Medical Science Breakthrough Control of Infections and Inflammation

Control of infections and inflammation: One of the most notable successes in medical science

Through the years, medical science has had numerous notable successes. Perhaps one of its most spectacular victories is the control of infections and inflammation. By simple definitions, infections are diseases caused by pathogens, or infective agents, such as bacteria and viruses; inflammation is the reaction of living tissues to an injury.

The control of infections and inflammation has been possible largely because of certain drugs, such as the sulfonamides (or sulfa drugs), the chemotherapeutic agents (or antibiotics), the salicylates, and the corticosteroids. But as in the case of other drugs, the medicines used for the control of infections and inflammation have unfavorable side effects and, therefore, must be used with caution.

One particular problem associated with the use of drugs for the control of infections and inflammation is that some individuals are highly sensitive to them. Another problem is that some disease-producing microorganisms develop resistance to these drugs so that the microorganisms thrive in spite of their use. Of course, medical science has been active in its continuous development of modifications to these drugs so that they will be more effective.

Antibiotics and the sulfa drugs fight infections by penetrating the tissues and fluids of the body and destroying the invading disease-carrying microorganisms, rather than by increasing the natural defenses of the body. Therefore, it is reasonable that additional measures be used to increase the natural processes by which the body reacts to protect itself against infections.

The salicylates and the more effective corticosteroids help fight and reduce the pain and swelling caused by inflammation. Other characteristics of inflammation, which these drugs help control, include redness due to the increased amount of blood in the injured tissues, increased temperature of the tissues, and often loss of function of that involved part of the body.

Some of the side effects of corticosteroids are severe and long-lasting and, therefore, physicians must weigh the advantage of the use of these drugs against the prospect of such side effects.

In addition to the use of drugs, control of infections and inflammation is possible with certain supplementary measures. For example, the use of simple home treatments (hydrotherapy, for example) is effective for many types of infection. Such methods work by increasing blood circulation through the tissues of the body and by stimulating the body’s immune response mechanisms – the means by which the body naturally fights infections.

In battling inflammation, on the other hand, there are some simple physical agents which may be used. The application of heat is probably the most important of these physical agents. This method causes an increase in the circulation of blood through the inflamed body part, helping to reduce the inflammation. Resting the affected body part is likewise helpful in reducing the inflammation.


1. Online book preview: “Infection Control in the Community,” pp. 320-322, by Jean Lawrence and Dee May –…

2. “Inflammation: What You Need To Know”, on The Cleveland Clinic (online) –