The immune system is the network of tissues, organs, and cells. Our body’s immune system protects us from diseases and infections. But, an autoimmune disease makes your body prone to diseases because your immune system attacks healthy cells and affects your body parts. Autoimmune diseases occur due to a malfunction in one’s immune system where a human body attacks its own tissues. There are different forms, and they affect the body of a person in different ways. Autoimmune diseases lead to a condition when one’s body’s natural defense can’t distinguish between its own cells and foreign cells. More than 80 autoimmune diseases and treatment of each of these diseases depend on the underlying symptoms.
Organ-specific autoimmune disorders: The disorders that affect one organ of the body resulting from a malfunctioning immune system are organ-specific disorders.
Non-organ-specific disorders: As a result of non-organ-specific diseases, more than one body organ can be affected.
Signs and Symptoms of Autoimmune Diseases
Immune systems determine the healthy foreign cells and produce antibodies that fight the cells. It is believed to be the reason why illnesses and infections occur. Autoimmune diseases result from a variety of factors with no absolute causes. Some of the most commonly known sources are:
- Bacterial or viral infections
- Effects of drugs
- Environmental pollutants
The most common areas affected by autoimmune diseases can be joints and muscles, red blood cells, blood vessels as well as connective tissues.
Similarly, the most common symptoms of autoimmune diseases can be:
- Joint pain and swelling
- Skin problems
- Upset digestive system
- Swollen glands
- Recurring fever
Most Common Autoimmune Diseases
Autoimmune diseases have become a leading cause of death and disability in various countries across the globe. Here are some of the most common autoimmune diseases:
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes occurs when there is a lack of enough hormones that are responsible for allowing cells to absorb and use glucose. The immune system attacks cells present in the pancreas that produce insulin, thus leading to reduced insulin production. The symptoms can be frequent urination, tiredness, weight loss, and blurred vision. People with Type 1 Diabetes take insulin to meet the body’s need for insulin.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation and pain in joints. Malfunctioning of the immune system leads to this disorder. The disease affects hands, knees, or ankles. RA causes problems in other parts of the body too. It occurs when your immune system attacks the synovium surrounding your joints.
Psoriasis is an inflammatory autoimmune skin disease that occurs when the immune system is affected. Symptoms of this disease include plaques of scaly and thickened skin. The symptoms include dandruff, hair loss, itching, and burning. Doctors and specialists choose a treatment according to the size of your rash.
Multiple sclerosis is a nervous system disease that majorly affects the brain and spinal cord of a person. It tends to damage the myelin sheath responsible for protecting the nerve cells. It causes blockage between your brain and body. This disease’s symptoms might include muscle weakness, trouble with coordination and balance, and memory problems.
Systemic lupus erythematosus
Systemic lupus erythematosus occurs when the immune system of the body mistakenly attacks healthy cells. This autoimmune disease causes damage to the skin, brain, kidneys, and other organs. There are no absolute causes, but they can be connected to genetic, hormonal, or environmental factors.
Inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammatory bowel disease is a combination of different health conditions causing the digestive system to get swollen. The most common symptoms of such diseases might include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. The most common factors that can influence the development of this disease can be malfunctioning the immune system, smoking, age, and gender.
Scleroderma is a rare autoimmune disease, and it’s a condition when normal tissues are replaced with dense tissues. The immune system in patients with scleroderma tends to cause collagen’s overproduction and gets the skin hardened. It also affects one’s lungs, tract, kidneys, muscles, joints, and heart.
Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that is responsible for damaging the small intestine of a person. People having this disease can have diarrhea, anemia, and growth problems. Symptoms might include pain, gas, constipation, pale stools, or weight loss.
Addison’s disease is an adrenal gland disorder that stops the production of hormones called cortisol and aldosterone in the body. These two hormones are responsible for helping the body fight stress and balance sodium and potassium in the blood. The injury to adrenal glands, infections, genetics, or bleeding into adrenal glands can be the potential causes of this disorder. This disease’s symptoms include dehydration, abdominal pain, depression, diarrhea, nausea, and others.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a disease that occurs when the immune system attacks healthy tissues and causes the inflammation of the thyroid. In such a disease, the immune system makes antibodies attacking thy thyroid tissue. This leads to inflammation of the thyroid gland and damage to hormones. The symptoms might include tiredness, weight gain, depression, dry skin, puffy eyes, heavy periods, slow heartbeat, etc.
Some factors that are known to increase the risk of autoimmune diseases include:
- Environmental factors
- Blood Tests may include:
- Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)
- Complete Blood Count (CBC)
Treatments of the Autoimmune and Inflammatory Disorders
Generally, it’s not possible to cure autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, but these conditions can be controlled depending on the conditions. Historically, treatments include:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs: These drugs are used to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Corticosteroids: This treatment is used to reduce inflammation and treat acute symptoms.
- Pain-killing medication: These include paracetamol and codeine.
- Immunosuppressant Drugs: Immunosuppressant drugs help inhibit immune system activity.
- Physical Therapy: This therapy encourages mobility.
- Treatment for the deficiency: Insulin injections are recommended in case of diabetes.
- Surgery: The surgical procedure is used to treat blockage if a person has Crohn’s disease.
- High Dose Immunosuppression: The use of immune system suppressing drugs has helped achieve promising results in curing autoimmune diseases.