Inflammation is a process by which the body’s white blood cells and the substances they produce protect us from infection with foreign organisms, such as bacteria and viruses. In some diseases, like arthritis, the body’s defense system – the immune system – may trigger an inflammatory response. In these diseases, i.e. autoimmune diseases, the body’s normally protective immune system causes damage to its own tissues. The body responds as if normal tissues are infected or somehow abnormal.
Osteoarthritis is a quite frequent condition in which one or more joints are affected by a degenerative process which, over time, leads to a progressive loss of the normal function. Pain – due to the concurrent onset of inflammation – is the main symptom associated with this condition. Osteoarthritis involves the breakdown of cartilage. Normal cartilage protects a joint and allows it to move smoothly. Cartilage also absorbs shock when pressure is placed on the joint, such as while walking. Without the normal amount of cartilage, the bones rub together. This causes swelling (inflammation) and stiffness.
Pain may not be a primary issue but can be a life-disrupting symptom of an inflammatory disease, since many organs do not have many pain-sensitive nerves. Treatment of organ inflammation is directed at the cause of inflammation whenever possible, while relieving the most disrupting symptoms for the patient.