The immune system is complex, consisting of multiple components. One of these components is the inflammation. Inflammation, that sometimes is used synonymously with infection, is something that most of us have experienced at some point. Inflammation is in itself complex, but the multiple components share a common goal – to respond to any kind of tissue injury. Inflammation is helping out controlling the damage and initiate healing. Inflammation is in a way one mean the body use to keep us healthy. In some cases, the inflammation itself might be what’s causing the problems.
To simplify we can divide inflammation into three different phases; phase 1: The inflammatory response, phase 2: Repair and regeneration, phase 3: Remodelling and regeneration. Phase 1 is all about enabling the body deal with the injury and also do some damage control to stop it from spreading. One of the ways this is done is by increasing the blood flow to the site of the injury. There is a certain overlap between Phase 1 and Phase 2, as the processes of replacing the damaged tissue starts almost instantly with the forming of scar tissue. It is only towards the end in Phase 3 where there is a remodelling and regeneration and the site of the injury will look more or elss like it did before the injury.
Another feature of inflammation well known to most of us is fever. Fever can be defined as an increase of core body temperature of more than 1 degree Centigrade, often resulting in a temperature of more than 38 degrees Centigrade. In practice it’s the brain (or more specifically the Hypothalamus) that is changing the body thermostat, creating a new “set point” for the core body temperature.
One of the most immediate responses from the body is then to contract the muscles as it would during cold temperatures, as well as initiating mechanism to preserve heat. It is possible for the immune system itself to signal the brain to increase the body temperature, but this can also come from the outside through e.g. some bacteria. It is an ongoing debate whether fever itself should get treated. It is not fully understood the full extent of what fever does to the body, but recent findings suggest that the fever is important for the healing process. Fever is most common in acute inflammation, however it is sometimes seen in more chronic conditions as well.
Autoimmune disease is a group of chronic conditions where the body is attacking it’s own cells. This will be covered in a later post.