An Inside Look at Inflammation

Inflammation is the body's protective response to injury to tissues. Injury causes the release of three chemicals that stimulate a vascular response that force

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fluid and white blood cells to flow to the site of the injury. Stimulated nerve endings signal the brain that there is an injury.

These chemicals are

• Histamines. This chemical works to bring more blood and lymph fluid to the site of the invasion.

• Kinins. These are blood plasma proteins that influence smooth muscle contractions, increase blood flow throughout the body, increase the permeability of small capillaries, and stimulate pain receptors.

• Prostaglandins. They work as chemical messengers. They do not move but work right in the cell where they are synthesized. They are synthesized in every cell in the body. These chemicals activate the inflammatory response and produce pain and fever. They are produced in response to the white blood cells that flow to the area of injured tissue.

The injured tissue becomes red, swollen, warm and loses its normal function. These, along with pain, are the five cardinal signs of inflammation. It is important not to confuse inflammation and infection because they are not the same.

Only a small percentage of inflammation is caused by infection from microorganisms. Trauma, surgery, extreme heat or cold, electricity, and caustic chemicals cause most inflammation.

Inflammation occurs in two phases.

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