Inflammation can sometimes be seen, like the swelling and redness that occurs when you sprain your ankle. This type of inflammation is usually short-term. Pain forces us to rest, while swelling and redness are signs that increased blood flow is bringing cells to heal the injury. In this instance, inflammation is necessary to heal the body.
Silent inflammation (also called chronic inflammation) occurs within the body and generally cannot be seen. It is much more harmful and its long-term damage leads to chronic disease, such as diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disease, asthma, and inflammatory bowel conditions 1,2.
Imagine that an injury to your body is like a fire. Your immune system calls the fire department, and they arrive with their sirens and lights, block off the street, and use their tools to put out the fire. The firetrucks cause a necessary disruption to the neighbourhood (inflammation), but after the fire has been put out, they leave, and the neighbourhood returns to normal.
This exactly how your immune system responds to harm. It sends white blood cells to the injured area, causing a short-term disruption to the cells around the site, but it’s a worthwhile trade-off to fight an infection or heal an injury.