Synonyms: Systemic inflammation

Medical Specialties: Cardiology, Geriatrics

Clinical Definition

Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or infection, a key part of the natural defense and healing process. The affected body part typically becomes swollen, red and warm.  This defends the body from bacteria, viruses and other foreign invaders, helping to repair tissue that has been damaged or to remove debris. However, when inflammation becomes chronic, smoldering at a low level, or misdirected, it is not a healthy or normal condition. 

In Our Own Words

Inflammation that occurs in response to infection or injury is healthy, even lifesaving. However, when it becomes chronic, low-grade inflammation – perhaps as a result of obesity, fast food, smoking, sleep deprivation, or even the stress of modern life – it becomes an unhealthy state that is associated with an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, depression, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. 

Relevant Conditions
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Asthma
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Arthritis
Common Types
  • Acute
  • Chronic
Side Effects
  • Painful, swollen joints
  • Heart disease
  • Swelling
Share this article
  • The Cleveland Clinic. "Foods that Fight Inflammation--and Why You Need Them." Online Health Chat. June 2012. Accessed Aug. 2013.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "In Search of a Germ Theory Equivalent for Chronic Disease." Preventing Chronic Disease. Accessed Aug. 2013.
  • Harvard Medical School. "What you eat can fuel or cool inflammation…" Feb. 2007. Family Health Guide. Accessed Aug. 2013.
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