Guide To The Causes Of Chronic Inflammation

May 31, 2023

Inflammation is the immune system’s way of protecting the body. After all, it plays a key role in removing threats. It is also a crucial component of the healing process because it removes damaged cells while allowing new cells to form. However, this defense mechanism can cause damage to the body. When inflammation is long-lasting, it is known as chronic inflammation. It is this type that can cause many health problems.

Thankfully, individuals have several options for chronic inflammation treatment. Some individuals may find that anti-inflammatory medication is helpful, such as arthritis medication. However, the best treatments, including natural remedies for inflammation, vary based on the underlying cause. Thus, it is vital to know the causes first.

Untreated Infections

Bacterial, viral, and fungal infections can all cause chronic inflammation. These infections are caused by foreign bodies that can invade cells. Thus, the immune system normally mounts a response to try to eliminate them. To do this, it creates inflammation as a way of defending against these threats. However, when untreated infections are too significant, the body cannot handle them well enough. Thus, it can create a scenario where the inflammation itself becomes a problem.

In some viral illnesses, such as influenza, an inflammatory condition known as a cytokine storm can occur. In this condition, an overactive immune system can lead to excessive inflammation, often resulting in organ damage and death. Chronic inflammation caused by bacteria is the leading cause of sepsis. This is another life-threatening condition that involves a hyperactive immune response. Recent research has implicated bacteria as a cause of inflammatory diseases, including diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Fungal infections can lead to inflammatory disorders as well, such as fungal arthritis.

Chronic Stress

Long-term psychological, mental, or emotional stress can cause chronic inflammation throughout the body. Chronic stress can cause a condition known as glucocorticoid receptor resistance. In this condition, the immune cells stop responding to glucocorticoids, which are stress hormones. These stress hormones normally control inflammation. However, excessive stress can trigger an abnormal increase in their numbers. Immune cells can then become less responsive when exposed to too many of these hormones over long periods.

Chronic stress can also cause inflammation through an imbalance within the body known as oxidative stress. A gradual increase in certain stress hormones can lead to a spike in free radicals. While antioxidants in the body usually combat and control these dangerous molecules, they have less control over them in this scenario. The result is an inflammatory response throughout the body, as oxidative stress is a well-known risk for inflammation.


One of the most common causes of chronic inflammation is obesity. Obesity-related inflammation is a known cause of many life-threatening conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancerous tumors. Adipose tissue is believed to be the source of these problems. This tissue reacts to overnutrition by creating inflammation as part of an immune response. This process may play a role in the insulin resistance scenario responsible for causing diabetes. Due to this, many new therapies to treat diabetes are focusing on obesity-related inflammation.

There is also evidence indicating that an imbalance of gut microbiota, the microorganisms naturally found in the digestive tract, contribute to obesity and the inflammatory disorders associated with it. Some of these microorganisms produce short-chain fatty acids. These are metabolites known for causing weight loss. An imbalance in gut microbiota can reduce these healthy acids, ultimately leading to weight gain and chronic inflammatory conditions.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis can cause chronic inflammation in various joints. This process occurs when autoantibodies, proteins created by the immune system, mistakenly attack healthy tissue and organs. Although inflamed joints are the most common and visible signs of this disorder, the inflammatory process itself is believed to be much more widespread. Blood tests on patients often reveal autoantibodies in the lab results many years before their joints are affected. This is known as the preclinical stage of this disease.

However, other locations in the body can be affected during the clinical stages. The eyes, lungs, heart, brain, and blood vessels can all be vulnerable to the widespread inflammation seen in this condition. This may sometimes lead to secondary conditions, such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease. All these conditions are more common in rheumatoid arthritis patients than in the general population. They have been linked to systemic inflammation as well.

Long-Term Exposure To Irritants

Exposure to irritants in the environment can lead to different types of inflammation throughout the body. The lungs are particularly vulnerable because many irritants can be accidentally inhaled. The epithelial barrier protects the lungs when they become irritated by secreting different substances. Many of these substances are tasked with the role of promoting inflammation as part of a defense mechanism. This process is designed to remove invasive threats and damaged tissue.

However, when the lungs have been exposed to an irritant over a long period, it can lead to lung diseases. One example of this is asthma. Another one is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The skin is also prone to inflammation by way of long-term exposure to irritants. This can lead to a condition called contact dermatitis.

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