Saturday, September 18, 2010

The four cardinal signs of inflammation

Yesterday a friend of the family asked me to look at something on her lower shin to get my opinion as to what it was. It was raise, red and slightly more than 1 inch in diameter. It felt warm especially in comparison to non-red areas of the shin. Certainly she had some localized type of infection. She should have a doctor look at it.


I guess what I find funny looking back on it is my mindset when checking her possible infection is that something I was taught years ago remains with me to this day like I heard it yesterday: the four cardinal signs of inflammation.

Early Greek and Roman physicians recognized these signs as:

•Dolor (pain)
•Calor (heat)
•Rubor (redness)
•Tumor (swelling)

Due to the release of certain chemical mediators we get calor and dolor; the result of increased blood flow with blood vessel congestion. Dolor and tumor are the result of increased permeability of blood vessels with blood and fluids escaping outside the vessels.

These signs are easily recognizable signs of a localized infection. The formation of pus in which neutrophils (white blood cells) are attracted to the area any also escape the blood vessels are another sign of localized infection.

How was this infection acquired? Not sure, but it could be the result of a number of things; a minute break in the skin (from shaving for example), ingrown hair, or an insect bite. The list is nearly endless.

I’ll always remember dolor, calor, rubor and tumor.

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