You may experience inflammation due to some health conditions or injury. Long-term inflammation may lead to symptoms that affect your overall health.

Inflammation happens in everyone, whether you’re aware of it or not. Your immune system creates inflammation to protect the body from infection, injury, or disease. There are many things you wouldn’t be able to heal from without inflammation.

Sometimes, with autoimmune diseases, like certain types of arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, your immune system attacks healthy cells.

Inflammation is classified into three main types:

  • Acute inflammation: This usually occurs for a short duration but is often severe. Symptoms can appear quickly. However, it typically resolves in 2 weeks or less once the cause (usually injury or infection) subsides. This type restores your body to its state before injury or illness.
  • Chronic inflammation: This type is a slower and generally less severe form of inflammation. It typically lasts longer than 6 weeks. Medical professionals have linked chronic inflammation to autoimmune disorders and even prolonged stress.
  • Subacute inflammation: This is a transformational period between acute and chronic inflammation, and it usually lasts around 2–6 weeks.

5 signs of acute inflammation

  • heat
  • pain
  • redness
  • swelling
  • loss of function
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The specific symptoms you have depend on where in your body the inflammation is and what’s causing it.

Long-term inflammation can lead to a number of symptoms and affect your body in many ways. Common symptoms of chronic inflammation can include:

  • body pain
  • constant fatigue and insomnia
  • depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders
  • gastrointestinal issues, like constipation, diarrhea, and acid reflux
  • unintentional weight gain or weight loss
  • frequent infections

Symptoms of common autoimmune inflammatory conditions

Symptoms can also vary depending on the condition that has an inflammatory component.

For example, in some autoimmune conditions, your immune system affects your skin, leading to rashes. In other types, it attacks specific glands, which affect hormone levels in the body.

In rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system attacks your joints. You may experience:

  • joint pain, swelling, stiffness
  • loss of joint function
  • limited range of motion

In inflammatory bowel disease, inflammation occurs in the digestive tract. Some common symptoms include:

  • diarrhea
  • stomach pain, cramping, or bloating
  • weight loss
  • anemia

In multiple sclerosis, your body attacks the myelin sheath. This is the protective covering of nerve cells. You may experience:

  • numbness and tingling of the arms, legs, or one side of the face
  • balance problems
  • double vision, blurry vision, or partial vision loss
  • fatigue
  • cognitive problems, like brain fog

Many factors can lead to inflammation, such as:

  • chronic and acute conditions
  • certain medications
  • exposure to irritants or foreign materials your body can’t easily eliminate

Recurrent episodes of acute inflammation can cause a chronic inflammatory response.

There are also certain types of foods that may lead to chronic inflammation.

These foods include:

  • sugars
  • refined carbohydrates
  • trans fats
  • alcohol

There’s no single test that can diagnose inflammation or conditions that cause it. Instead, based on your symptoms, your doctor may use the following tests to make a diagnosis.

Blood tests

A few markers can help diagnose inflammation in the body. However, these markers are nonspecific, meaning that abnormal levels can show something is wrong but not what is wrong. Plus, there are no measures that can specifically assess someone for chronic inflammation.

Serum protein electrophoresis (SPEP)

Medical professionals consider SPEP to be one way that may confirm chronic inflammation. It measures certain proteins in the blood to identify any issues. Too much or too little of these proteins can point to inflammation and markers for other conditions.

C-reactive protein (CRP)

CRP is naturally produced in the liver in response to inflammation. A high level of CRP in your blood can occur due to several inflammatory conditions.

While this test is sensitive to inflammation, it doesn’t help differentiate between acute and chronic inflammation since CRP will be elevated during both. High levels combined with certain symptoms can help your doctor make a diagnosis.

Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)

The ESR test is sometimes called a sedimentation rate test. This test indirectly measures inflammation by measuring the rate at which red blood cells sink in a tube of blood. The quicker they sink, the more likely you’re experiencing inflammation.

A medical professional will rarely perform the ESR test alone as it doesn’t help pinpoint specific causes of inflammation. Instead, it can help a doctor identify that inflammation is occurring. It can also help them monitor your condition.


A fibrinogen test may also help your doctor mark inflammation by noting if your fibrinogen levels exceed the standard.

Other blood tests

If your doctor believes the inflammation is due to viruses or bacteria, they may perform other specific tests. In this case, your doctor can discuss what to expect with you.

Other diagnostic tests

If you have certain symptoms, such as chronic diarrhea or numbness on one side of your face, your doctor may request an imaging test to check certain parts of the body or brain.

To diagnose inflammatory gastrointestinal conditions, your doctor may perform a procedure to see inside the digestive tract. These tests can include:

Sometimes, changing your diet can help reduce inflammation. By choosing foods with lower sugar content and trans fats and avoiding certain processed foods, you may start to feel better.

Some foods can also fight inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory foods

  • berries and cherries
  • fatty fish, like salmon or mackerel
  • broccoli
  • avocados
  • green tea
  • mushrooms, like portobello and shiitake
  • spices, like turmeric, ginger, and clove
  • tomatoes
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Check out our guide on how to follow an anti-inflammatory diet.

You can further help reduce inflammation by doing the following:

  • Engage in moderate exercise with consistent rest periods.
  • Manage and reduce your stress levels.
  • Quit smoking, if applicable.
  • Treat and manage any preexisting conditions.

If your inflammation is due to an underlying autoimmune condition, your treatment options will vary.

For general symptoms of inflammation, your doctor may recommend several options:

NSAIDs and aspirin

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are usually the first line of defense in treating short-term pain and inflammation. You can buy most of these over the counter.

Common NSAIDs include:

  • aspirin
  • ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Midol)
  • naproxen (Aleve)

Prescription varieties also exist, such as diclofenac. Your doctor may prescribe these when treating acute inflammation or certain conditions.

NSAIDs can be effective for inflammation, but some interactions and side effects occur, especially with long-term use. Be sure to tell your doctor about other medications you’re taking and if you have any side effects while taking an NSAID.


Corticosteroids are a type of steroid commonly used to treat swelling and inflammation as well as allergic reactions.

Corticosteroids typically come as either a nasal spray, oral tablet, injection, or topical.

You may wish to follow up with your doctor while taking corticosteroids. Long-term use can cause side effects, and certain interactions may occur.

Topical analgesics and other creams

Healthcare professionals may recommend topical analgesics for acute or chronic pain since they may have fewer side effects than oral ones.

Topical creams and products can contain different medications. Some are prescription only, so it’s best to get advice from your doctor. This is especially the case if you’re treating long-term inflammation, like with arthritis.

Some topicals contain an NSAID like diclofenac or ibuprofen. This can be helpful for people with inflammation and pain in a specific body part.

Other topical creams may contain natural ingredients that have some evidence of anti-inflammatory properties.

Inflammation is a natural part of your body’s immune response. However, long-term or chronic inflammation can lead to damaging effects and is associated with some autoimmune disorders.

Acute inflammation is a typical part of the healing process. It may occur when you’re experiencing a sore throat or even a small cut on your skin. Acute inflammation should go away within a few days or weeks once the cause is under control.

If you’re experiencing any signs of long-term inflammation, you may want to make an appointment with your doctor. They can run some tests and review your symptoms to see if you need treatment for any underlying conditions.