Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on January 11, 2022
Chronic inflammatory diseases (CIDs) cause your body to overreact and, in some cases, attack itself. In multiple sclerosis, for example, your body’s immune system attacks nerve coatings. That makes it harder for nerve signals to get through. You may feel dizzy or off-balance, especially when you walk.
Insulin helps control the sugar level in your blood. Inflammation could affect how well your insulin works. It’s not yet clear exactly why.
Insulin resistance can lead to high blood sugar. That can damage your nerves and blood vessels. It could also lead to diabetes. You might have tingling feet, or you could be more thirsty and tired. You might not have symptoms. Your doctor can help you discover what’s going on.
Sometimes your immune system mistakenly attacks and inflames your muscles (your doctor may call it myositis). This could start to break down muscle fiber and make you weaker. It usually happens slowly, most often in your torso, shoulders, and hips. In some cases, you might find it hard to do simple things like walk, bathe, and swallow.
Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, has two main forms: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. In both cases, your immune system overreacts and inflames your colon and small intestine. Diarrhea is one thing that can happen. Others are nausea, joint pain, fever, and skin rashes.
Lower Back Pain
In ankylosing spondylitis, chronic inflammation typically attacks the spine. Sometimes, it hits your hips, neck, knees, or chest. You might have pain and stiffness in your lower back, especially in the morning. In serious cases, you could have loss of motion. Talk to your doctor if you notice any symptoms. Early treatment can help you manage your condition better.
You’re Always Tired
It’s one of the typical signs of long-term inflammation and a common sign of inflammatory diseases like fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Talk to your doctor if you have a sudden drop in energy. It could be a sign of an underlying illness. It may be treatable, too.
Livedo Reticularis Rash
This purplish, marbled rash looks webbed like lace. Inflammatory conditions (like lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome) can cause it. You’d usually get this on your arms and legs. You might notice it more in the cold.
There’s not much you can do to treat the rash itself, but your doctor may be able to treat the problem that causes it. Your rash might go away on its own. Talk to your doctor if it doesn’t or if you notice nodules or sores.
Hardening of the Arteries (Arteriosclerosis)
If you’re gaining body fat or you spend a lot of time taking in foreign substances like cigarette smoke, your body will respond with inflammation. This can cause fatty plaque to build up on the inside walls of your arteries. Known as arteriosclerosis, it’s the main cause of heart attack and stroke. Only your doctor can tell if you have hardening of the arteries.
Inflammation from trauma, surgery, or diseases like antiphospholipid syndrome and IBD can cause your blood to clot too much (called hypercoagulation). This might cause swelling and could bring on more serious things like stroke, heart attack, or pulmonary embolism. It is not always easy to spot hypercoagulation, and your doctor might take some time to figure out what’s causing it. Drugs called anticoagulants can help.
It’s a common symptom of inflammation. One condition, Sjogren’s syndrome, affects your salivary glands and your tear glands. You might notice a gritty or burning feeling in your eyes, swelling in your salivary gland, and dryness in your nose and throat. Your doctor can prescribe medication to help ease your symptoms and keep away serious complications like vision loss and dental problems.
Your memory and your ability to think are likely to take a hit if your body shows signs of inflammation. Scientists continue to study the link. Early findings suggest that inflammation may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions that cause dementia. This is especially true in older adults. Healthy eating plans like the Mediterranean diet seem to ease inflammation and might keep your brain sharp for longer.
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Alzheimer’s & Dementia: “The association between an inflammatory diet and global cognitive function and incident dementia in older women: The Women's Health Initiative Memory Study.”
Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation: “Inflammation, The Driver of Alzheimer’s Disease?”
American Academy of Family Physicians: “Insulin Resistance.”
American College of Rheumatology: “Sjögren's Syndrome.”