Chronic Inflammation: Long Term Consequences

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson explores the harmful effects of long-term inflammation. We'll define chronic inflammation, inflammatory mediators, and reactive oxygen species before covering some specific causes of chronic inflammation and its consequences.

The Flip Side of the Immune System

Our body has many ways it protects itself. Your skin is a big barrier to the dangers of the outside world. Stomach acid can kill most pathogens. Your immune system is there to fight off everything from bacteria to viruses. This lesson explores the flip side of the latter point. That is to say, your immune system, via the inflammatory process, may end up hurting you in the long run.

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  • 0:32 What Is Chronic Inflammation?
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What Is Chronic Inflammation?

Under normal circumstances, if something harmful causes inflammation in your body, that inflammation will dissipate relatively quickly after the stimulus for its initiation disappears. That's exactly how it's supposed to occur. But sometimes, chronic inflammation occurs. Chronic refers to diseases that continue for a long time or recur over and over again.

This chronic inflammation can be very harmful to your body. In fact, I know you're not surprised by it. Imagine dropping a 10-pound weight on your toe over and over again or wrapping a rubber band over your finger and never taking it off. Those types of continuous events would harm your body quite a bit. In the same manner, chronic inflammation harms your body in a wide variety of ways.

How Does Chronic Inflammation Hurt Me?

Inflammation refers to the sensory consequences of inflammatory mediator release. These mediators include protein, carbohydrate, and lipid compounds and derivatives, which initiate, promote, prolong, or stop the process of inflammation. These mediators can either directly damage your body or indirectly damage your body by recruiting other mediators or cells to the local site of injury.

For instance, white blood cells that are recruited by inflammatory mediators to a site of injury may release degradative enzymes that end up destroying not only foreign bacteria but your own body's cells as well. Therefore, inflammation can physically or chemically hurt you. Furthermore, inflammatory mediators also cause you pain via their stimulation of nerve cells. Anyone with chronic back pain knows exactly what I'm talking about.

What Causes Chronic Inflammation?

The causes for chronic inflammation are as many as the biochemical mediators that initiate and prolong this process. Here's one particular illustration of this. Usually, when a virus enters your body, it will trigger the inflammatory response. This inflammatory response seeks to destroy the virus. However, in select cases, some viruses can enter inside of your body's cells and essentially hide there, thumbing their noses at your immune system, right under the watchful eyes of the inflammatory mediators and cells. This happens for several different reasons, but the end result is a process of chronic inflammation that seeks to destroy the virus that's hiding inside the cell.

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