Acute Inflammation vs. Chronic Inflammation

Patient Resources

It’s common to experience some form of inflammation throughout your life, whether it’s acute inflamation or chronic. In fact, inflammation is an important part of the body’s natural healing system and helps fight off injury and infection.

While most inflammation is normal, some types of inflammation can actually cause long-term damage to your body. Understanding the difference between acute versus chronic inflammation can help you better manage your inflammation and get the relief you need.

Acute Inflammation

If you’ve ever had a tender bruise, caught a cold or had an allergic reaction, you’ve experienced acute inflammation. This type of inflammation is the easiest to recognize and normally subsides within hours to a few days.

Acute inflammation occurs when there is tissue damage and your body’s immune response kicks in to fix the injury. Another subset of this inflammation is referred to as subacute inflammation that can last anywhere from two to six weeks. This is normally caused by a more severe injury or illness.

Common signs of acute inflammation include:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Immobility
  • Swelling
  • Heat

Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is much more severe and can last for months, or even years. With chronic inflammation, the body’s immune response is overcompensating and continually responding to an injury or illness. Over time, chronic inflammation can damage healthy tissue, organs and cells.

Sometimes inflammation can be triggered even when there is no injury or illness. This type of inflammation is considered an autoimmune disease and occurs when the immune system attacks its own healthy tissue. While researchers have yet to determine the exact cause of autoimmune disorders, studies show it could be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Common autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and Lupus.

Other conditions associated with chronic inflammation include:

  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Best Practices to Manage Inflammation

Because many people associate long-lasting pain, stiffness or discomfort with minor injuries or illnesses, inflammation often goes unnoticed or dismissed, which can prevent an early diagnosis. However, there are simple lifestyle changes you can make to better manage your inflammation.

Here are several tips to help you manage your inflammation:

Diet can directly affect the body’s response to inflammation, meaning that certain foods can either help or hinder the body’s healing process. Foods such as fruit, vegetables and those that contain omega-3 fatty acids can help the body’s response to inflammation by reducing the amount of inflammatory proteins in the body.

However, highly processed foods can promote further damage. Examples include cheeses, bread and frozen dinners. By ingesting processed foods, you increase the amount of fat that your body produces, and that can lead to increased inflammation.

Exercise is a great way to reduce inflammation in the body as well. Through exercise, you can lose excess weight and increase muscle growth, which then allows the body to produce anti-inflammatory proteins.

If you still feel like your inflammation isn’t under control despite these changes, you may be dealing with chronic inflammation. Talk to your physician about your inflammation and what treatment options are available to you.