Chronic inflammation increases your risk of several serious diseases. While only your doctor, through blood tests, can provide a definite diagnosis of a particular inflammatory disease, there are some warning signs to watch for.
You should be particularly on guard if you have certain lifestyle risks such as smoking, excessive drinking of alcohol or being overweight.
A common cause of inflammatory illnesses, however, are autoimmune conditions in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your body.
Some autoimmune diseases target only one organ, as is the case with type 1 diabetes, which attacks the pancreas. Others, such as lupus, affect the whole body, and some, such as rheumatoid arthritis, target a specific part of the body but cause collateral damage in a wide range of places.
But while each has different effects on our bodies, there are some common symptoms that might suggest it is time to visit your GP.
Most of us will recognise the symptoms of acute inflammation: pain, redness, swelling and heat. The symptoms of chronic inflammation can be similar but they are usually subtler and easy to dismiss as just the aches and pains associated with ageing.
Most of us will recognise the symptoms of acute inflammation: pain, redness, swelling and heat.
Symptoms of chronic inflammation
Common symptoms of chronic inflammation can range from mild to severe and last for several months or even years. They include:
Being tired all the time, even when you first wake up, could be a warning sign that your body is expending too much energy on an inflammatory response.
Aches and pains, especially in the joints
Common to most inflammatory conditions. Joint pain can be an indicator of autoimmune diseases, but also of chronic inflammation at the site of an old injury or in response to conditions such as osteoarthritis. But if you have any chest or abdominal pain, especially if combined with other symptoms, please see a doctor.
Eczema or psoriasis can be a symptom of some inflammatory conditions. And while there are many other causes, if you have a consistent rash it may be worth having a doctor check it out.
Diarrhoea, constipation or bloating – especially when they go on for a long period of time – could be a sign that your gut lining is inflamed. Because your digestive system is designed to extract nutrients and speed them to the entire body, inflammation here can lead to system-wide symptoms.
While allergies are not necessarily an indicator that you are suffering from chronic inflammation, consistent watery eyes and a runny nose, especially when there are no other obvious external triggers, could be a warning sign. It may not be an allergy at all, but excessive mucus production as your body copes with inflammation.