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General Hospital

Q. Is inflammation good or bad for me?

A. While most of us associate inflammation with pain, inflammation is a necessary part of the body's response to injury and infection.

Q. Why does inflammation hurt?

A. Pain is not always bad. Pain tells us to pamper a wounded area that is trying to heal. The pain of inflammation is caused by tissue swelling that presses on nerves, as well as by chemical substances that convert a molecular signal into an electrical impulse that spells pain for the body.

Q. How does inflammation heal?

A. There are two general phases to inflammation: attack and heal. The early stages of inflammation enlist the immune system to protect the body from an injury and to control infection, and later stages work to re-grow damaged tissue and start the wound healing process.

Q. What's the difference between acute inflammation and chronic inflammation?

A. Acute inflammation occurs immediately after an injury and is usually short-lived, lasting hours to a few days. Chronic inflammation is an unhealthy inflammatory over-response that can linger for months to years. Many diseases have been linked to chronic inflammation.

Q. What is systemic inflammation?

A. Systemic inflammation is thought to be caused by a massive release of cytokines that spreads throughout the body. if it is severe and unchecked, it can lead to organ failure and death.

Q. How do burns cause inflammation?

A. Severe burns are a form of traumatic injury because they cause serious tissue damage and fluid loss. The body reacts by launching an inflammatory response.

Q. How does the immune system relate to inflammation?

A. Many of the cells and molecules that carry out inflammation belong to the immune system, which consists of a brigade of specialized cells, tissues, and natural chemical substances that continually protect the body from harm.

Q. Is inflammation the same thing as infection?

A. No. Infection is an invasion of the body by infectious organisms such as bacteria, fungi, or viruses. Inflammation is the immediate, defensive reaction by the body to any injury. One cause of tissue injury is infection, but there are many others.

Q. What does it mean when a person goes into shock?

A. Doctors define shock as "circulatory collapse," when blood pressure dips too low to maintain an adequate supply of blood to the body's tissues. Symptoms include cold and sweaty skin, weak and rapid pulse, irregular breathing, dry mouth, dilated pupils, and reduced flow of urine.

Q. Can inflammation be treated with medication?

A. Yes, many types of inflammation respond to treatment with a variety of different medications. These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroids, and other substances that mute the body's ability to mount an inflammatory reaction.

Q. Are treatments for systemic inflammation and sepsis available?

A. An approved drug known as Xigris™ blocks a molecule called protein C that is central to blood clotting. Researchers have hailed Xigris as the first effective treatment for sepsis, although it does not work in all patients and has some serious side effects. Researchers are currently investigating other treatment strategies.

Q. Does inflammation play a role in other diseases?

A. Yes, inflammation is known to play an important role in a wide variety of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, asthma, and many others.

Q. If inflammation has been around for thousands of years, what more could there be to learn?

A. While inflammation has been known to humankind for thousands of years, much more remains to be understood. For example, while over-the-counter medicines have no trouble easing the pain of a sore muscle or a sunburn, doctors still do not have effective treatments for the extensive inflammation that leads to sepsis and chronic health problems such as autoimmune diseases and arthritis.

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