Inflammation is the body’s way of defending itself against harmful intruders, such as viruses. This is a normal bodily function, and yet inflammation can also be detrimental when the body’s mechanisms fail to work properly, particularly when inflammation goes into overdrive over a perceived threat. That is when inflammation can cause diseases and disorders, making a person sick with a variety of symptoms and for some, chronic pain. What’s worse? Doctors who misdiagnose, are delayed diagnosing, or improperly treat inflammatory conditions can allow already troubling situations to deteriorate further, compromising the health and well-being of their unsuspecting patients.
What Happens with Inflammation
When a person gets a splinter under the skin, the immune system senses a foreign particle and rushes to the site of the splinter to protect that area. That may cause swelling at the site. If bacteria from the splinter enters the bloodstream, the immune system likewise rushes to wherever the bacteria are found to stamp it out. However, sometimes the immune system mistakes common body dwellers like cells, as intruders and causes inflammation. That is when autoimmune diseases develop and make the body ill. Diseases correlated with excess inflammation over a longer period of time include common health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Inflammation can be short or long term, but the signs may not always be apparent. Some people can experience a brief bout of inflammation without symptoms, while others may experience pain, fatigue, fever, and swelling. Other signs may be warmth or redness at the site of injury, and the symptoms may last a few days to a few weeks. More persistent inflammation, however, typically lasts much longer. Over the long run, this creates chronic illness, such as diabetes, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease. Inflammation is also at the root of non-rheumatoid arthritis; skin allergies, such as psoriasis; and respiratory ailments including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Inflammation, short-term or long, is often accompanied by feelings of fatigue and pain.
Older people typically have more inflammation, but causes other than age or obesity may trigger inflammation, such as an insect bite that causes an allergic reaction, a cut or other injury, or an infection. In other words, when an injury or foreign substance like bacteria affects the body, the immune system sends out its soldiers to fight and capture the invaders. These come in the form of white blood cells. Swelling also occurs to help the white blood cells reach the affected area quickly. As such, common accidents like a torn cuticle, appendicitis, or infected tonsils can cause acute inflammation.
Temporary Inflammation vs. Long-Term Inflammatory Response
Sometimes short-term inflammation can lead to chronic inflammation when the body does not recover from acute inflammation. Other causes of chronic inflammation include a genetic predisposition to inflammatory disease or extreme sensitivity to environmental particles that cause allergies. A person with hay fever may suffer from abundant pollen in the spring, keeping the body inflamed in defense. Others are born with or develop autoimmune dysfunction when the immune system overreacts and harms healthy tissue or cells. In other cases, long exposure to pollutants or chemicals can cause chronic inflammation.
Lifestyle also affects how inflammation occurs and may turn into chronic inflammation. Eating too much fatty and sugary foods is a risk factor for long-term inflammation, as is age and weight. Obesity is associated with chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, but also inflammation. Smoking, stress, and low sex hormones contribute to inflammation, as do poor sleep habits. All of these are risk factors that lead to not only chronic inflammation, but other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, tuberculosis, allergies, ulcers, and gum disease as well.
While acute inflammation comes on quickly, for instance, when someone gets a bacterial infection and suffers a sore throat, chronic inflammation develops slowly. Suppose the sore throat goes away with antibiotics but is not completely cured. Even though the person does not feel the symptoms, the body is still fighting off infection over months, potentially leading to chronic inflammation. After months or years of inflammation, the body begins to break down, tissues die, thicken, or scar, which could lead to further damaging chronic illnesses.
Treatment Options when Diagnosed with Inflammation Conditions
Doctors test for inflammation by finding certain markers in the blood. The liver produces a specific protein-based biomarker in response to inflammation. The more of this protein in the blood, the worse the inflammation and its corresponding effects, as is the case with cancer. Once it has been diagnosed, inflammation may be treated with antibiotics for infection, medications for allergies, or other over-the-counter pain relievers. Depending on the situation, these come in both anti-inflammatory forms like Ibuprofen, and non-anti-inflammatory forms like Tylenol. Drugs containing cortisol for respiratory and skin allergies, as well as hepatitis and lupus, are effective at reducing the inflammation aggravating these conditions. Pain relievers like acetaminophen also help to ease discomfort without reducing the healing inflammation too much.
Herbal remedies and supplements are also encouraged by some medical professionals and others as it relates to alleviating inflammation. Ordinary foods, such as ginger, turmeric, and cannabis are known to reduce inflammation, and diet plays an important role in controlling inflammation overall. Eating foods with high fiber or Vitamin E, like fatty fish, and leafy greens aid with keeping inflammation under control. In addition, certain fruits such as blueberries and oranges are inflammation-fighters, while sugar, bad fats, processed foods, and red meat are deemed more inflammatory.
Misdiagnosis, Delayed Diagnosis, & Failure to Treat Inflammatory Diseases
Inflammation must be controlled to avoid more serious conditions and permanent bodily damage. So, when a doctor prescribes the wrong antibiotic for a bacterial infection, the patient may suffer long-term inflammation and resulting disease or complications. In addition, an infection that lingers in the body for too long can cause pain. Unchecked inflammation can be painful when swelling causes nerve compression, an important reason for ensuring that inflammation is under control. This is also crucial to to avoid anaphylactic shock for those with serious allergies. A severe allergic reaction from eating foods that are poisonous to those with food sensitivities can be life-threatening when allergens or substances that cause allergic reactions create an immune storm in the body, which in turn affects the level of inflammation. In extreme cases, this can turn deadly. Infections that progress into sepsis can also be life-threatening. For either condition, a quick response and the right medication is critical.
Since simple blood tests reveal markers for excessive inflammation and treatment is relatively straightforward, an accurate diagnosis is crucial. Once a physician has ordered appropriate tests, conducted a thorough exam and medical history, and diagnosed the source of inflammation and related symptoms, they may recommend drug therapy and possible surgery to remove infected tissue, among other treatment options and reduction techniques. Assessing the type of inflammatory condition and determining its extent is the key for promptly and properly treating those afflicted.
Conversely, doctors who fail to promptly diagnose and treat acute inflammation or chronic inflammation that spirals into serious complications for a patient may be found negligent. Doctors who delay diagnosis can allow inflammation to fester, which can further lead to organ or limb damage. Chronic conditions like diabetes can result in kidney failure, which can be fatal, or long-term dialysis treatments. Likewise, prescribing the wrong antibiotics or failing to follow up with patients after prescribing antibiotics can lead to severe adverse reactions, ineffective treatment, or other medication complications. Further, misdiagnosing an inflammatory condition such as inflammatory bowel disease as a stomach virus, without conducting the right tests or reviewing the tests once taken, can open the door for inflammation worsening.
Ultimately, medical malpractice in the diagnosis or treatment of a serious condition involving inflammation can be highly detrimental, resulting in physical damage, exhaustive or inappropriate treatment that allows the true problem to worsen, or in the most unconscionable of cases, even death.
New Jersey Inflammatory Illness Misdiagnosis Lawyers
If you have suffered injuries due to undiagnosed inflammation, a misdiagnosed illness, or negligent treatment of inflammatory conditions, discussing your case with a medical malpractice attorney can reveal options and avenues that you may have been otherwise unaware of. The New Jersey law firm of Fronzuto Law Group is highly experienced with the legal process of preparing and proceeding through every stage of a medical malpractice claim. Our lawyers do this on behalf of individuals who suffer harm after mistakes and failures with some of the most complex medical conditions.