Some common inflammatory diseases

Chronic problems and their causes

Graphic of human body with arms outstretched

The definition of an inflammatory disease can be a little confusing. Inflammation is a response present in many diseases – it is the reason for your sore throat and runny nose when you have a cold, for example.

Typically, those symptoms last for only for a short period of time before your body returns to normal – indeed that is the purpose of inflammation.

When we talk of inflammatory diseases, we are are talking about ongoing inflammation where your body doesn't return to its original healthy state. 

There are a range of factors that can cause inflammation overload: lifestyle, such as smoking and diet, genetics, and pollutants in the environment. There are also many autoimmune diseases, where your body’s immune system turns on itself, which lead to chronic inflammation.

Glucose test diabetes: finger blood test
  1. Fatty liver disease
    Fatty liver disease can be caused by poor diet, which can set off an inflammatory response. Unchecked,  this response can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure, and can ultimately result in death.
  2. Endometriosis
    Tissue similar to the uterus lining grows in other parts of the body, such as the abdominal cavity, where the resulting inflammation can cause excruciating pain. The disease can be better managed by addressing pro-inflammatory factors.
  3. Type 2 diabetes mellitus
    Low-grade inflammation is common in type 2 diabetes sufferers, but we are only beginning to understand the role inflammation may play in the development of the disease.
  4. Type 1 diabetes mellitus
    The immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Symptoms include increased thirst, frequent urination, hunger, fatigue and blurred vision.
  5. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
    Umbrella term for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The immune system attacks the gut lining causing diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever and weight loss.
  6. Asthma
    Inflammation causes the lining of the airways to swell, narrowing them and making breathing difficult. It also causes the airways to produce more mucus and makes them more sensitive to asthma triggers.
  7. Rheumatoid arthritis
    A painful condition associated with inflammation in the joints. In advanced cases, it can cause damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys, skin, eyes and other tissues.
  8. Obesity
    With obesity, there is an over-accumulation of fatty tissue, which produces and releases a variety of inflammatory messengers, making obesity an underlying condition for many inflammatory and metabolic diseases.
  9. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases
    Over the past decade, inflammation due to a sustained immune response in the brain has been linked to these two progressive neurodegenerative disorders.
  10. Cancer
    Inflammation caused by chronic infection, inflammatory diseases or environmental factors plays a multi-faceted role in certain cancers, as a primary cause and by helping tumours grow and spread.
Graphic of human body showing common inflammatory diseases
Micrograph of endometriosis


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About 458,000 Australians have rheumatoid arthritis, affecting 2.3 per cent of women and 1.5 per cent of men


The Edge - Inflammation

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