Inflammation and Immune Response

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Inflammation and Immune Response

Postby patoco » Sat Jun 10, 2006 10:06 pm

Inflammation and Immune Response

Inflammatory Response

Our Home Page: Lymphedema People


Those of us with lymphedema, it seems are continously "fighting" off infections and/or we seem to be more susceptible to other ailments. I thought it might be helpful to have some information relating to inflammation, our bodies inflammtory reponse, and the ramifications of long term chronic inflammation.


What You Need to Know About Inflammation

Inflammation is a process in which the body's white blood cells and chemicals can protect us from infection and foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses.

In some diseases, however, the body's defense system (immune system) triggers an inflammatory response when there are no foreign substances to fight off. In these diseases, called autoimmune diseases, the body's normally protective immune system causes damage to its own tissues. The body responds as if normal tissues are infected or somehow abnormal.

What diseases are associated with inflammation?

Some, but not all types of arthritis are the result of misdirected inflammation. Arthritis is a general term that describes inflammation in joints. Some types of arthritis associated with inflammation include:

Rheumatoid arthritis
Shoulder tendonitis or bursitis
Gouty arthritis
Polymyalgia rheumatica

Other painful conditions of the joints and musculoskeletal system that are not associated with inflammation include osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, muscular low back pain and muscular neck pain.

What are the symptoms of inflammation?

Inflammation is characterized by:

Swollen joint that's warm to touch
Joint pain
Joint stiffness
Loss of joint function
Often, only a few of these symptoms are present.

Inflammation may also be associated with general "flu"-like symptoms including:

Fatigue/loss of energy
Loss of appetite
Muscle stiffness

What causes the symptoms of inflammation?

When inflammation occurs, chemicals from the body's white blood cells are released into the blood or affected tissues to protect you from foreign substances. This release of chemicals increases the blood flow to the area of injury or infection and may result in redness and warmth. Some of the chemicals cause a leak of fluid into the tissues, resulting in swelling. This protective process may stimulate nerves and cause pain.

What are the results of joint inflammation?

The increased number of cells and inflammatory substances within the joint cause irritation, wearing down of cartilage (cushions at the end of bones) and swelling of the joint lining.

How are inflammatory diseases diagnosed?

Inflammatory diseases are diagnosed after careful evaluation of:

Complete medical history and physical exam

The location of painful joints

Presence of joint stiffness in the morning

Evaluation of other symptoms

Results of X-rays and other tests

Can inflammation affect internal organs?

Yes. Inflammation can affect organs as part of an autoimmune disorder. The type of symptoms depend on which organs are affected.

For example:

Inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) may cause shortness of breath or fluid retention

Inflammation of the small tubes that transport air to the lungs may cause an asthma attack

Inflammation of the kidneys (nephritis) may cause high blood pressure or kidney failure

Inflammation of the large intestine (colitis) may cause cramps and diarrhea

Pain may not be a primary symptom of the inflammatory disease, since many organs do not have many pain-sensitive nerves. Treatment of organ inflammation is directed at the cause of inflammation whenever possible.

How are inflammatory joint diseases treated?

There are a number of treatment options for inflammatory diseases including medications, rest and exercise, and surgery to correct joint damage. The type of treatment prescribed will depend on several factors including the type of disease, the person's age, type of medications he or she is taking, overall health, medical history and severity of symptoms.

The goals of treatment are to:

Avoid or modify activities that aggravate pain

Relieve pain through analgesics (pain-relieving medications) and anti-inflammatory medications

Maintain joint movement and muscle strength through physical therapy
Decrease stress on the joints by using braces, splints or canes as needed.

What medications are used to treat inflammatory diseases?
There are many medications available to decrease joint pain, swelling and inflammation and hopefully prevent or minimize the progression of the inflammatory disease. The medications include:

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs - such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen)
Corticosteroids (such as prednisone)
Anti-malarial medications (such as hydroxychloroquine)
Other medications* including gold, methotrexate, sulfasalazine, penicillamine, cyclophosphamide and cyclosporin
*Some of these medications are traditionally used to treat other conditions such as cancer, inflammatory bowel disease or organ transplants. However, when "chemotherapy" types of medications (such as methotrexate or cyclophosphamide) are used to treat inflammatory diseases, the doses are significantly lower and the risks of side effects tend to be considerably less than when prescribed in higher doses for cancer.

When you are prescribed any medication, it is important to meet with your physician regularly so he or she can detect the development of any side effects.

The Cleveland Clinic ... index=4857


Immune Response - Inflammation

Medline Plus

Alternative names

Innate immunity; Humoral immunity; Cellular immunity; Immunity; Inflammatory response; Acquired (adaptive) immunity


The immune response is how your body recognizes and defends itself against bacteria, viruses, and substances that appear foreign and harmful to the body


The immune system protects the body from potentially harmful substances by recognizing and responding to so-called antigens. Antigens are large molecules (usually proteins) on the surface of cells, viruses, fungi, or bacteria. Non-living substances such as toxins, chemicals, drugs, and foreign particles (such as a splinter) can be antigens. Substances that contain these antigens are recognized and destroyed by the immune system . Even your own body cells have proteins that are antigens (these include a group of antigens called HLA antigens). Your immune system learns to see these antigens as "normal" and does not usually react against them.


Your immune system includes barriers that keep harmful materials from entering your body. These barriers form the first line of defense in the immune response. Some of these barriers are the skin, stomach acid, mucous (which traps bacteria and small particles), the cough reflex, and enzymes in tears and skin oils. If an antigen gets past the external barriers, it is attacked and destroyed by other parts of the immune system. Immunity also includes those things that make humans resistant to many of the diseases of animals.


The immune system includes certain types of white blood cells. It also includes chemicals and proteins in the blood (such as complement proteins and interferon). Some of these directly attack foreign substances in the body, and others work together to help the immune system cells.


The inflammatory response (inflammation) occurs when tissues are injured by bacteria, trauma, toxins, heat, or any other cause. Chemicals including histamine, bradykinin, serotonin, and others are released by damaged tissue. These chemicals cause blood vessels to leak fluid into the tissues, resulting in swelling. This helps isolate the foreign substance from further contact with body tissues.

The chemicals also attract white blood cells that "eat" microorganisms and dead or damaged cells. The process where these white blood cells surround, engulf, and destroy foreign substances is called phagocytosis, and the cells are collectively referred to as phagocytes. Phagocytes eventually die. Pus is formed from a collection of dead tissue, dead bacteria, and live and dead phagocytes.


Acquired immunity is when the body is exposed to various antigens and builds a defense that is specific to that antigen.

Lymphocytes are a special type of white blood cell. B lymphocytes (also called B cells) produce antibodies. Antibodies attach to a specific antigen and make it easier for the phagocytes to destroy the antigen. T lymphocytes (T cells) attack antigens directly, and provide control of the immune response. B cells and T cells develop that are specific for ONE antigen type. When you are exposed to a different antigen, different B cells and T cells are formed.

As lymphocytes develop, they normally learn to recognize the body's own tissues (self) as distinctive from tissues and particles not normally found in your body (non-self). Once B cells and T cells are formed, a few of those cells will multiply and provide "memory" for the immune system. This allows the immune system to respond faster and more efficiently the next time you are exposed to the same antigen, and in many cases will prevent you from getting sick.

For example, an individual who has had chickenpox is "immune" to getting chickenpox again.


Passive immunity involves antibodies that are produced in someone's body other than your own. Infants have passive immunity because they are born with antibodies that are transferred through the placenta from the mother. These antibodies disappear between 6 and 12 months of age. Gamma globulin is another form of getting passive immunity that is given by a doctor. Its protection is also temporary.


Immune system disorders occur when the immune response is inappropriate, excessive, or lacking. Allergies involve an immune response to a substance that, in the majority of people, the body perceives as harmless. Transplant rejection involves the destruction of transplanted tissues or organs and is a major complication of organ transplantation. Blood transfusion reaction is a complication of blood administration. Autoimmune disorders (such as systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis) occur when the immune system acts to destroy normal body tissues. Immunodeficiency disorders (such as inherited immunodeficiency and AIDS) occur when there is a failure in all or part of the immune system.


redness in the area
pain in the area
swelling of the affected area
warmth of the affected area
pus (sometimes)

In many cases, however, there are no noticeable symptoms.

Additional symptoms may include:

general discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling (malaise)
muscle aches
agitation or confusion


During an infection, a CBC usually shows increased numbers of white blood cells. A blood differential count may reveal an elevated percentage of phagocytes, indicating that the body is responding to a need to fight infection.

If a problem is suspected, other tests may be performed to determine complement levels and the levels of specific immunoglobulins (antibodies).


Usually, the immune response is desired. In some cases, suppression of the immune system is necessary (for example, in the treatment of autoimmune disorders or allergies). This is usually accomplished by administering corticosteroids or other immunosuppressive medications.

Suppression of the immune system may be an undesired side effect of certain treatments or disorders.

Vaccination (immunization) is a way to trigger the immune response. Small doses of an antigen (such as dead or weakened live viruses) are given to activate immune system "memory" (activated B lymphocytes and sensitized T lymphocytes). Memory allows your body to react quickly and efficiently to future exposures. As noted above, this means that if you are exposed to a microorganism, it will be destroyed before it can cause illness.

Passive immunization involves transfusion of antiserum, which contains antibodies that are formed by another person (or animal). It provides immediate protection against an antigen, but does not provide long-lasting protection. Gamma globulin and equine (horse) tetanus antitoxin are examples of passive immunization.


An efficient immune response protects against many diseases and disorders. Inefficient immune response allows diseases to develop. Inadequate, inappropriate, or excessive immune response causes immune system disorders.

Complications related to altered immune response include:

disease development
allergy or hypersensitivity
autoimmune disorders
blood transfusion reaction
immunodeficiency disorders
serum sickness
transplant rejection
graft versus host disease

Update Date: 10/30/2003 ... 000821.htm


For Further Information:

Acute Inflammation


Inflammation Index ... FLIDX.html


Inflammation ... ation.html


Inflammation News


Summary of Immune Response to Invading Antigen


Immune Response ... -info.html


Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medications


Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) ... rticle.htm
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