What are Autoimmune Diseases?

The immune system is a collection of special cells and chemicals that fight infection-causing agents such as bacteria and viruses. An autoimmune disorder occurs when a person's immune system mistakenly attacks their own body tissues like the skin or joints— as foreign. This causes it to release proteins known as auto antibodies which attack the healthy cells. Autoimmune disorders are broadly grouped into two categories – 'organ-specific' means one organ is affected, while in 'non-organ-specific' disorders, multiple organs or body systems may be affected.

There are around 80 different autoimmune disorders ranging in severity from mild to disabling, depending on which system of the body is under attack and to what degree. For unknown reasons, women are more susceptible than men, particularly during their childbearing years. It is thought that sex hormones may be at least partly responsible. There is generally no cure, but the symptoms of autoimmune disorders can be managed.

What Are the Symptoms of Autoimmune Diseases?

  • Muscle pain, joint pain or weakness
  • Insomnia, weight loss, heat intolerance or rapid heartbeat
  • Recurrent rashes or hives, sun-sensitivity, a butterfly-shaped rash across the nose and cheeks
  • Hair loss or white patches on the skin or inside the mouth
  • Dry mouth, eyes or skin
  • Tingling in the feet or hands and numbness
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Abdominal pain, blood or mucus in the stool, or diarrhoea
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Blood clots
  • Multiple miscarriages

Causes of Autoimmune Diseases

The exact cause of autoimmune disease is not known, although there exist many theories about what leads to the malfunction.

  • Environmental irritants
  • Bacteria or virus
  • Chemical irritants
  • Drugs

It has also been seen that autoimmune disorders mostly run in families and are most likely to happen in women.

What Are the Types of Autoimmune Diseases?

There exist more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases.Here is a list of some of the most common ones.

  1. Diabetes: The pancreas releases the insulin hormone, which aidsin the regulation of blood sugar levels. In this disease, the immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
  2. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks the joints. This attack causesstiffness in the joints, redness, soreness, and warmth.
  3. Psoriasis or Psoriatic Arthritis: Skin cells usually grow and then shed when they are no longer required. In psoriasis, skin cells multiply too quickly. This causes the extra cellsto build up and form scaly, red patches known as scales or plaques on the skin.
  4. Multiple Sclerosis: This disease damages the myelin sheath, which is the protective coating that borders the nerve cells. Harm to the myelin sheath disturbs the transmission of messages between the brain and body.
  5. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (Lupus): Even though lupus was first described as a skin disease because of the rash it produces, it hampers many organs, including the heart, brain, joints, and kidneys.

What Are the Treatment Options for Autoimmune Diseases?

Treatments cannot cure autoimmune disorders, but they can regulate the overactive immune response. Some medications used to treat these disorders include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen  and ibuprofen
  • Immune-suppressing drugs

Treatments also exist to cure symptoms like skin rashes, pain, swelling, and fatigue. Furthermore, exercising regularly and eating a well-balanced dietcan also help the patient feel better.

Follow Up Care After Autoimmune Disease Treatment

After the required treatment is completed, it is advised tofrequently keep visiting the doctor for all the follow-up appointments.During these appointments, the doctor watchesthe progress closely by conducting various exams and asking the patient several questions. It is vital for the patient to give their doctor a clear and accurate idea about the condition and side-effects that they might be experiencing.

embulance EMERGENCY