11 unusual signs of chronic inflammation

Tons of research has unveiled the role chronic inflammation plays in our health — or lack thereof. This insidious process is believed to be at the root of everything from autoimmune disorders to diabetes, heart problems, gout and even cancer.

The best way to prevent the damage that chronic inflammation can cause is to catch it early. But how can you do that when the symptoms are largely invisible?

Turns out, that might not be the case. Here are some signs that chronic inflammation is doing its dirty work inside your body — some of which you may not expect….


Gaining body fat or smoking can cause chronic inflammation. And this can cause fatty plaques to build up inside the arteries, a process known as arteriosclerosis. This process is the main cause of heart attack and stroke. It usually doesn’t have any symptoms in the early stages.

Balance problems

Chronic inflammatory diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS) cause your body’s immune system to overreact and, in some cases, attack itself. In MS, the immune system starts to attack the myelin coating the nerve endings, making it harder for nerve signals to get through. That could make you feel dizzy or off-balance, especially when you walk.

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Blood clotting

Chronic inflammation resulting from trauma, surgery or disease can cause the blood to clot too much. This can cause swelling in the limbs and could result in a more serious condition such as stroke, heart attack or pulmonary embolism.

If you experience sudden or gradual pain, swelling, tenderness and warmth in an arm or leg, or shortness of breath, pain with deep breathing, rapid breathing and increased heart rate, it could be a sign of a blood clot. See your doctor immediately if that happens.

Brain issues

When chronic inflammation hits, it often affects the memory and ability to think clearly. You may experience memory loss, muddled thinking and even agitation. Some research indicates chronic inflammation could contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions that cause dementia, especially in older adults.

Chronic fatigue

Being tired all the time is a classic sign of chronic inflammation and a common symptom of autoimmune diseases like fibromyalgia, MS, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. This is a fatigue that goes beyond feeling less than energetic for a day or two; it extends into weeks and months.


Chronic inflammation can cause inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which has two main forms: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. In IBD, the immune system’s overreaction inflames the colon and small intestine. This can cause diarrhea, nausea, joint pain, fever and skin rashes.

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Dry eye

Chronic inflammation can dry your eyes out. Your eyes might feel gritty or burning, your salivary glands might well and your nose and throat may be dry. This can lead to serious complications like vision loss and dental problems.

Insulin resistance

Insulin helps control blood sugar levels, and although scientists don’t know exactly why, inflammation could affect this function, causing insulin resistance to arise. Insulin resistance could lead to high blood sugar, which could damage the nerves and blood vessels and lead to diabetes.

Some symptoms of insulin resistance include tingling feet or being more tired and thirsty than normal. But it’s also likely you could experience no symptoms.

Livedo reticularis rash

Livedo reticularis is a purple, marbled rash that can resemble webbing or lace. It can be caused by autoimmune diseases like lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome. This rash usually appears on the arms or legs and is more noticeable in the cold.

Lower back pain

In autoimmune conditions like ankylosing spondylitis, chronic inflammation can attack the spine. Symptoms include pain and stiffness in your lower back, especially in the morning. If it gets serious, it could result in loss of motion.

Muscle weakness

In chronic inflammation, sometimes your immune system attacks and inflames your muscles in a process known as myositis. When this happens, the muscle fibers could start to break down, causing weakness. This usually happens slowly and most often in your torso, shoulders and hips. And when it happens, you may find it hard to do simple things like walk, bathe and swallow.

Heading chronic inflammation off

If you experience any of the symptoms above, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor. They can test you further to help narrow down what may be going on inside your body.

As for how to fight chronic inflammation, it starts with what you eat. Healthy eating plans like the Mediterranean diet and keto diet seem to ease inflammation and might keep your brain sharp for longer. Exercise can also help and may be the best non-drug way to reduce inflammation.

There are some supplements that can help naturally reduce inflammation as well, including curcumin, omega-3 fatty acids, modified citrus pectin, quercetin, alpha-lipoic acid, selenium and vitamins C, D3 and E.

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Signs of Chronic Inflammation You May Not Expect — WebMD

Blood clots — MedlinePlus

Carolyn Gretton

By Carolyn Gretton

Carolyn Gretton is a freelance writer based in New Haven, CT who specializes in all aspects of health and wellness and is passionate about discovering the latest health breakthroughs and sharing them with others. She has worked with a wide range of companies in the alternative health space and has written for online and print publications like Dow Jones Newswires and the Philadelphia Inquirer.