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What Is the Relationship between the Immune System and Inflammation?

By Erik J.J. Goserud
Updated Feb 04, 2024
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The immune system and inflammation are related in that the immune system's actions cause the inflammatory properties recognized throughout the body. Inflammation can be due to a number of things, but basically, it is an overabundance of cells or fluid in a particular region. This dense collection of matter causes an area of the body to be larger than usual, and sometimes discoloration or tenderness are also present. The immune system is usually the commander telling the cells and other matter to go to a certain area.

People carry out their everyday lives without stopping to think about the environment in which they live. There are a number of biologically harmful elements that can potentially harm or kill an unprotected human. Thankfully, a healthy immune system acts to protect the body from the bacteria, viruses, and other antigens that cause disease. Sometimes, when one of these harmful stimuli are detected, the immune system and inflammation kick in to try to rid the body of these things.

Inflammation is part of the response attempting to cleanse the body of whatever it is that's causing harm. The immune system is equipped with special cells that attack bacteria and viruses. They can also recognize certain disease-causing beings, known as pathogens, and use their experience to be better suited for the next battle.

This recognition system is the reason why vaccines work. Vaccines are actually dead or weakened viruses that are injected into the body so that the immune system can get used to the pathogen. This does not work for all viruses, however, because certain types can evolve to avoid recognition. One example is the HIV virus that causes AIDS.

The immune system and inflammation can work in short-term or longer-lasting fashions. Short bouts are known as acute responses, whereas chronic inflammation is usually the result of a long-term disease. The immune system and inflammation may also be a problem in the case of autoimmune diseases. An autoimmune disease is an irregularity in which the immune system attacks particular areas of the body, generally healthy, for reasons that are not completely understood. An example of this kind of disease would be rheumatoid arthritis.

The function of the immune system and inflammation helps combat disease. It is unlikely that human beings and other creatures could survive without them. Although inflammation can seem problematic at times, it is actually necessary.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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