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Q. Why Does Swelling Occur?

A. Swelling is a natural inflammatory reaction of the body to injury. It occurs when damage occurs to the small blood vessels called capillaries which leak fluid into the surrounding tissue. The increased blood flow is largely responsible for the telltale symptoms of inflammation. The rush of warm blood causes redness, heat and swelling. At the same time, pressure from the swelling and the accumulation of immune cells, along with the destructive chemicals released by the cells, irritate local nerve endings and cause pain.

Three major events occur during the inflammatory response:

  • Vasodialation - An increased blood supply to the tissue which signifies that tissue is ''in danger''
  • Increased capillary permeability - Capillaries permit larger molecules than usual to all of the cells needed for healing to get to the site faster
  • Infection Protection -Cells that help fight infection seep out of the capillaries and into the injured tissue to start fighting any infection and cleaning up the injured sites bi-products

These events show the importance of the swelling process.

Use of ice packs to help relieve acute and painful swelling is appropriate to help reduce healing time and help control the amount of damage to the tissue.



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