflammation include poor eating habits, low sex hormones, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, and stress. Making time to create healthy habits and ingest anti-inflammatory foods can help prevent inflammation.
Treatments for Inflammation
Acute inflammation is generally easy to treat. Rest, ice, and wound care will clear up the issue in mere hours or, at most, a few days. If the acute inflammation is caused by illness, such as strep throat, antibiotics will be prescribed.
Inflammation that does not subside with at-home treatment needs to be addressed by a doctor. Chronic Inflammation can be more difficult to diagnose due to the nature of the symptoms. There is currently no definitive test to diagnose it on its own.
If you are diagnosed with a chronic inflammatory disease, you may benefit from a few different routes of treatment. Your doctor may recommend preventative over-the-counter medication, creams, or steroid injections.
On the alternative side of the spectrum, people are increasingly seeking out medical cannabis prescriptions. Studies have shown that compounds in cannabis can suppress inflammatory responses. It may also be beneficial in certain types of cancer and inhibit tumor growth.
Other alternative therapies for chronic inflammation include:
A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods
Blood sugar checks
A Multifaceted Approach to Treating Inflammation
Inflammation is something that a majority of the population will experience during their lifetime. However, living with chronic inflammatory conditions may be difficult for a person's physical and mental well-being. Lifestyle changes, conventional treatment and seeking a medical cannabis prescription are a few choices that could prove helpful.