A granuloma occurs when your immune cells wall off something in your body that it is unable to eliminate. Typically, your immune cells try to break down and clean out broken cells, bacteria and fungus. However, when it is unable to, your immune cells may create a granuloma around the substance, quarantining it.
An interesting case where this occurs is with tuberculosis (TB). Your immune cells can successfully wall off TB in your lungs by creating a granuloma. When this occurs, you have latent, asymptomatic TB infection and can live with it, at least for some time.
However, the infected host cells inside a TB granuloma can begin to die, eventually compromising the structural integrity of the granuloma. When the granuloma breaks, it releases active TB into the lungs, causing full-on infection.
This is how it is when you don’t deal with stuff in your life - when you don’t have those awkward conversations, when you don’t reconcile your beliefs about business with your actual priorities in business or when you don't do the hard work to do it right because you want short-term gain.
You can wall off the issue. You can create a structure around it to avoid dealing with it. You may be able to maintain your life as is, maybe forever. But your life will be limited because of it. Your business, your relationships, your creativity will be limited. And of course, there’s always the risk that the infected cells inside the walled off area can begin to die, causing the structure to break and wreak havoc.
I know people who never talked about anything deep in their marriage - they never fought, never dug deep. The whole marriage broke down in light of infidelity and lack of relational intimacy. They didn't work to resolve problems or work to build health. They believed they could wall off their discomfort. In the mean time, their marriage was dying from the inside out and the structural integrity was eventually compromised.
Do you know what the treatment for active TB is? It’s antibiotics for 6 to 12 months. TB is a beast of disease, but it’s certainly worth the work to treat. The other option is dying from it.
I image it's scary to be diagnosed with TB and to admit you have it. But it’s foolish and life-threatening to ignore it. Having a healthy business and life requires that you deal with the difficult things. Otherwise you’re risking their health altogether.
Much of this post is from my knowledge of immunology from undergrad, however I read from the following sources to confirm I had the concept down:
- Immunity and Immunopathology in the Tuberculous Granuloma by Antonio J. Pagán and Lalita Ramakrishnan
- The Tuberculous Granuloma: An Unsuccessful Host Defence Mechanism Providing a Safety Shelter for the Bacteria? by Mayra Silva Miranda, Adrien Breiman, Sophie Allain, Florence Deknuydt, and Frederic Altare
- The Wikipedia pages for Granuloma and Tuberculosis (my former professors would be cringing at the non-scientific references, but I'm just being real - I did read them).
- Understanding Tuberculosis -- Diagnosis and Treatment (WebMD)
- Life and death in the granuloma: immunopathology of tuberculosis by Bernadette M Saunders and Warwick J Britton