AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE - Watsons Health

AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE

An autoimmune disease develops when your immune system decides your healthy cells are foreign and attacks healthy cells. Your immune system is the one that defends your body against disease. It can also cause abnormal organ growth and changes in organ function. An autoimmune disease can affect one or many different types of body tissue depending on the type ( as many as 80 types). Many of them have similar symptoms. This makes them very difficult to diagnose. It’s also possible to have more than one at the same time.

Autoimmune diseases usually fluctuate between periods of remission (little or no symptoms) and flare-ups (worsening symptoms). Currently, treatment for autoimmune diseases focuses on relieving symptoms because there is no curative therapy.

Types

The following are some of the more common autoimmune diseases:

  • rheumatoid arthritis: inflammation of joints and surrounding tissues
  • systemic lupus erythematosus: affects skin, joints, kidneys, brain, and other organs
  • celiac sprue disease: a reaction to gluten (found in wheat, rye, and barley) that causes damage to the lining of the small intestine
  • pernicious anemia: decrease in red blood cells caused by inability to absorb vitamin B-12
  • vitiligo: white patches on the skin caused by loss of pigment
  • scleroderma: a connective tissue disease that causes changes in skin, blood vessels, muscles, and internal organs
  • psoriasis: a skin condition that causes redness and irritation as well as thick, flaky, silver-white patches
  • inflammatory bowel diseases: a group of inflammatory diseases of the colon and small intestine
  • Hashimoto’s disease: inflammation of the thyroid gland
  • Addison’s disease: adrenal hormone insufficiency
  • Graves’ disease: overactive thyroid gland
  • reactive arthritis: inflammation of joints, urethra, and eyes; may cause sores on the skin and mucus membranes
  • Sjögren’s syndrome: destroys the glands that produce tears and saliva causing dry eyes and mouth; may affect kidneys and lungs
  • type 1 diabetes: destruction of insulin producing cells in the pancreas

 

Symptoms

Symptoms of autoimmune disease varies. But, common symptoms are fatigue, fever, and general malaise (feeling ill). Symptoms worsen during flare-ups and lessen during remission.

Autoimmune diseases affect many parts of the body. The most common organs and tissue affected are:

  • joints
  • muscles
  • skin
  • red blood cells
  • blood vessels
  • connective tissue
  • endocrine glands

DIAGNOSIS

Your immune system produces antibodies (proteins that recognize and destroy specific substances) against harmful invaders in your body such as viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi. When you have autoimmune disease, your body produces antibodies that destroys some of your own tissues.

The following tests are used to diagnose an autoimmune disease:

  • autoantibody tests. any of several tests that look for specific antibodies to your own tissues
  • antinuclear antibody tests. a type of autoantibody test that looks for antinuclear antibodies, which attack the nuclei of cells in your body
  • complete blood count:.measures the numbers of red and white cells in your blood; when your immune system is actively fighting something, these numbers will vary from the normal
  • C-reactive protein (CRP). elevated CRP is an indication of inflammation throughout your body
  • erythrocyte sedimentation rate. this test indirectly measures how much inflammation is in your body

 

TREATMENT

There is no cure for autoimmune disease. The treatments only attempts to control the process of the disease and to decrease the symptoms, especially during flare-ups. To alleviate the symptoms of an autoimmune disease, you can do the following:

  • eat a balanced and healthy diet
  • exercise regularly
  • get plenty of rest
  • take vitamin supplements
  • decrease stress
  • limit sun exposure
  • avoid any known triggers of flare-ups

Medical interventions include:

  • hormone replacement therapy, if necessary
  • blood transfusions, if blood is affected
  • anti-inflammatory medication, if joints are affected
  • pain medication
  • immunosuppressive medication
  • physical therapy

The following alternative therapies have provided relief for some people:

  • herbs
  • chiropractic therapy
  • acupuncture
  • hypnosis

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