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Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases occur when your immune system is unable to distinguish between its cells and foreign cells. Thus, causing it to mistakenly target normal healthy cells in your body. 

Types of Autoimmune Diseases

Common autoimmune diseases include:

1.  Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): This is a chronic inflammatory disorder affecting many joints. Your immune system generates antibodies attached to the linings of your joints. Your immune system cells then attack the joints, resulting in swelling, swelling, and discomfort. When left untreated, RA gradually leads to irreversible joint degeneration.

2.  Crohn’s Disease: This is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It affects any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus.

3.  Type 1 Diabetes: Your antibodies target and destroy insulin-producing cells in your pancreas. People with type 1 diabetes require insulin shots to survive.

4.  Multiple Sclerosis (MS): Your immune system targets nerve cells, resulting in symptoms like blindness, pain, paralysis, muscular spasms, and poor coordination.

5.  Lupus: Your immune system attacks your tissues and organs.

6.  Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): This includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, where your immune system attacks the lining of your intestines. Thus, causing symptoms like diarrhea, urgent bowel movement, rectal bleeding, weight loss, and abdominal pain.

7.  Psoriasis: When you develop psoriasis, the immune system blood cells called T-cells accumulate in your skin. Your immune system causes the skin cells to multiply rapidly. Thus, resulting in scaly, silvery, plaques on your skin.

8.  Graves’ Disease: Your immune system causes the thyroid gland to produce excessive amounts of thyroid hormones to release into your bloodstream.

9.  Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Your immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Thus, slowly destroying the cells that produce thyroid hormone. 

10.                Myasthenia Gravis: Antibodies bond to your nerves, preventing them from stimulating your muscles effectively.

Causes of Autoimmune Diseases

The exact cause of autoimmune diseases is unknown. Autoimmune disorders tend to run in families, therefore certain genes may predispose some people to develop a problem. Some chemicals, viruses, and other environmental factors can cause an autoimmune illness if you have the genes for it.

Symptoms of Autoimmune Diseases

Common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Skin problems
  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Abdominal pain or digestive issues
  • Swollen glands
  • Recurring fever
  • Neurological symptoms like weakness, numbness, and tingling.

Risk Factors for Autoimmune Diseases

Certain risk factors raise your likelihood of acquiring autoimmune illnesses, including:

1.  Family History: If you have a close relative with an autoimmune disease, you are at higher risk of developing one yourself.

2.  Smoking: Smoking has been linked to several autoimmune disorders, including:

·      Rheumatoid arthritis

·      Lupus

·      Multiple sclerosis

·      Hyperthyroidism

3.  Certain medications: Some medications can trigger drug-induced lupus.

4.  Weight: Being overweight increases your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Diagnosis of Autoimmune Diseases

Diagnosis of autoimmune diseases often involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests. Blood tests that look for autoantibodies can help doctors diagnose these conditions. Other tests, such as imaging studies or biopsies, may also be used to confirm a diagnosis.

Treatment of Autoimmune Diseases

Medications play a key role:

  • Steroids: Corticosteroids can suppress the entire immune system. Thus, reducing the autoimmune responses.
  • Targeted drugs: Some medications selectively target specific immune cells or proteins, reducing side effects.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs: These drugs can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

While there’s no cure for autoimmune diseases, these treatments can effectively control symptoms and improve quality of life.

In addition to medications, lifestyle changes are often recommended. These include:

·      Exercise or physical therapy is beneficial for muscle-related autoimmune diseases like myositis and multiple sclerosis.

·      Quitting smoking is advised for those with autoimmune diseases affecting blood vessels.

Autoimmune diseases are a group of disorders in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s tissues and organs. While there is no cure for these conditions, they can be managed with medications and other treatments.