Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury. A sequence of complicated, interrelated events work to defend the body, ultimately bringing plasma proteins and phagocytes (white blood cells that engulf and consume foreign material and debris) to the injured area for the purpose of initiating tissue repair.
Chronic inflammation is the source of many diseases, including cancer, obesity, and heart disease. In some diseases, the inflammatory process can be triggered even when there are no foreign invaders. In autoimmune diseases, the body’s normally protective immune system damages its own tissues, as it erroneously recognizes self as foreign, and normal as abnormal. Some types of arthritis are the result of misdirected inflammation.
Inflammation can also affect organs in autoimmune diseases. Symptoms depend on the particular organ affected.
- Inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) can cause shortness of breath or fluid retention.
- Inflammation of kidneys (nephritis) may cause kidney failure or high blood pressure.
- Inflammation of the large intestine, known as colitis, may cause cramps and diarrhea.