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Inflammation is a natural immune response
– one of the ways that your body heals. 

But when your body overreacts, ongoing inflammation can signal or cause serious health issues.

Know the signs of Chronic Inflammatory Diseases (CIDs) and take early steps to address them. 


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Painful joints

Sore joints after a strenuous workout are to be expected. But if your joints hurt persistently for no reason, it may indicate rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or a related condition, where your immune system releases inflammatory chemicals (or antibodies) that attack the membranes lining your joints. RA tends to affect joints on both sides of your body symmetrically, such as both wrists and finger joints as well as large joints, eventually causing them to become swollen and malformed. See your health professional at the first signs – early, aggressive treatment may help delay serious side effects. For more information, contact the SA Rheumatism and Arthritis Association or the Arthritis Foundation of SA.

Loss of balance

Many things can cause dizziness and loss of balance, from standing up too rapidly to an ear infection, low blood pressure and certain medications, says Cape Town GP Dr Neville Wellington. But occasionally it can signal a CID – with multiple sclerosis, a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system, your body is overreacting and attacking the coatings of your nerves. If you often feel off balance, especially walking, see your healthcare professional, especially if you have other signs of MS: numbness, tingling, tiredness, tremors and bladder or bowel problems.  For more information contact Multiple Sclerosis SA.

Constant thirst

Feeling thirsty after exerting yourself and not staying hydrated is perfectly normal. But if you start feeling thirsty all the time, and constantly need to urinate, it may signal the start of diabetes – especially if you also experience hunger, weight loss, blurred vision, yeast infections and irritability. One of your body’s sources of energy is glucose, and you need the hormone insulin to get the glucose into your cells. However, with type 1 diabetes, your pancreas produces too little or no insulin, because your immune system attacks and destroys the pancreatic cells that make it. The reason is unclear, but involves a genetic predisposition, triggered by lifestyle or environmental factors.

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease that’s characterized by chronic inflammation of the pancreatic islets of Langerhans – patches of endocrine tissue in the pancreas. It can occur at any age, but mostly emerges in children and adolescents, says Michael Brown, clinical consultant at the Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology in Joburg. There’s no cure for diabetes, but it can be successfully managed to prevent life-threatening complications, so see your healthcare professional at the first signs. For more information contact Diabetes SA.

4. Diarrhoea

Getting ‘the runs’ occasionally after eating certain foods is part of life, but ongoing diarrhoea, even when you eat wholesome foods safely prepared, can signal inflammatory bowel disease, says Dr Wellington – especially if associated with bleeding. With ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, your immune system overreacts and your colon and small intestine become inflamed. Other signs include nausea, fever, rashes and joint pain. These conditions tend to come on slowly, so see your doctor at the first sign for a checkup as they can be managed. For more information contact Inflammatory Bowel Disease Africa.

5. Dry eyes

It’s normal to experience dry, gritty or burning eyes if you’re out in the wind, but if there’s no reason and the problem continues, see your health professional. Persistent dry eyes can be the result of ageing, vitamin A deficiency, allergic eye disease or certain medical conditions – including Sjogren’s syndrome, a CID which affects your tear and salivary glands. Your healthcare professional can prescribe medications to ease discomfort and ward off complications such as vision loss and dental problems, says Dr Wellington. For more information contact Sjogren’s Syndrome SA on Facebook



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