Inflammation occurs internally, but the effects are sometimes seen externally, too. When inflammation has just an internal effect, when the body is defending itself against infection, nothing can really be seen on the skin. However, when external inflammation is present (which tends to last for a shorter period of time than internal inflammation), the effects are visible on the skin.
Even though inflammation is somewhat degrading to the integrity of the skin and body, it’s a critical mode of defense essential for proper body function. “Inflammatory responses are part of the body’s vital healing process. Inflammation is the byproduct of the immune system’s efforts to fight off disease and germs and repair tissues (some harm is typically imposed) that have been injured, in some form, at a cellular level,” says Meriden, CT, dermatologist Dr. Nicholas Perricone, MD.
“Typically, once the infection is cleared out of the body (the length of time that inflammation lasts is variable upon the nature of the injury, genetic differences and the presence of ongoing precipitating factors), any inflammation will subside. But that’s not always the case,” Dr. Perricone adds.
There are two types of inflammation: chronic and acute. “Acute inflammation is a biochemical process that is a response to an irritant. It occurs within minutes to hours of the injury and ceases once the stimulus has been removed,” explains Las Vegas dermatologist Dr. Alison Tam.
Chronic inflammation (the type associated with aging) is a drawn-out reaction to an injury. “This delayed effect, which can last anywhere from a few months to years, causes a shift in the type of inflammatory cells, simultaneously destroying the tissue. Even though the body is attempting to heal the injury by remodeling the tissue, many times, the new tissue is not normal and continues to bring about further inflammation,” says Dr. Tam.