What is the difference between Acute Inflammation vs Chronic Inflammation?


How chronic inflammation can affect your health in the long run.  

As destructive as inflammation may sound, inflammation is a crucial part of the body’s defence mechanism that is vital to health.  It protects against harmful stimuli and plays a role in the healing process. On the flip side, prolonged inflammation is the cause that leads to detrimental effects. The key difference is the type of inflammation.  


There are two main types of inflammation: ACUTE and CHRONIC. 

  1. Acute Inflammation  

Acute inflammation is caused by an injury, infection or exposure to substance such as cuts, irritants or dust. In response to these harmful pathogens or tissue injury, the immune system triggers a few reactions which are characterized by 5 key signs:  


  • Pain: May occur continuously or only upon touch 

  • Redness: Due to an increase in blood supply to the area 

  • Loss of function: Difficulty moving a joint, breathing, sensing smell 

  • Swelling: Edema can develop if fluid builds up. 

  • Heat: Increased blood flow may leave the affected area warm to the touch 


These signs may not always be present but instead, a person may feel tired, generally unwell and have a fever. Acute inflammation starts rapidly and usually subsides within a few days to weeks upon recovery. 



  1. Chronic Inflammation 

In contrast, chronic inflammation is a silent menace that develops slowly over a long term and can continue for months to years.  


Causes of chronic inflammation include:  


  • Sensitivity: Chronic inflammation happens when the body senses something that should not be there. Hypersensitivity to an external trigger can result in an allergy, whether to foods, or external substances such as dust or chemicals  


  • Exposure to chemical irritants: Long term, low level exposure to chemical irritants such as cigarette smoke and industrial waste. 


  • Autoimmune disorders: The immune system mistakenly attacks normal healthy tissue, as in psoriasis, Type 1 Diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.  


  • Persistent acute inflammation: In cases where a person does not fully recover from acute inflammation, chronic inflammation occurs.  


  • Poor lifestyle habits: Obesity, poor diet, alcohol consumption, smoking, stress, low sex hormones, poor sleep quality are risk factors of chronic inflammation. 



Long-term Effects 

Furthermore, chronic inflammation is often insidious as it usually begins with no injury or illness present, making it hard to detect in the initial phase. Common signs and symptoms include pain, fatigue, insomnia, weight gain, mood disorders, gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, diarrhea, frequent infections.  


In the long run, symptoms may worsen. In fact, chronic inflammation can be a major threat to health and longevity. It is a major contributor to diseases affecting all parts of the human body including:  


  • Cardiovascular disease 

  • Cancer  

  • Diabetes 

  • Autoimmune disease: Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriasis  

  • Allergic asthma  

  • Alzheimer’s disease 

  • Chronic kidney disease 

  • Inflammatory bowel disease 


Keep Inflammation under Control 

Hence, the key to living a healthy and long life is by ensuring that inflammation in the body is kept under control. To do so, we must ensure that we minimize exposure to the causative factors, adopt healthy, balanced lifestyle habits, and conduct regular health screening. 


Whether you find yourself at a high risk of chronic inflammation, are experiencing symptoms of chronic inflammation, or simply health conscious, visit your healthcare provider today for a comprehensive assessment on chronic inflammation.   

By Nutritionist, ZUANNE

Anna Hoo Clinic




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