The key difference between inflammation and swelling is that inflammation is a localized physical process where part of the body becomes red, warm, swollen, or most painful in response to an injury or an infection, while swelling is a process that involves an abnormal enlargement of a part of the body normally triggered due to the accumulation of fluid.
After an injury, traumatized tissues become red, warm, swollen, and painful immediately. All these are the results of acute inflammation, which is an immune response triggered by damage to living tissues. Inflammation and swelling are two processes that often occur together when there is an injury or an infection in the body. However, swelling can also occur due to other reasons as well.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Inflammation
3. What is Swelling
4. Similarities – Inflammation and Swelling
5. Inflammation vs Swelling in Tabular Form
6. Summary – Inflammation vs Swelling
What is an Inflammation?
Inflammation is a process that occurs when the chemicals from the white blood cells of the body enter the blood to protect against invaders. The area of injury or infection becomes red and warm as a result. Inflammation is the reaction of the body to any injury or infection. Inflammation can also be described as the human body’s ability to heal itself after an injury, safeguard itself from foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria, and restore the injured tissue. However, chronic inflammation may result in several serious medical conditions such as cancers and rheumatoid arthritis.
The symptoms of inflammation may include redness, a swollen joint that may be warm to touch, joint pain, joint stiffness, a joint that does not work well, fever, chills, fatigue or loss of energy, headaches, loss of appetite, and muscle stiffness. Moreover, inflammation can be diagnosed through physical examination, X-ray, blood tests (C-reactive protein (CRP), and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)). Furthermore, treatments for inflammation may include medications (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, hydoxychloroquine and biologic drugs (abatacept, adalimumab, certolizumab, etanercept), exercise, home remedies (quit smoking, limit alcohol, keep a healthy weight, manage stress, try supplements such as omega 3 fatty acids, curcumin, green tea, capsaicin), and surgeries for damaged joints.
What is a Swelling?
Swelling is a process that occurs due to the accumulation of fluid in tissues throughout the body or in a specific region of the body. Swelling usually causes the enlargement of body organs, skin, or other parts. It is normally a result of inflammation or a build-up fluid. The swelling process can take place internally and externally (outer skin or muscles). The symptoms of swelling may include nausea, low oxygen level in the blood, vomiting, shortness of breath, dizziness, bruises, weakness, malaise, discolouration, low urine output, fatigue, insomnia, warmth in the affected area, flu symptoms, pain in outer skin, or muscles.
Moreover, swelling and its causes can be diagnosed through a visual examination and other tests like X-ray CT-scan, Doppler ultrasound, blood tests, urine tests, electrocardiogram, and urinanalysis. Furthermore, treatments for swelling may include applying ice to the affected area and taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, lying on a bed with their feet elevated, wearing compression stockings, and treating underlying conditions like kidney disease.
What are the Similarities Between Inflammation and Swelling?
- Inflammation and swelling are two human body processes that often occur together.
- Inflammation can cause swelling of the body parts.
- Both processes can be caused due to injuries.
- These processes can be diagnosed visually.
- They are usually treated through specific medicines.
What is the Difference Between Inflammation and Swelling?
Inflammation is the localized physical process where part of the body becomes red, warm, swollen, or most painful in response to an injury or an infection, while swelling is the process where there is an abnormal enlargement of a part of the body normally triggered due to the result of the accumulation of fluid. Thus, this is the key difference between inflammation and swelling. Furthermore, inflammation is caused due to an injury or infections by foreign invaders like bacteria, or viruses, while swelling is caused due to an injury, heart, liver, kidney diseases, pregnancy, standing for a long period of time, the small valve in the leg veins becoming weaker, low protein levels, blood clots, overweight or obesity, older age, cancer, and its treatments.
The below infographic presents the differences between inflammation and swelling in tabular form for side-by-side comparison.
Summary – Inflammation vs Swelling
Inflammation and swelling are two processes that often occur together in response to injuries. Inflammation is the localized physical process where part of the body becomes red, warm, swollen, or most painful in response to an injury or infection. Swelling is the process where there is an abnormal enlargement of a part of the body normally triggered due to the accumulation of fluid. So, this is the key difference between inflammation and swelling.
1. “Inflammation: Definition, Diseases, Types, and Treatment.” WebMD.
2. “Swelling: Is It Serious? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International.
1. “2213 Inflammatory Process” By OpenStax College – Anatomy & Physiology, Connexions Web site, Jun 19, 2013. (CC BY 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Kneeffusion” By James Heilman, MD – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia