Symptoms, conditions and causes

What's the difference between acute and chronic inflammation?

The Difference Between Acute and Chronic Inflammation

Acute inflammation is a short-term response to injury or infection. It's a normal part of the healing process and typically lasts a few hours to a few days.

During acute inflammation, your body releases chemicals that cause redness, swelling, heat, and pain in the affected area. This helps protect the area from further damage and promotes healing.

On the other hand, chronic inflammation is a prolonged inflammatory response that can last for several months to years. It occurs when your body's inflammatory response doesn't shut off, even when there's no injury or infection to fight.

Chronic inflammation can damage healthy cells, tissues, and organs over time. It's been linked to various health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune disorders.

The Role of Cytokines in Inflammation

Cytokines are small proteins that play a crucial role in regulating inflammation. They're produced by various cells in your body, including immune cells, and help coordinate the inflammatory response.

One type of cytokine particularly important in chronic inflammation is tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). TNF-alpha is a pro-inflammatory cytokine that helps activate other immune cells and promotes inflammation.

In healthy individuals, TNF-alpha levels are carefully regulated to ensure inflammation occurs only when needed. However, in people with chronic inflammation, TNF-alpha levels may be persistently elevated, leading to ongoing inflammation and tissue damage.

Research has shown that chronic exposure to high levels of TNF-alpha can contribute to the development of various health problems, including:

Interestingly, studies have also found that high blood sugar levels can increase TNF-alpha production in the body. This may partly explain why people with diabetes are at increased risk for chronic inflammation and related health problems.

Managing chronic inflammation often involves targeting cytokines like TNF-alpha. Some medications, such as TNF inhibitors, work by blocking the activity of TNF-alpha and reducing inflammation in the body.

Last updated: May 06, 2024 16:04 PM