A healthy immune system protects the body against foreign attacks and infections. But if the immune system is faulty or malfunctioned, it starts attacking the healthy cells, tissues, and organs of the body. The diseases which attack the healthy immune system of the body are called autoimmune diseases. These attacks can affect any organ of the body or any system of the body, weakening its healing capacity and causing life-threatening conditions.
There are well known more than 80 autoimmune diseases known, such as sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, etc. Some of the autoimmune conditions are rare and difficult to diagnose, which allows them to suffer more. Most of these conditions have no cure, while some require treatment approaches to ease the symptoms.
The diseases may get worse, remission, or the symptoms may get disappear, but the goal of the treatment may be to reduce inflammation.
Why does the immune system attack the body?
Doctors don’t know what causes immune-system malfunction; some people are more likely to get an autoimmune disease than others. According to a study, women get the autoimmune disease more than men do. Often in women, such conditions start during their childbearing years, between 15 and 44.
Certain autoimmune system diseases are more dependent on ethnicity; for instance, lupus affects Hispanic and African-American than Caucasians.
The other autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis run in the families though it is not compulsory that you will have the same disease; it is susceptibility only.
A diet also is another risk factor associated with the development of an autoimmune system. Eating high-fat, calorie-full, processed, and high-sugar diets are associated with inflammation.
The other reason why autoimmune system disease attacks the body is the hygiene hypothesis. Vaccines and antiseptics are exposed to germs, and so they also increase the risk of immune system disorder. The lack of exposure can make the immune system vulnerable to bacteria and infections.
There is still no enough research on the same; however, genetics, diet, infections, and chemical exposure are known to be involved in the development of the autoimmune system.
Ten common autoimmune diseases
- Type 1 diabetes
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Addison’s disease
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Myasthenia gravis
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Grave’s disease
Common symptoms of autoimmune disease
The early symptoms of autoimmune diseases are very similar, and they may include:
- Painful muscles
- Swelling and redness
- Low fever
- Trouble concentrating
- Numbness and tingling in the hands
- Hair loss
- Skin rashes
Autoimmune diseases remain asymptomatic in some cases, while in some cases, they may cause weight loss, fatigue body thirst, belly pain, bloating, etc.
When to call a doctor?
If you have persistent symptoms of an autoimmune disease, then you need to consult a doctor, depending upon the type of diseases.
Gastroenterologists: For the diseases related to the GI tract, such as Crohn’s disease.
Endocrinologists: For conditions related to the glands, including Addison’s disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Dermatologists: Infections related to the skin.
Rheumatologists: Treatments related to the joint, arthritis, autoimmune diseases like gout, chronic back pain, and lupus.
Tests that can diagnose the autoimmune system
A doctor uses a combination of tests to examine the occurrence of autoimmune disease because a single test cannot diagnose most of the cases.
The antinuclear antibody test (ANA) is one of the common tests doctor conduct when the symptoms in a person arise. Other tests are there that look for specific autoantibodies in the body for autoimmune diseases.
Treatment of autoimmune disease
There is no exact treatment that can cure autoimmune disease, but the approach is to control the overactive immune system response and slows down the inflammation and the pain.
The medicines that are used in the treatment of autoimmune disease include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as naproxen and ibuprofen
- Immune-suppressing drugs
- Medicines to relieve symptoms like pain, skin rashes, fatigue body
- Eating a healthy diet
- Adopting a better lifestyle
Bottom line: The treatment of autoimmune diseases is with the medications that elude the inflammation and the overactive immune response.