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Local reaction of living tissues to injury or illness, including burns, pneumonia, leprosy, tuberculosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Its major signs are heat, redness, swelling, and pain. The process begins with brief contraction of nearby arterioles (seearteries). Dilation follows, flushing the capillaries with blood, from which fluid, plasma proteins, and leukocytes pass into the injured tissues, causing swelling as they attack the cause of injury. Initial acute inflammation can have any of four outcomes: resolution (return to normal), organization (new tissue buildup; seescar), suppuration (pus formation; seeabscess), or chronic inflammation. Sometimes treatmentincluding antibiotics for bacteria, or surgical removal of an irritating foreign bodycan eliminate the cause. If not, anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., cortisone or aspirin) may be given, or simple remedies (e.g., hot or cold compresses) may be applied.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on inflammation, visit Britannica.com.